Ahead of the upcoming G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, the World Bank released a paper warning that “the global recession is expected to push 89 million more people into extreme poverty by the end of 2010.” The paper, reported in the Washington Post, also called on the “leading eight industrialized nations to act on a pledge made at a summit earlier this year in Italy to distribute $20 billion in agricultural development aid…[and] do more to help finance small and medium-size businesses, which it said were key to economic growth.”
The implications of inaction are stark. As we saw during the food price crisis of 2008, widespread despair led to instability around the world – which extremists have been all too happy to exploit at a cost to global security and prosperity. To help ward off these threats, the U.S. must show leadership and resolve on development.
As President Obama said in his inaugural address, “To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.” There has never been a more important time to come through on this pledge.
To come through for both struggling people in the developing world and U.S. taxpayers, U.S. policymakers must make good on their pledges to reform U.S. foreign assistance and make programs that alleviate poverty and hunger, fight disease, and create economic opportunity more efficient and effective. There is a lot of momentum in this direction, as evidenced by current legislation in the House and Senate, as well as the State Department’s QDDR and the recently announced Presidential Study Directive on Global Development Policy.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick’s comments at the release of the G20 paper ring true for foreign assistance reform as well: “We are entering a new danger zone not of free fall but complacency,” said Zoellick. “You have pledges, you have people who have intentions, but it’s not operationalized yet.”