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Obama Releases Historic U.S. Global Development Policy

November 2010

On September 22, 2010, President Barack Obama released the country’s first Global Development Policy—a coherent strategy that directs the government on how to handle development issues.

The release of the policy is an important victory for Bread for the World members. For several years now,  Bread has been working to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective in fighting poverty.

An Overall U.S. Strategy

In 2008, Bread activists supported House and Senate bills urging the administration to carry out a thorough review of development policy and institutions. In 2009, our Offering of Letters focused on reforming foreign assistance to strengthen it and make it more effective. One of the Offering’s major objectives was met when President Obama ordered a complete review of all U.S. development programs across several federal agencies and dozens of offices.

The Global Development Policy is the result of this review. For the first time ever, the United States has an overall strategy that provides clear guidance to all U.S. government agencies carrying out development programs in low-income countries. The policy promotes many of the reforms Bread and our partners in the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) have been urging. These include elevating development as a key component of U.S. foreign policy, institutionalizing a global development strategy, reflecting the views of recipient governments and communities in planning programs, emphasizing broad-based economic growth, and strengthening the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

“The administration’s new policy will result in more effective assistance—in the countries where the United States is supporting increased investment in agriculture and nutrition, for example—for many years to come,” said Bread President David Beckmann. “Congratulations to all of our members on this victory. Thanks be to God.”

The Global Development Policy was released during Obama’s speech at the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit in New York in September. The summit, with more than 100 heads of state participating, marked a critical point for the MDGs, eight achievable development goals that nearly every country agreed to in 2000.

Some regions and countries are on track to achieve some or all of the MDGs by the 2015 deadline, while others are not. Progress has been uneven across the various MDGs as well—for example, reducing child and maternal mortality is lagging behind other goals. (For more information on the MDGs and efforts being made to achieve them, see the background paper in the September 2010 issue of Bread, “The Millennium Development Goals: Stepping Up Progress.”)

The U.N. MDG Summit focused on action plans to speed up progress in the remaining five years before 2015. At its conclusion, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced a $40 billion pledge by the donor community intended to save the lives of 16 million women and children in the next five years.

Focus on Follow-up

Bread President David Beckmann was the only speaker from a U.S. nongovernmental organization at an event  that launched a renewed global effort against child malnutrition. It was organized by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin as part of the U.N. MDG Summit.

The new initiative, “1,000 Days:  Change a Life, Change the Future—Partnering to Reduce Child Undernutrition,” brings together a coalition committed to raising awareness and resources to improve children’s nutrition during the 1,000 days that begin with a woman’s pregnancy and continue until a child is 2 years old. This is a critical window of opportunity that shapes a child’s future.

Beckmann pointed out that the 2008 food price crisis focused much more international attention on agriculture and nutrition issues. “Research has identified the actions proven to be most effective in fighting malnutrition. What we must do now is scale up those programs so that all children benefit,” he said.

As part of the follow-up activities, Bread will convene an international conference on child nutrition as part of the 2011 National Gathering next June in Washington, DC.

Beckmann emphasized the necessity of sustaining our focus to ensure that effective foreign assistance becomes a reality—the topic of our 2011 Offering of Letters. Bread will push to see that the new strategy is fully implemented and urge Congress to give the Global Development Policy the force of law.

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