MFAN Member Calls for Action in Obama’s MDG Speech on Development

Below is a guest blog post from MFAN member Porter McConnell, Policy Advisor for Oxfam America’s Aid Effectiveness team, on President Obama’s speech later today at the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit, in which he will outline the new U.S. global development policy:

President Obama: Just another speech, or…

President Obama speechThis week, world leaders are meeting in New York to plot a path to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. President Obama is giving a speech at the summit later today. The question is, will this be just another speech, or will this be the speech of a lifetime?

The Administration first released its plan for the US role in meeting the MDGs in July. This plan is a step in the right direction, but one billion poor people are counting on us to turn those words into action. The President will need to confront some tough choices. It’s time for the American people to hold him accountable for concrete actions to help people around the world beat poverty once and for all.

Thankfully, the US isn’t in this alone: President Obama needs to call on other world leaders to make their own robust plans, and their citizens need to hold them to it. But after world leaders have all packed their bags and returned home, the real work begins. The only way to turn the corner on the MDGs is for the Administration to undertake tough reforms to make our aid work for poor people.

The Administration has made a start:  country ownership is at the heart of the Global Health Initiative, Feed the Future, and USAID’s Implementation & Procurement Reform. But to take country ownership from lip service to reality, the Administration and Congress must fix the tangled web of competing agendas that undermine ownership at every turn. That means an overhaul of our Cold-War era foreign assistance legislation, and a seat for USAID on the National Security Council, so our efforts to fight global poverty aren’t diverted to serve narrow diplomatic and security ends. As Ethiopian Minister of Health and Global Fund Chair Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus remarked to policymakers this summer, “People say country ownership is confusing. It’s not confusing, it’s actually really clear. What’s missing is the commitment to implement it.”

We must send the message to President Obama that now is not a moment for a symbolic speech, now is the time for urgent action. If the global economic crisis has taught us anything, it’s that global poverty is a fundamental threat to our shared efforts to build a secure, prosperous and just world. Together we must beat global poverty, and the only way we do that is by recognizing that poor people themselves are critical to the solution.

Photo: Pete Souza, WhiteHouse.gov

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