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Posts Tagged ‘economic growth’

American Foreign Policy and Africa with Senator Johnny Isakson

Friday, April 1st, 2011
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isaksonSenator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) delivered an engaging and broad-ranging speech on U.S. policy in Africa yesterday at John’s Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies.  Senator Isakson is the Senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, and he has traveled to the continent many times over the last several years.  Senator Isakson focused his remarks on three primary areas: 1. U.S. foreign assistance to Africa; 2. U.S. private investment in Africa; and 3. China’s presence in Africa.

Senator Isakson began his remarks by emphasizing that no continent will be more strategically important to the U.S. than Africa in the 21st Century.  Senator Isakson went on to praise Presidents Bush and Obama for their commitment to engaging Africa and to investing in development programs, such as PEPFAR and the MCC.  Senator Isakson focused on the MCC in particular, explaining that the MCC currently has 11 compacts in Africa and that these compacts are not only creating much needed infrastructure, but are also producing the types of political and economic reforms that are critical to long-term success.  Senator Isakson also offered his strong support for the work that U.S. NGOs are performing in Africa, and he cited MFAN Partner CARE USA in particular for the great work that they are doing through microfinance programs in Africa.

Senator Isakson also offered up some broader arguments for how the U.S. should fashion its foreign assistance.  Specifically, Senator Isakson said that U.S. foreign assistance programs must have a clear purpose and that they should do more to tackle corruption, to support democratization, and to introduce recipient countries to the principles of capitalism that will help develop sustainable economic growth over the long-term.  Senator Isakson kept returning to the issue of corruption throughout his remarks, and repeatedly made the point that we must protect our investments in Africa by developing greater accountability and transparency.

Senator Isakson also spoke about the important role that the U.S. private sector is playing in Africa.  He told the story of how Marathon Oil has invested millions in natural gas in Equatorial Guinea, helping the country have one of the fastest growing economies in the world.  The Senator also praised Coca Cola, headquartered in his home state of Georgia, for their $30 million investment in purification projects to become a water neutral company and to develop greater access to clean water in Africa.

The last topic that Senator Isakson covered was China’s growing role in Africa.  Senator Isakson was highly critical of the manner in which China’s engagement in Africa is focused on the extraction of resources and the deployment of Chinese workers for infrastructure projects, without any consideration for sustainable development solutions .  By contrast, Senator Isakson praised the U.S. government for the way that it works with its African partners to plan and execute development programs that serve the needs of the people and that are held accountable.

In the Q&A section that followed the Senator’s speech, he responded to a question on how the current budget environment will impact U.S. foreign assistance programs.  Senator Isakson argued that a cost-benefit analysis will have to be applied to U.S. foreign assistance programs, just like the rest of the Federal budget, but he is optimistic that development programs like PEPFAR and the MCC will continue to be funded, (though perhaps not at existing levels), because of the value they continue to demonstrate.  The Senator also responded to several questions on the current situation in Libya, the Ivory Coast, and Sudan.

In conclusion, Senator Isakon’s participation and his remarks at this morning’s event at SAIS clearly displayed his passion for U.S. policy towards Africa and the depth of knowledge he has developed in this area during his tenure in Congress.  Senator Isakson will undoubtedly be a lead voice in the U.S. Senate on Africa policy issues during the 112th Congress.

U.S. Development Firms Lead by Example

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
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A Guest Blog Post by Lawrence J. Halloran
Director, PSC International Development Initiative

With all the talk about whether foreign assistance is achieving its intended results, recent success stories demonstrate that economic development remains the strongest foundation for advances in all other sectors, such as health, governance, education and the empowerment of minorities and women. These successful projects show how U.S. development firms lead by example, teaching entrepreneurship and efficiency and creating thriving local businesses.

DevEx recently highlighted the success of a project to reform agriculture in Latin America implemented by TetraTech.  That USAID-funded effort was successful because it brought innovative science and a rigorous evidence-based approach to agricultural development there. And USAID recently highlighted work by AECOM and Nathan Associates on successful projects in post-conflict countries, such as Sri Lanka, that trained indigenous workforces and gave them the skills they need to develop viable local industries to compete and succeed in a global market.

These are just two examples of hundred of development projects underway that showcase how U.S. companies practice the capitalism we preach, often hiring up to ten locals for every U.S. technical expert deployed, and by nurturing budding local risk-takers and business leaders who go on to build more stable, prosperous, healthy communities in their countries.  Development is by nature a long-term process and changing political winds can sometimes prevent short-term progress from taking root.  But successes like these projects prove that USAID-planned, long-term development implemented by U.S. companies continues to unleash unstoppable and sustainable economic activity that is the only sure driver of progress in all other areas.

