Monday, January 26, 2009

Barack Obama and US's foreign assistance

In the following President-elect Barack Obama's statement describing his team's vision of US's foreign assistance programs:

Campaign Commitments on Development


President-elect Obama committed to making the Millennium Development Goals American policy. By the end of my first term, he expects to see progress to meeting the MDGs, including reducing by half the number of people living on less than a dollar a day and suffering from hunger, and reversing the number of new HIV infections and malaria cases.

He committed to doubling U.S. foreign assistance, to $50 billion by 2012. In the wake of the economic crisis, Senator Obama and Senator Biden said on several occasions that they would “slow down” achieving this goal, though they have not at any point said that it is no longer a goal.

Obama pledged to expand the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) by adding at least $1 billion a year in new money and was a cosponsor of the reauthorization bill. He supported increasing funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria and a willingness to remove the 33% cap on U.S. contributions.

He would establish “Health Infrastructure 2020” to work with developing countries to invest in the full range of infrastructure needed to improve and protect both American and global health. He pledged to increase funding for child and maternal health and ensure that increases in other important areas - including HIV/AIDS - do not come at the expense of child health and survival programs. He would expand access to vaccinations, increase research into new vaccines, and expand access to reproductive health programs.

He supports the goal of ending deaths from malaria by 2015 by building on the $1billion per year commitment to malaria in the recent PEPFAR reauthorization and dramatically expanding access to mosquito nets and access to ACTs.

He would expand access to clean water and sanitation through increased funding of up to $1.3b annually and support for innovative programs like 'play pumps'.

Obama plans to capitalize a “Global Education Fund” with at least $2 billion in funding towards the goal of universal access and would leverage this funding through the World Bank’s Fast Track Initiative. He supports passage of the Education For All Act.

Aid Reform
Obama will look at creating a cabinet-level position for development aid. He committed to coordinate and consolidate PEPFAR, the federal Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), and other foreign assistance programs into a streamlined U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Debt Cancellation
He committed to fully funding debt cancellation for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), pressing for reforms at the World Bank to ensure that poor countries receive grants rather than loans, and leading a multilateral effort to address the issue of “odious debt.”

Obama pledged to provide initial capital for a Small and Medium Enterprises Fund (SMEs) that would be administered through the federal Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

Obama committed to launch the “Add Value to Agriculture Initiative” to spur research and innovation in this area.

Add Value to Agriculture Initiative (AVTA). Agriculture provides a livelihood for the majority of the world’s poor, and it is the sector that will be hardest hit by climate change. In order to increase the incomes of subsistence producers, decrease the pressure on shrinking arable lands, and minimize the vulnerability of commodity exports to global price shocks, an Obama administration will launch the AVTA Initiative. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are committed to spurring research and innovation aimed at bringing about a Green Revolution for Africa, by partnering with land grant institutions, private philanthropies and business to support agricultural processing through increased investment in research and development for improved seeds, irrigation methods, and affordable and safe fertilizers. They will also make critical investments in providing the package of tools needed to allow poor farmers to succeed in the agricultural market, including by providing training in regulation and quality control standards and by increasing finance and financing instruments for rural enterprises as well as access to markets.

What is your opinion about Barack Obama's approach to US's foreign assistance? Do you think it will be possible to meet these goals during his leadership? What is the general attitude of the US Citizens towards foreign assistance?

By Tiina Mustakangas