A New Approach to Global Development
The White House issued a number of statements and press releases during the recent G-8 and G-20 summits in Canada. But for those of us who’ve been following the push to reform foreign assistance—and make it more effective in reducing poverty—one of them stands out.
On Friday, June 25, the White House released “A New Approach to Advancing Development,” a statement that looks at what the administration has in mind for a broader, improved framework for international development. All of the development assistance commitments the United States has made—including those from the G-8 summit—should fit into this overall framework.
If development is to be elevated as a key component of foreign policy—an idea supported by Bread and put forward by the administration itself—President Obama needs to provide details on what his “new approach” entails.
We’ve gotten a few peeks from the administration’s new National Security Strategy and the draft copy of the Presidential Study Directive on Global Development that was leaked to the media in May. But it’s time for the whole enchilada. Hungry and poor people around the world need the United States to start implementing its plan.
Adopting a new overall framework for development may sound more like a bureaucratic matter and less like something that will improve the lives of hungry people. But it can affect low-income people profoundly.
Here’s one example: In a small town in Kenya, U.S. assistance was providing life-saving antiretroviral drugs for HIV-positive people, but limitations on what program funds could buy meant that many patients couldn’t get the nutritious food they needed for the medications to be effective. This might have been avoided with a broader plan that took into account all the elements necessary for the program to succeed—which would have ensured that our assistance did more to help HIV-positive Kenyans stay healthy enough to work and care for their children.
As we approach the two-year mark of Obama’s presidency, it’s important that President Obama’s studies of U.S. development policy be released soon. They should explain how his administration will work to make the United States more effective in reducing hunger and poverty around the world.
Just as importantly, the president should make clear that his administration will work with Congress to modernize U.S. foreign assistance programs by rewriting the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act. After all, the law is 50 years old—better suited to the Cold War era than to the present day.
Rewriting this legislation is another important step in ensuring that U.S. foreign assistance programs do a better job of reducing hunger and poverty around the world.
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