The Missing Link: Private Sector Involvement in Aid for Trade

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
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On Tuesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the World Bank hosted an event, Building Capacity for Trade in Developing Countries: Fostering Public and Private Cooperation in Aid for Trade. Supporting organizations included MFAN Partner the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, the Trade, Aid, Security Coalition, the Business Civic Leadership Center and the Business Council for Global Development. Tom Donohue, President of the Chamber, noted that more than half of US exports go to developing countries and reaffirmed the Chamber’s commitment to doubling US exports over the next 5 years, in support of Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI).

The Aid for Trade (AFT) agenda was officially launched at the World Trade Organization’s Hong Kong Trade Ministerial meeting back in 2005. According to MFAN Co-Chair Jim Kolbe who moderated the first panel with Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization and Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank Group, there are 4 main components of aid for trade: technical assistance, infrastructure building to link markets, productive capacity and adjustment assistance. In the private sector, the aid for trade agenda is often referred to as value chain management or sustainable management. In other words aid for trade is official development assistance for building developing countries’ capacity for trade. Lamy noted that the increased political energy around aid for trade has led to more funding for trade capacity building in developing countries over the past several years. He also said there has been progress in making sure developing countries better streamline their trade and development policies and identify clear priorities. Lamy emphasized the need for countries to “own” their priorities and for donors to match their requests – a concept many in our community know as country ownership. As for areas of improvement, Lamy said there need to be more impact assessments that can in turn help make the case that public funds for trade capacity building are a good investment. Finally, he noted that businesses are more or less focusing on the same agenda but there is not a strong connection between the official AFT agenda and the private sector.

Zoellick described the World Bank’s role in capacity building in 3 main ways: improving the overall competitiveness in countries (policy context), finding ways to help cut the costs (both hard and soft infrastructure), and through trade finance. He said it is important for multilaterals to recognize when they can play a supportive role in helping build coherence among the many players, identifying gaps, and supporting the developing countries’ role in the “driver’s seat.” Zoellick built on Lamy’s point about the importance of impact assessments and said that all across the field of development we are looking to connect with the results agenda, and this is a critical  component.

The high level panel was followed by brief presentations by 6 major companies – Cargill, FedEx, Google, IBM, Kraft Foods and WalMart – highlighting capacity building projects they are spearheading around the world, some focusing on telecommunications and logistics and others focusing on the promotion of intellectual property rights and innovation. John Murphy, Vice President of the Chamber, noted that bringing private sector voices into the AFT discussions along with multilaterals would be incredibly beneficial to all involved. The long term goal would be to transition from Aid for Trade to Investment for Trade.

Devry Boughner, the Director of International Business Relations for Cargill, shared their Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) where after a series of trainings, the companies involved would meet international certification standards in food safety and hygiene, and therefore could be competitive in the global marketplace. Boughner said that this process not only led to higher standards for food safety across the board, but led to cost efficiency in the supply chain. Chris Padilla, Vice President of Governmental Programs for IBM said trade facilitation is important to the bottom line and summed up his remarks in 2 words: “trusted partnerships.” Padilla talked about AEO’s or authorized economic operators. He said that through AEO’s, large volume importers can build special relationships with countries and their customs authorities leading to eligibility for faster clearance of goods.

Representatives from USAID, the State Department, the US Trade and Development Agency, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation were in attendance. This Chamber and World Bank event was a great first step leading up to the July 18-19 Aid for Trade Global Review in Geneva – over 260 case studies have already been collected and best practices will be shared. The goal of many of these case studies is to show that the sum is greater than all the individual parts, which will hopefully lead to better coordination and partnership with the private sector moving forward.

As Tom Donohue said when he opened the afternoon’s event, “There have never been so many opportunities for business and government to break down barriers to trade as now.”

Click here to watch a webcast of the event.

Feeding Hungry People While Feeding the Future

Friday, March 11th, 2011
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Below is the second installment of MFAN’s blog series highlighting the reform aspects of Feed the Future, the United States Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Feed the Future incorporates many key reform principles such as components of country ownership, strong monitoring and evaluation, and leveraging partnerships for enhanced results. To read the first blog in the series, Feed the Future: A Promising New Model of Development, click here. In this week’s post, Rick Leach, President and CEO of World Food Program USA focuses on both the short and long-term goals for food security as well as the importance of a comprehensive approach.

As Mr. Leach says, “This comprehensive approach makes foreign assistance more effective and leads to increased economic growth, which can open new markets for U.S. products and create new jobs at home.”

