While we are desperately trying to decode a strand of insight into US development policy in the Presidential debates, the British are having a full-throated debate about leadership on 21st-century global issues —and, frankly, making us look bad. In today’s Wall Street Journal, British Prime Minister David Cameron lays out his antipoverty vision in this op-ed. My three takeaways:
1. The UK is explicitly rebalancing what can be done now to improve welfare and what can be built over the long term. Cameron writes:
…only when people can get a job and a voice [can they] take control of their own destiny and a build a future free from poverty…. Spending money on the symptoms of poverty will never be enough when the failure of institutions in developing countries actually causes poverty, by crushing any hope people have for a livelihood and a fair say over how their country is run.
2. The UK recognizes that it needs to find new ways of leveraging aid to encourage institutional change:
Making this transformation a reality means using our aid differently, as a catalyst to unleash the dynamism of developing economies…. It also means driving improvements in transparency and accountability to ensure that corrupt elites cannot waste our aid money.
3. And, in music to CGD ears, Cameron also highlights what we can do constructively in our own capitals that has nothing to do with an aid program:
…we in the developed world must also put our own house in order, including by tracking down and returning plundered assets, refusing visas to corrupt foreign officials and stopping bribery involving our companies. The U.S. has introduced legally binding measures to require oil, gas and mining companies to publish key financial information for each country and project they work on. And I want Europe to do the same.
These principles may be coming from 10 Downing Street, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t apply to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue too. Let’s hope that, after November 6, the White House agrees.