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Media Outlets Examine Reaction To Obama’s Plan For Global Development Policy

The Associated Press examines international aid and advocacy groups’ reaction to the new U.S. Global Development Policy President Barack Obama unveiled Wednesday at the U.N. Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“Obama’s strategy … for the first time elevates American development policy in other poor nations to the level of diplomacy and defense,” the news service writes, adding that the policy also emphasizes the role of country ownership and responsibility in development. “The new strategy, the product of a nearly yearlong effort, also includes anti-corruption measures and calls for accountability from the U.S. and the countries it works with,” the AP adds.

The article includes comments on strategy by Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, who notes the connection between global development policy and national security, and Gregory Adams, director of aid effectiveness for Oxfam America, who highlights the importance of country ownership in development.

Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, are also quoted in the article as supportive of the policy. “The strategy will ‘build the capacity of developing countries to achieve lasting progress against poverty, conflict, environmental degradation and other major threats to global security,'” Leahy said.

According to the AP, “[h]umanitarian groups said congressional support of Obama’s plan would be critical.”

“Senior American officials involved in foreign assistance policy told a news briefing at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. on Thursday that specifics about the new global development strategy will be spelled out in a major policy document next month,” which according to Anne-Marie Slaughter, director of policy for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, will include reforms within USAID. The piece includes comments by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah on the anticipated changes to the agency (Snow, 9/24).

Inter Press Service examines how Obama’s Global Development Policy speech at the U.N. summit left some development experts looking for more concrete details about the president’s plan. “Wednesday’s speech outlined only generally this new plan’s pillars: to expand the notion of development beyond cash assistance, to end aid dependency, to promote broad-based economic growth and to ensure mutual accountability,” which has development experts looking forward to the release of the “State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, expected out next month, which will address the nitty-gritty details of this new strategy,” the news service writes.

“We need Obama to explain how he will turn his words into action over numerous agencies and departments,” Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America said. “The tri-legged stool of defence, diplomacy and development – DDD – still has a bit of a wobble in it. Exactly how Obama plans to balance it … remains an open question,” he added, predicting, “It will be a political battle.”

The article also includes quotes by Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs, special adviser to the U.N. on the MDGs, who said of Obama’s speech on the new strategy, “I think the intentions are good: to make sure that development has its proper place in U.S. foreign policy. [But,] I didn’t hear a lot of path-breaking innovation” (Muscara, 9/23).

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports, “Obama outlined a leading role for the United States in promoting human rights and democracy around the world Thursday, laying out a new foreign policy initiative that his advisers said will guide his diplomacy in the years ahead,” in an article that examines the president’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday (Wilson, 9/24).

On NPR’s Talk of the Nation, program host Neal Conan examines the president’s comments to world leaders at the U.N. MDGs Summit as well as the General Assembly, with guests NPR Diplomacy Correspondent Michele Kelemen; Washington Bureau Chief of Al-Jazeera Abderrahim Foukara; and Director of New America Foundation’s American Strategy Program Steve Clemons.

The president “didn’t come announcing lots of new money. He talked about [how] we need to fix the way we do this. And he also talked about how despite the economic problems that we’re facing, this aid, development aid, is critical. It’s critical for national security interests and for the global economy,” Kelemen said. “You know, a lot of people have been talking about how it’s developing countries that have been actually growing … while the developed world face recession. So … it would benefit the U.S. as well if these countries can develop,” she added (9/23).

In related news, “[t]he United States government is planning to launch a website that highlights much of its assistance to foreign countries,” Mashable.com reports. “Though a particular launch date for the site has yet to be announced, Raj Shah – administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – said this is part of the Obama administration’s plan to use social media and technology to establish a more transparent government,” the news service writes.

Shah detailed the plans for the website “during an onstage discussion with U.N. Foundation President and former Senator Timothy Wirth at Mashable and 92Y’s UN Week Digital Media Lounge Thursday morning,” according to the website. “Shah said he hopes the site can be built into a platform that will allow people to see what programs are being used to provide assistance, as well as eventual outcomes and results. He feels that making such information easily available could inspire people to help those struggling with poverty, hunger, illness and other obstacles.” Mashable.com features a link to a videocast from the event (Marya, 9/23). 

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