When it comes to reducing the long-term threat of global terrorism, two weapons pack a tremendous punch — basic health services and education.
The U.S. already provides funding to help lend these weapons to developing countries. When it comes to medicine, an international vaccine alliance has succeeded in dramatically reducing preventable childhood deaths through much of the Third World. Simple, inexpensive childhood vaccines save lives.
The Global Alliance Vaccine Initiative succeeds in part because it requires the developing nations to cover the costs of these medicines once the crisis of childhood deaths subsides.
Now the focus is turning toward education. The United States already provides $75 million annually toward the Global Partnership for Education. While President Donald Trump has talked about deep cuts across the board to such programs, the recently passed House budget bill includes $87.5 million for multilateral global education.
The United States should also consider the additional $125 million in each of the two following years that leaders of the Global Partnership have requested.
House leaders deserve credit for recognizing the importance of this long-term effort. The Senate needs to follow suit, with Utah’s own Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee leading the way. Significantly, the nation’s contributions to the Global Partnership for Education took root when former Utah Sen. Bob Bennett decided to push for it.
Utahns, many of whom have lived abroad as ecclesiastical missionaries, have a unique understanding of the need for health services and education in struggling nations. As with vaccine funding, this money would be carefully monitored and requires a significant buy-in from the developing nations being served. They must commit to using 20 percent of their own annual budgets for education, and they must agree to certain standards, including providing education for girls equally with boys.
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to understand what this money could provide. When preventable childhood deaths are eradicated (something experts say will happen within the next few years), people in developing countries can turn their attention away from constant despair and tragedy and toward building their own future.
Likewise, when children are educated, new opportunities arise, knowledge replaces superstition, living standards and sanitation improve and innovation thrives. Governments also become more stable. A nation of healthy, educated children suddenly becomes inhospitable to the false promises of terror groups looking to recruit from among those who see no way out of poverty.
Also, people who benefit from these programs understand that caring people in Western countries are largely responsible, which helps to counter the anti-West rhetoric of extremists. A United Nations report estimates each year of education increases a person’s earning potential by 10 percent. If all children in developing countries left school with basic reading skills, about 171 million people would be lifted out of poverty, or the equivalent of a 12 percent reduction over current poverty levels.
That’s a big payoff in exchange for a tiny allocation in comparison to the entire federal budget.