Charitable Work Promotes Our National Security

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July 31, 2009
Suraj K. Sazawal

On July 29, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee of Foreign Affairs held a hearing on U.N. peacekeeping missions. Opinions varied on determining peacekeeping priorities, but there was near unanimity about the need for the U.S. to take meaningful steps toward reducing the primary causes of violent extremism around the world as a way to improve our national security.

While charities and NGOs were not the primary focus of this hearing, it is not a stretch of the imagination to assume that the benefits of successful peacekeeping missions- protection of civilians, reduction of trauma and improving our national security -are the same from the services and programs conducted by charities operating in international hot spots. 

Just like peacekeeping missions, which Committee Chairman, Howard L. Berman (D-CA) said “are designed to address the root causes of conflict, and to build sustainable peace,” charities and NGOs are willing to enter distressed areas and provide critical aid, protect human rights and help diminish the factors that trigger extremism. Additionally, UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s testimony highlighted the need for non-governmental actors, who are often welcome when “[g]overnments, rebels, warlords, and other antagonists…don’t want foreign forces in their country.” 

Our national image and overall safety improve when our generosity is on display. Nowhere was this more evident than after the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. According to the Pew Research Center, the most populous Muslim nations’ favorability rating of the U.S. more than doubled after food, clean water and other vital relief services began reaching those in need. Targeting the “root causes of conflict” should be a cornerstone of our foreign policy strategy and it will take the collective effort of the government, the UN and NGOs to get the job done.