UK Minister for International Development Douglas Alexander presented at a CGD roundtable yesterday a new poverty action plan to help the world’s poorest people cope with the global economic crisis. Alexander said that the measures described in the new UK government White Paper, Eliminating World Poverty: Building Our Common Future would help 50 million people hit by the crisis, keeping children in school, parents in jobs, and the most vulnerable people out of destitution.
Speaking with CGD senior staff and representatives from other think tanks, NGOs, U.S. government agencies and the World Bank, Alexander said that the paper represents a fundamental shift in the way that the UK delivers development aid, refocusing resources onto fragile countries and for the first time treating security and justice as a basic service alongside health, education, water and sanitation. Half of new UK bilateral funding would be committed to fragile countries, he said. The report also places a strong focus on climate change, including support to poor countries to help them adapt and new investments in low-carbon growth.
One week after the London release of the report early this month, the UK opposition party released its own report on development strategy: One World Conservatism: A Conservative Agenda for International Development. In it, the Conservatives matched the government’s longstanding commitment to boost UK development assistance to 0.7 percent of Gross National Income (about 9 billion UK pounds or roughly $15 billion) by 2013. The report, which urged a focus on outcomes and improved efficiency, included support for two innovative CGD proposals: the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation or 3ie, and Cash-on-Delivery Aid. (Conservative Party leader David Cameron called the plan "the progressive Conservative approach to international development.”)
During yesterday’s lively discussion, which I was privileged to chair, the mostly American participants had plenty of questions and comments about the report itself, as well as about public support for development in the UK and possible lessons for the United States. There was a clear recognition that politics of development policy are very different in London than in Washington. Still, many in the room couldn’t help but feel a bit envious, wishing for a world in which our own Democrats and Republicans were issuing thoughtful strategy papers and publicly competing for the mantle of who can most effectively and compassionately lead on global development policy.