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Americans donate and volunteer a lot for good causes abroad (Update)

While it is well known that past and present U.S. governments spend much less on foreign aid as a percentage of GDP than most other rich countries do, the enormous amount of private aid is less well known outside the U.S. The State Department  summarizes a new study:
The U.S. private sector donates to international causes at a level nearly four times the amount spent by the U.S. government on official development assistance (ODA), according to a report about to be published by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Prosperity. Called the Index on Global Philanthropy, the report tallies $71 billion in international donations by U.S. private charities, religious organizations, universities, corporations, foundations, and immigrants sending money home for the year of 2004 (the latest year available). That compares to $20 billion in government foreign aid for the same year.  (...)
According to the Hudson Institute, "the tradition of private giving is considerably less developed in Europe than in the U.S."  (...) Close to half of all American adults do volunteer work, according to Independent Sector, a forum for charitable organizations.  The index estimates volunteering for international projects totals 135,000 full-time work hours per year -- worth more than $4 billion.  Web sites like www.volunteerabroad.com encourage the trend. (...) For information on how U.S. foreign assistance is affecting lives, see Partnership for a Better Life and Global Development and Foreign Aid.

Steven Radelet, who was deputy assistant secretary of the treasury from 2000 to 2002, takes issue with exaggerations of U.S. aid. Writing for Foreign Policy, he argues that several beliefs held by many Americans are wrong, for example the assumption that "America is the most generous country in the world if you include private donations to charities" or that "Americans provide generous economic aid through the remittances foreign workers send home to support their families."
Our related post on US Foreign Aid.
UPDATE: European countries inflate their foreign aid figures as well, opines Oxfam:
Ahead of vital talks next week of EU Foreign Ministers on whether the EU will meet its aid targets, NGOs criticized key EU member states including the UK, France and Germany for inflating their aid figures. NGOs provide evidence that a total of €12.5 billion of headline EU aid in 2005 did not result in additional money for poverty reduction but was spent on debt cancellation, housing refugees and educating foreign students in European universities. (...) While technically permitted under OECD rules, European Union governments' insistence on accounting for this debt cancellation in their ODA figures contravenes the United Nation's 2002 agreement in Monterrey. The agreement calls for debt cancellation to be funded additionally to Official Development Assistance (ODA). [Hat tip: Kosmoblog]

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