Global Compassion: Private Voluntary Organizations and U.S. Foreign Policy Since 1939

In This Review

Global Compassion: Private Voluntary Organizations and U.S. Foreign Policy Since 1939
By Rachel M. McCleary
Oxford University Press, 2009
256 pp. $35.00
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Although it is not the most readable book of the season, McCleary's short but thorough overview of the partnership between the U.S. government and private voluntary organizations -- the Aga Khan Foundation, CARE, and World Vision, for example -- is a useful introduction to a complex and vital aspect of U.S. foreign policy. As McCleary demonstrates, the relationship between the government and these private charities has varied over time: from outright government licensing and control of their activities (during World War II) to formal and informal partnerships (during much of the Cold War), to tense and sometimes conflicted relations (as in Afghanistan and Iraq today). The private-public connection raises complex political and managerial issues, as a thicket of competing bureaucratic and commercial interests create enormous inefficiencies and bitter conflicts in the aid and development "business." Large private voluntary organizations lobby Congress for favored programs, different religious and ethnic groups compete for shares of the aid pie, and the increasing role of the Department of Defense in development work further muddies the waters.