Obama's Uncommon Commitment to Global Development

December 03, 2007

obama_vftc.jpgThe security and well-being of each and every American is tied to the security and well-being of those who live beyond our borders, according to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. The theme of global interdependence is the bedrock of Obama's new strategy for America's engagement in the world, in which global development matters, a lot.

Obama unveiled his new strategy (download full strategy document, PDF, 71k) for “Strengthening Our Common Security by Investing in Our Common Humanity” at a foreign policy forum in New Hampshire last week (video footage available here and news coverage in the Concord Monitor). The new strategy explains:

The United States should provide global leadership grounded in the understanding that the world shares a common security and common humanity. We must lead not in the spirit of a patron, but the spirit of a partner. Extending an outstretched hand to others must ultimately be more than just a matter of expedience or even charity. It must be about recognizing the inherent equality, dignity, and worth of all people. It will require American leadership that leverages engagement and resources from our traditional allies in the G-8 as well as new actors, including emerging economies (e.g. India, China, Brazil and South Africa), the private sector and global philanthropy. Yet, while America and our friends and allies can help developing countries build more secure and prosperous societies, we much never forget that only the citizens of these nations can sustain them.

Obama's strategy reiterates a promise to double U.S. foreign assistance to $50 billion by 2012 that my colleague Steve Radelet discussed in a CGD blog several months ago. Also of note are commitments to:

  • Expand prosperity through investments in agriculture, infrastructure and economic growth so the benefits and burdens of globalization are shared equally and economic policy is seen as central to security policy;
  • Create an Add Value to Agriculture Initiative to promote a Green Revolution in Africa in addition to other measures to increase poor farmers' access to agricultural markets;
  • Establish a $2 billion Global Education Fund for primary education to help eliminate the “global education deficit”;
  • Launch a Global Energy and Environment Initiative, create an Emerging Market Energy Fund, and spur the creation of an open-source, real-time mapping system to forecast the impacts of climate change country-by-county to address climate change and other global environmental challenges;
  • Lead efforts to reform the International Monetary Fund and World Bank;
  • Develop a rapid response fund for societies in transition;
  • Invest in global health infrastructure, including creating health care systems that train and retain health care workers; and (last but not least)
  • Coordinate and consolidate the twenty-some U.S. agencies currently involved in U.S. foreign assistance (including the Millennium Challenge Account and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) in a restructured and empowered U.S. Agency for International Development.

Obama was joined at the forum by his foreign policy advisers including Richard Danzig, former secretary of the Navy; Tony Lake, former national security adviser; Adm, John Hutson, former U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General; Samantha Power, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor of human rights and foreign policy; and Susan Rice, former assistant secretary of state for African Affairs. Together they discussed these and other ideas for U.S. global engagement should Obama become the next president.

Long before Obama's speech, the Center for Global Development and many other organizations including the ONE Campaign and Center for U.S. Global Engagement have been working to put global development onto the agenda of the 2008 presidential campaigns. This is indeed the focus of our Global Development Matters website and the documentary film footage it uses to tell the story of why global development matters for the U.S. and the rest of the world.

I encourage my CGD colleagues and others to comment further on the details of Obama's proposals and extend my own applause for the Obama campaign's vision and as yet uncommon commitment to addressing global development in the 2008 presidential campaigns. Sadly, Obama's foreign policy goals are no longer the headline on his campaign website, nor did they seem to make national press coverage this weekend. Here's hoping that other candidates, Republicans and Democrats alike, start saying as much and more about their commitment to global development and their vision for America's role in the world, and that the media and others start taking notice.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.