A Guest Blog Post by Rick Leach, President and CEO

World Food Program USA

The United States has been a long-standing leader in providing emergency food assistance to people in need around the world. From the food assistance provided under the Marshall Plan, which helped ensure prosperity for a generation of Europeans, to the lifesaving food provided in the wake of last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, U.S. food assistance has enjoyed decades of bipartisan support.

In recent years, support for food assistance has been unprecedented, as its efficiency and effectiveness continues to improve. Food is now reaching hungry people in need more quickly and more efficiently than ever before. The United States has increased the flexibility of food assistance by expanding prepositioning, so food is nearby when emergencies strike. And with U.S. cash-based assistance food also can be purchased locally, helping to revive and support local economies.

Now, with the administration’s new Feed the Future Initiative, the United States has matched its longstanding commitment to saving and rebuilding lives during emergencies with robust support for efforts to tackle an underlying cause of hunger.

AFG_200306_WFP-Alejandro_Chicheri_0014WFP/Alejandro Chicheri

During the 2008 food price crisis, the world witnessed the destabilizing effects that food insecurity had on the world’s poorest people, causing riots in 40 countries. In response the United States and G8 leaders issued a call to action: improved global food security would require a comprehensive approach, one which combined short-term food assistance with long-term development initiatives. This call to action has resulted in an unprecedented consensus on how to effectively address global hunger, from government leaders to recipient countries and international development organizations. The U.S. response to this call to action is Feed the Future, which complements U.S. food assistance with investments in nutrition and agricultural development to comprehensively address the short and long-term impacts of hunger.

The United States and its partners are now employing this multifaceted approach to solve hunger in countries around the world, including Afghanistan where the United States is tailoring its assistance to meet diverse needs on the ground. In cities, such as Kabul, where markets continue to function, the most food insecure families receive vouchers, which enable them to purchase food from local retailers, thereby bolstering local markets. In order to maintain food security and rebuild lives and communities after emergencies, vulnerable populations are provided with food in exchange for their participation in training programs or infrastructure projects, which helps strengthen the capacity of the Afghan people and build the Afghan economy.

U.S. anti-hunger initiatives also provide children in Afghanistan with food assistance specific to their needs. If children do not receive proper nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life (from conception to two years of age) they can suffer permanent mental and physical damage. Therefore, young children and mothers receive nutrient-rich food and nutritional products to ensure proper early development. In support of national efforts to strengthen the education system, school-age children are also encouraged to attend school with the promise of a meal. This not only increases enrollment, especially for girls, but also improves cognition so children are able to learn and retain information.

Finally, the United States and its partners are now embarking on a global effort to expand agricultural and rural development. One example of an innovative program is the World Food Program’s (WFP) Purchase for Progress initiative, supported by the United States and other donors, which has begun purchasing wheat directly from small-scale Afghan farmers. This initiative is increasing the productivity and income of small-scale farmers, improving their long-term food security. In turn, the wheat purchased by WFP has been used to provide assistance to Afghan families affected by flooding and to produce fortified biscuits for school meals programs.

This comprehensive approach makes foreign assistance more effective and leads to increased economic growth, which can open new markets for U.S. products and create new jobs at home. And by more effectively addressing emergency needs and transitioning countries to stable, productive societies, the United States is also building peace around the world. This means improved national security and as Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said, “development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.” These investments are small but the reward is great. Providing food for hungry people today while growing food to feed future generations is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

Women’s empowerment — not a partisan issue

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
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Heather Coleman, senior policy advisor on climate change at Oxfam America, recently posted a blog commemorating International Women’s Day and sharing stories about women who inspire her in the developing world. Coleman can relate to the struggles these incredible women face as they try to produce food for their families and communities, as she is a new mother herself.

“As a new mother I’m deeply touched when I hear stories like that of Sahena Begum in Bangladesh who has two children and whose family has been ravaged by increasingly severe and persistent floods. Sahena invests in disaster preparedness measures like flood early warning systems and raising homesteads with a local organization. I wonder how she has time to invest in such efforts with a family to take care of and food to put on the table. Even with a comfortable home, adequate resources, and no direct threat of natural disasters (or at least none that I know of), I barely have enough time to breathe, never mind invest in community development projects.”

“And while Sahena protects her family and community from yet another flood in Bangladesh, a US Congressional budget battle threatens to slash international development funding accounts that build human security in some of the poorest countries in the world. It looks like the House and Senate will agree to a compromise this week that prevents a government shutdown in the immediate term, but it’s still unclear how long this will last and whether international food security and climate finance will be cut in the end.”

To read more about what Oxfam America is doing to help women around the world, click here. For the latest updates on the budget battle, click here.