Renewing the USA’s Commitment To Global Development
This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
Years ago, I met a young boy in a dusty refugee camp in war-torn Angola. He was probably three or four years old, wearing nothing but a torn t-shirt and the most infectious smile. I walked up to him and offered him the worn baseball cap off my head. I will never forget the joy etched on his face. Eventually, I had to leave that camp and that little boy. I never learned his name or what happened to him.
As National Security Advisor, I think about that child and millions like him every day. People living in grinding poverty — or refugees and migrants seeking a better life — challenge the consciences of us all. But these are not solely humanitarian concerns. When children cannot go to school, or businesses lack reliable roads or electricity, that holds back entire economies. Where poverty and despair take root, conflict, instability, and violent extremism can flourish. Fragile and failing states can incubate or exacerbate a wide range of threats that spill across borders — from pandemics to nuclear proliferation, human trafficking to climate change. In short, inclusive global development is not only one of the great moral challenges of our time but also one of the great economic and strategic imperatives of our time.
From the very beginning of this Administration, President Obama has elevated sustainable development to a core pillar of American foreign policy. In a world that is growing increasingly interconnected, we recognize that development is not charity — it is a prudent investment in the security and prosperity of us all.
We also recognize that these daunting 21st-century development challenges demand a 21st-century approach to development. So instead of relying on government alone to support our development efforts, we have deepened partnerships with corporations, foundations, multilateral institutions, NGOs, and faith-based communities. We’ve leveraged new sources of capital — more than $100 billion from a wide range of sources, including the private sector. We’re working directly with civil society to improve governance and harnessing cutting-edge innovations like off-grid solar power. And, we’re enhancing our ability to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of programs — making decisions based on hard evidence — so that our development work is more accountable to the American people.
These invigorated efforts will be evidenced today, when President Obama hosts a White House Summit on Global Development. By bringing together government, private sector, and civil society leaders from around the world, this summit is a chance to institutionalize the tremendous progress we have made together and to catalyze momentum across several key areas.
First, we’ll continue encouraging broad-based and inclusive economic growth. That means following through on our commitment to achieve the United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals, including the goal of ending poverty. It means catalyzing billions in new trade and investment, so that developing countries can replace aid with trade. Through landmark efforts like our Power Africa initiative, we’ve leveraged more than $43 billion to build the infrastructure needed to fuel greater economic growth, and we’ll keep working to connect 60 million African homes and businesses to electricity by 2030. And, because entrepreneurs and businesses rely on stability and rule of law, our Open Government Partnership is working with 70 countries to root out corruption and build transparent, accountable institutions.
Second, building on the lessons of programs like our Feed the Future initiative, we will continue to transform food security and nutrition. Investing in agriculture — especially women farmers — is one of the surest ways to reduce poverty, expand the economy, and grow the middle class. That’s why we’ve mobilized $22 billion to introduce new seeds, new techniques, and new technologies to 9 million farmers from Bangladesh to Guatemala. These efforts have boosted incomes by a combined $830 million and provided vital nutrition to 18 million children. In many areas, childhood stunting is down by one third and poverty rates have been cut in half.
Third, we’ll do more to advance global health. We’ve doubled down on PEPFAR, President Bush’s historic initiative to combat HIV/AIDS, and are now within striking distance of an AIDS-free generation. Working closely with countries and partners on the ground, we’re strengthening health systems and promoting maternal health, saving the lives of 200,000 mothers and 4.6 million children. We’ve committed $874 million this year to fighting malaria and pledged more than $1 billion to vaccinate children around the globe. Even before the deadly Ebola outbreak in 2014, we created a Global Health Security Agenda to accelerate the world’s capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to biological threats — an effort that has only become more urgent as we confront the spread of the Zika virus.
Finally, we’re investing in the young people who are the future of their countries and our world. Already, we’ve established regional leadership centers and created online tools and training on topics such as public speaking or how to launch a startup. From Africa to Asia to the Americas, we’ll continue bringing young people together, harnessing their energy and linking them to opportunities, so that they can become the entrepreneurs, educators, doctors, artists, and leaders of tomorrow. And, through initiatives like Let Girls Learn, we’re empowering young women, so that anyone can be a leader, no matter their gender or background.
There will be no shortage of challenges for the next administration to face. But there are few greater opportunities to address those challenges, enhance the United States’ own security, and lift the lives of billions, than by advancing inclusive global development. Together, we must recommit ourselves to the vital task of expanding dignity and opportunity across the globe.