Heike Wieters

The World's Hungry. American NGOs and New Private-Public Partnerships after WWII

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Food aid for hungry people is not a modern phenomenon. The transport of supplemental food to areas affected by temporary or chronic food scarcity has been a part of state-level diplomacy since antiquity. The second half of the Twentieth century has seen the rise of a new and broader food aid regime, however: Marked by growing Cold War tensions, global economic disparities, and the rise of development thinking, food aid (often from unsellable food surplus) emerged as a new international transfer regime between the US and the «developing nations». The actual programs were often carried out by private players. As early as during WWI private voluntary agencies started to cooperate with the US government in humanitarian food distribution programs to hungry people abroad. This article takes a closer look at these programs tracing their development from the war and inter-war period to the aid endeavor during WWII and into the Fifties and Sixties when food aid schemes were significantly professionalized. It is argued here that the relationship between the US government, recipients and private voluntary agencies entered into a new phase after the end of WWI as public private partnerships in food aid distribution turned from a temporary tool for ad-hoc relief and surplus reduction into more permanent and highly subsidized institutions within the official framework of US foreign and agricultural policy.


  • Private-Public Partnerships
  • Voluntary Agencies
  • Food Aid


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