Global Compassion


McCleary, Rachel. Global Compassion. Oxford University Press, 2009.
Global Compassion


Global Compassion is an ambitious account of the relationship between private voluntary organizations (PVOs) and the US federal government from 1939-2005. After World War II, humanitarian aid became a key component of US foreign policy and has grown steadily ever since. Organizations like Oxfam, CARE, World Vision, and Catholic Relief Services are known the world over; however, little is known about the relationship between these private agencies and the federal government, and how truly influential these organizations can be in the realm of foreign policy. Here, Rachel McCleary provides the first truly comprehensive study of PVOs and their complex, often-fraught interaction with the federal government. The book focuses on the work of PVOs from a foreign policy perspective, revealing how federal political pressures shape the field of international relief. McCleary draws on a wide array of data–annual reports, State Department documents, and IRS records–to assess to what extent international relief and development work is becoming a commercial activity. She analyzes the often competing goals of the federal government and religious PVOs. She then exames the continuing trend of decreasing federal funds to PVOs and the simultaneous increasing awards to commercial enterprises, and looks at what this holds for the future. In this thought-provoking and rigorously researched work, Rachel McClearly offers a unique, substantive look at an understudied area of US foreign policy and international development.

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“A major strength of the book lies in the author’s original data and in the extensive tables and figures that make her data readily accessible to the reader. Her analysis highlights tensions that arise between members of the PVO community and the federal government around issues of food supplies, the evolving role of the military, funding priorities, and new directions… This is an insightful book that explores critical factors affecting the foreign aid delivered by U.S.-based PVOs. The book is engaging, informative, and worth reading.”

–Eleanor L. Brilliant, professor emeritus, Rutgers University

“Rachel McCleary’s well-researched book superbly documents the U.S. Government’s troubling shift to predominantly for-profit contractors in implementing its twenty-billion-dollar-plus foreign aid program. Coming at a point in history when private philanthropy-charities, corporations, foundations, and religious organizations-far exceeds official aid in volume and efficiency, McCleary’s Global Compassion underscores the compelling need for a new foreign aid business model.”

–Carol Adelman, Director, Center for Global Prosperity, Hudson Institute

“A much-needed, data-rich, contribution to our knowledge of the relationship between the state and humanitarian action.”

–Michael N. Barnett, Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

“A useful introduction to a complex and vital aspect of U.S. foreign policy.”

Foreign Affairs

“Rachel McCleary’s book fills a crucial gap in our knowledge of how private voluntary organizations like CARE and Save the Children work with the U.S. government on foreign aid-as implementers, advocates, advisors, critics, and special interests for themselves, as well. Importantly, the book raises a number of sensitive issues usually little discussed like the commercialization and militarization of U.S. aid, and takes an often provocative look at the operations of the PVOs themselves. Global Compassion will be a vital part of the growing literature on U.S. foreign aid.”

–Carol Lancaster, Professor of Politics, Georgetown University

Last updated on 02/20/2016