Historical story

The Marshall Plan is the American precursor to the Millennium Development Goals

Last updated:2022-07-25

International development aid started with the Marshall Plan almost seventy years ago. Before that time, rich countries and private individuals already occasionally provided loans or donated goods to affected areas. Structural aid by the United States and cooperation between European countries in the form of a multi-year recovery program was, however, new and saw the light in 1947.

After the Second World War, Western Europe was at a standstill. The infrastructure had to be repaired, houses built and production and trade increased again. People were short of all kinds of things, from food to fuel, and many products therefore remained on the receipt.

Subsequently, a shortage of money arose because the required import goods were more expensive than the export goods produced. Billions in loans already provided in 1947 proved to be insufficient and a crisis was imminent.

The bombed-out Germany had to be put back on top, but not everyone agreed. At a meeting between the United States, Britain, France and Russia, France and Russia opposed this idea. France wanted nothing more than to keep its arch-enemy Germany small, and Russia, according to the Americans, had other motives. The Russian dictator Stalin would try in every way to keep Europe unstable. After all, a poor and unstable Europe would be susceptible to communism, and that had to be prevented.

Poverty breeding ground for communism

America was therefore afraid that a poor and embittered Europe would end up in the communist trap of Stalin. In order to keep the peace and get international trade on a pre-war level, US Secretary of State George C. Marshall came up with an experimental plan:America would provide billions for a large-scale recovery program, but the European countries would put this program together. design and coordinate their implementation themselves.

On April 16, 1948, sixteen Western European countries signed the Treaty of Economic Cooperation. In the same year, the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEES, from 1961 the OECD) was established to distribute aid. Between 1948 and 1952, the OECD distributed nearly $13 billion worth of money and goods among the participating countries.

America did not just give away this enormous amount:in addition to charity, self-interest also played a role. American producers were given the orders for the foodstuffs, raw materials and machinery to be supplied and, as President Truman noted, "a war against Russia would be much more expensive" than Marshall aid.

Marshall plan as a source of inspiration

This successful European cooperation was an inspiration for later development aid, but turned out not to be a blueprint for solving poverty and preserving peace. Third world countries, for example, had no infrastructure, educated inhabitants and an economic base to quickly become prosperous again, like Europe after the war. To pull these countries out of the downward spiral of poverty, the 161 members of the United Nations joined forces in 2000 for another structural and large-scale plan:the Millennium Development Goals.