Advocacy, Young Professionals

How Trust Impacts Foreign Aid

July 2, 2024

by Guest Contributor

By Sharon Stevens, CCIH Communications and Advocacy Intern

“Trust is the bedrock to any solution.” – Hemel Shah, Gilead Sciences.

The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition held its Global Impact Forum on Monday, June 3rd, 2024, to discuss national leadership, security, health, and sustainability. A full view of the day’s panel can be found here. Building relationships with a strong foundation of trust was the overarching theme in the day’s discussions. I found it refreshing and insightful to hear diplomats and government officials parse through the complexities of trust in all aspects: trust between people, organizations, and countries. Cooperation is the capital of global relations. 

Lack of trust can hinder working with the private sector and forming valuable partnerships. Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor for the Biden Administration, emphasized the importance of the resources that America has yet to unlock. We can do this by forming private and public partnerships to increase the mobility and scale of our resources. Relationships built on mutual interests alone are sustainable but could quickly deteriorate when interests evolve, or political environments change. To address current global challenges, we must not underestimate the power of collaboration, trust, and respect.

Jake Sullivan, US National Security Advisor 

Alliances Move Us Forward

Many panelists talked about the difficulty of navigating foreign relationships on a massive scale. It takes significant effort and intention to build partnerships between countries and global companies, but it can be done. The United States’ partnership with The Global Fund and Gavi exhibits the progress that trust can cultivate. 

These partnerships could not have been built without a certain level of trust between the donor nations and recipient partners. Luke Lindberg, the President and CEO of South Dakota Trade, painted a telling picture of how the United States tends to create alliances: “When we go to China, we get a bridge, and when you come to the U.S., you get a lecture.” This speaks to the different approaches used when forming short-term and long-term relationships. Long-term partnerships require greater discussion, which may seem like a lecture, but more often leads to a commitment to a stable and mutually beneficial relationship. The local population will also benefit from this relationship. 

Trust is Crucial for Security and Stability

The U.S maintaining its position as a global leader creates an interesting dynamic, especially with China as a competitor. There is a balance between having values drive our mission and funding and having too many conditions that countries decide it would be a short-term benefit to work with China or other partners. Understanding a potential partner’s intentions is a key part of any relationship. Trust grows more organically when we understand one another. Countries are more likely to partner with a nation they trust. This trust is vital for bolstering the U.S.’s role as an influential economic leader.

How Trust Relates to Global Health

Matt Mowers, former Chief of Staff and Chief Policy Officer in the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator demonstrated the importance of investing in bilateral developments. Trade barriers prevent groups of people from receiving medical supplies. For example, anti-malaria bed net regulations are still in place at some borders around the world, which prevent the delivery of crucial medical equipment. 

Governments are blocked from advancing global health efforts because of these barriers. If we cannot get medical supplies across borders, we are doing a disservice to public health goals. Mowers stated that the U.S. must trust private sector actors to develop global supply chains so that we can promote global health security. A lack of trust transforms common sense humanitarian efforts into a distorted political issue, Mowers highlighted.

Lt. General Charles Brown

PEPFAR: A Shining Example of Collaboration

Trust can drive immense progress. Twenty-five million lives have been saved by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The bipartisan support shown for PEPFAR is a monumental example of the strength found in commonality built on relationships, which are essential in the political sphere. An example of organizations needing to exhibit trust in each other is USAID and PEPFAR. These agencies need to trust the partners they fund to do the work and use the money wisely.  

Mowers closed the global health panel by emphasizing the importance of advocating outside of the office. While out at a sporting event, he ran into a colleague who had sway on which bills receive floor time at the House. Because Mowers had a relationship with his colleague outside of the office, he felt it appropriate to request that PEPFAR receive floor time. His colleague took his request seriously, and the bill was reauthorized as a result. He specified that PEPFAR is not just a health fund but a security effort. 

I found his story inspirational because it exhibits the transformative nature of trust and what it can evolve into. Health is stability, and trust and security are interconnected. The key to dissolving structural barriers that obstruct progress and accessibility includes a willingness to collaborate and form partnerships that are founded on trust. 

Trust and the Faith Community

As a faith-based organization (FBO), our community trusts CCIH to meet the expectations of an establishment that displays the values of God. Christian organizations are held to a different and higher standard than those of government agencies. Members trust FBOs that consistently uphold their core values and mission. Members trust the organization to provide spiritual support, uphold religious teachings, and foster a sense of community based on shared values.

Sharon Stevens, CCIH Communications and Advocacy Intern

An important difference between FBOs and government agencies is the voluntary aspect of participation. Trust is built intentionally through belief in the company’s mission and positive interpersonal relationships within the community. Intrinsic motivation stems from personal alignment with the organization’s purpose, which contributes to building trust. People need not necessarily trust the government in order to comply with it. FBOs play a crucial role in promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding. They facilitate interactions among different religious communities, promoting tolerance, mutual respect, and cooperation. This bridge-building fosters inclusive approaches to global issues and enhances diplomatic relations across cultural, religious, and political divides.

About the Author: Sharon Stevens graduated from Pepperdine University in 2024 and will begin law school at Pepperdine University in the fall of 2024. Following her interests, Sharon plans to specialize in mediation, global health, or sports law.

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