In reaction to President Obama's speech at the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit in NY:
Oxfam America President Raymond C. Offenheiser: “President Obama showed bold leadership among his UN peers today when he announced the first-ever US global development policy during his UN MDG Summit speech. This is a substantive move by the Obama administration toward fulfilling US development promises and helping millions escape poverty. But let’s not forget -- in the time that President Obama stood at the podium to deliver his UN address, around 18 women likely died in childbirth, and around 35 children probably died from malaria. Those numbers will repeat every 25 minutes until the President’s words are turned into action.
“Obama’s landmark directive—the first issued by a US National Security Council—fills a much-needed void by clearly defining that the US mission for fighting global poverty is to promote broad-based economic growth and democratic governance. Obama has underlined that fighting global poverty is a strategic imperative, as poverty poses a fundamental threat to our efforts to build a secure, prosperous, and just world. Oxfam is pleased to hear that this new policy will establish a US Global Development Strategy and Interagency Policy Committee to ensure coherence across the US government.
“Most important, President Obama issued a clear mandate that country ownership—that is letting governments and citizens in poor countries set their development priorities themselves—is how his administration will pursue the fight against poverty. That fight is more likely to succeed if it is driven by people’s needs on the ground, instead of by what Washington thinks is best. Making that happen will require fixing conflicting mandates, changing our ways of providing foreign aid, and making our assistance more transparent and accountable to recipients and taxpayers alike. The US is doing its part to combat corruption by requiring all oil, gas, and mining companies registered in the US to reveal all the payments they make to governments around the world. Other jurisdictions should quickly follow suit to help unlock billions in natural resource revenues that can help countries meet their poverty targets.
“We applaud the administration for placing country ownership at the heart of the Global Health Initiative, Feed the Future, and USAID’s Implementation & Procurement Reform. But to ensure these initiatives’ success, the administration and Congress need to fix the tangled web of competing and sometimes contradictory mandates that undermine their potential. That has to begin with an overhaul of our Cold-War era foreign assistance legislation. And to further elevate development, the President should exercise his commitment to include the USAID Administrator in meetings of the National Security Council whenever possible.
“We also commend President Obama for his determination to hold our nation accountable for keeping our development promises. We encourage him to demonstrate his commitment to working more closely with other donors by contributing the US’s full share to the Global Fund and other organizations with a proven track record for prioritizing poor countries’ own plans.
“Oxfam urges other world leaders to follow the US example and issue plans that will hold them accountable to meeting their past aid pledges as well. If today’s leaders invest in the MDGs and meet their development promises, it would mean that five years from now, millions more mothers will survive childbirth, children will survive infancy, boys and girls can go to school, adults can earn enough to care for and feed their families, and countries can better grow their way out of poverty."