Washington — President Obama says the United States is “changing the way we do business” in its approach to promoting development around the world, unveiling a new U.S. global development policy that seeks broad-based economic growth, democratic governance and the use of new technology and sustainability to offer countries around the world “a path out of poverty.”
Speaking at the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit at United Nations headquarters in New York September 22, Obama said after the MDGs were established in 2000 with the aim of reducing global poverty by 2015, advances have been made in improving access to education, providing clean drinking water and reducing diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, but “progress towards other goals that were set [has] not come nearly fast enough.”
“With 10 years down and just five years before our development targets come due, we must do better,” the president said.
Obama called for a new international approach to development that recognizes that no country or people want to be dependent upon another and that seeks to unleash transformational change allowing more people to “take control of their own destiny.”
“The United States will do our part,” he said. “My national security strategy recognizes development not only as a moral imperative, but a strategic and economic imperative,” he said, adding that the United States “will be a global leader in international development in the 21st century.”
Earlier September 22, Obama signed the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, which recognizes development as being vital to U.S. national security and a “strategic, economic, and moral imperative for the United States,” according to a September 22 fact sheet released by the White House.
The directive calls for development to be a “core pillar of American power” and integrates it with diplomacy and defense so that all three “mutually reinforce and complement one another.”
“Through the Presidential Policy Directive, President Obama has made clear that sustainable development is a long-term proposition, and progress depends importantly on the choices of political leaders and the quality of institutions in developing countries,” the fact sheet said. “Where leaders govern responsibly, set in place good policies, and make investments conducive to development, sustainable outcomes can be achieved. Where those conditions are absent, it is difficult to engineer sustained progress, no matter how good our intentions or the extent of our engagement.”
The directive is the first development policy to be issued by a U.S. president and highlights the Obama administration’s increased attention to development as outlined in the president’s May 2010 national security strategy.
Under the new U.S. approach, Obama said, success will be measured by actual progress made by developing nations in moving from poverty to prosperity, rather than the amount of aid money spent or food and medical assistance that has been delivered.
“We need to harness all the tools at our disposal — from our diplomacy to our trade policy to our investment policy,” he said.
The United States recognizes that the purpose of development is to create “the conditions where assistance is no longer needed,” and it will be seeking partners who want to build their own capacity to care for themselves and who have proven their commitment to development.
Instead of simply treating diseases, the United States is researching ways of preventing infections from occurring in the first place and using its Global Health Initiative to help countries build stronger health systems, he said. It is helping countries to develop their agriculture sectors, improve crop yields and get products to market, rather than merely delivering food aid. The president also said his administration will help developing countries embrace clean energy technologies that they will need to adapt to climate change while also pursuing economic growth through low-carbon energy sources.
Broad-based economic growth encouraged by entrepreneurship, infrastructure investment and expanded trade and investment opportunities will help unleash the transformational change needed to end the cycle of dependence, the president said.
But “over the long run, democracy and economic growth go hand in hand,” he said, and the United States is leading global efforts to combat corruption, advance the rule of law and government transparency and encourage countries to respect human rights, empower women and build strong civil societies.
“Let’s honor our respective commitments. Let’s resolve to put an end to hollow promises that are not kept,” the president told leaders of wealthy nations, urging a focus on results rather than the amount of resources that is expended.
Addressing developing countries, Obama said their prosperity is in the world’s interest as well as their own, and the United States wants to help them realize their aspirations. But they also have responsibilities to make tough choices and sustainable investments that will unleash dynamism and improve the well-being of their people.
“We can be partners, but ultimately you have to take the lead,” Obama said.
“Together, we can realize the future that none of us can achieve alone” and deliver “historic leaps in development,” he said. “But only if we move forward with the seriousness and sense of common purpose that this moment demands.”