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U.S. policies and practices have a significant impact on development prospects in the poorer world. While development is crucial to numerous U.S. policy goals, it is often oddly absent in domestic political debate. On Wednesday, January 27, President Obama will deliver his first official State of the Union address to Congress, the American public, and a global audience seeking to understand the U.S.’s priorities in 2010. As in previous years, CGD encourages people around the world, from the Beltway to Bangkok, to participate in and evaluate the president’s remarks by playing CGD State of the Union Bingo.
This is a joint posting with Owen McCarthy and Julia Barmeier
The events in Haiti have demonstrated the reactive nature of emergency response—specifically the myriad of appeals for funding for food, medicines and basic supplies. While these initiatives can produce positive results for the disaster victims, they are often encumbered by long delays, which mean that people stay hungry and sick for days, weeks or even months. The United Nations says that it is currently feeding 4,000 people, and hopes to feed 2 million people within a month.
The massive earthquake that struck Haiti last week has wreaked havoc on a scale that appears unprecedented. Unfortunately, there are many precedents, including several in the last five years, such as the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, which killed an estimated 220,000 people, the South Asia earthquake of 2005, which killed 86,000 people, and the Chengdu earthquake of 2008, which killed a similar number. Learning from these is critical to succeeding in minimizing the suffering in Haiti in the next few days and weeks and maximizing the opportunities for recovery over the next several years. While different people involved in the response to these disasters will draw different lessons, from my perspective at the White House during the tsunami and the South Asia earthquake, the following come most quickly to mind:
Secretary of State Clinton’s speech highlighted steps currently being taken to strengthen the role of development in U.S. foreign policy. First among these: a new emphasis on partnerships – “not only to the countries where we work, but to other countries and organizations working there as well.”
How can someone outside Haiti raise the income of a person who is very poor in Haiti? The fastest, surest, biggest way is simply to let that person work outside Haiti for some period, in a rich country. My co-authors and I document that a 35 year old urban male with some secondary schooling, born and educated in Haiti, earns a standard of living at least six times greater on average in the United States than the same person earns in Haiti.