Determining the Effectiveness of Foreign Aid
This summer, I interned as a research assistant for one of the Middle East’s premier think tanks and political research centers. I was mostly tasked with turning raw data from surveys into presentable reports for NGOs and government agencies that conduct their research through the Center for Strategic Studies (CSS). When writing these reports, I was given full creative license in crafting policy recommendations for NGOs and government agencies. I felt endowed with a great sense of responsibility when writing these reports because the policy recommendations that I listed would be seriously considered and possibly implemented by government officials.
The most crucial report that I wrote dealt with the Jordanian Civil Defense, which is a centralized public safety and rescue service that serves the Jordanian public. I was to write a comparative analysis of two surveys, one taken in 2013 and one taken in 2018, which asked survey respondents about the quality and efficiency of Civil Defense services. In 2016, the Civil Defense received Upwards of $12 million and 144 ambulances as part of a foreign aid package from Switzerland. The NGO which facilitated the transfer of the aid package from Geneva to Amman and chief Civil Defense officers wanted to make sure that the aide was being used effectively. Jordan has had issues with corruption and ranks 57th out of 198 countries in terms of public sector corruption, which is why the CSS was hired to locate any evidence of improvement, decline, or stagnation in the quality of services offered by the Civil Defense from 2013-2018.
After sifting through several excel spreadsheets and comparing the two data sets, I found that there had been significant improvements with regards to public confidence in civil defense personnel and their ability to perform their jobs. The efficiency of services greatly improved and were marked by faster ambulance response times. In fact, the average amount of time it takes for an ambulance to reach the scene of an emergency in Jordan is shorter than that of several municipalities within the United States. On the other hand, the biggest shortcoming of the Civil Defense was public outreach. 1/5 Jordanians aren’t aware of the proper emergency number nor the location of the Civil Defense center closest to their house. I recommended that Civil Defense officers establish youth education programs in schools and diverted funds toward public service announcements, including informational ad campaigns.
What I really enjoyed most about my internship was that my employers treated me like an adult and gave me the opportunity to prove myself as one. Oftentimes interns are left to do menial tasks that are of very little consequence, but at the CSS I was given meaningful assignments. When pursuing an internship in a developing country as an American College student, you carry with you the privilege that comes with American soft power. This opens doors abroad that may be closed to you back in the US and it’s likely you’ll also be taken more seriously. But with privilege comes responsibility, these organizations will expect you to act professional, put a lot of effort into your work, and fully demonstrate the northeastern work ethic that Americans boast about.
CSS Office @ the University of Jordan
Me @ Wadi Mujib