2017 brought a steady stream of challenges and changes to U.S. foreign policy and development assistance – from a new Administration taking the reins, to a budget proposal that sent shockwaves through Washington, to a steady drumbeat of support for American global leadership. We’ve gathered 12 of the top stories from the past year – one from each month – that you won’t want to miss.
At the heart of USAID Administrator Mark Green’s vision for the agency is “to end the need for its existence,” and a desire to transition countries that may no longer need development assistance to a new relationship with the United States. But against the backdrop of the proposed 32% cut to the International Affairs Budget, there have been some concerns that “transitions” could serve as a cover for cutting aid budgets and closing missions.
Against the backdrop of today’s debate about America’s role in the world, it is striking to re-read the speech by Secretary of State George C. Marshall announcing the Marshall Plan on the 70th anniversary of its delivery. The Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild the economies of Western Europe after World War II, is often seen as the model for American global leadership. Secretary Marshall makes not a selfless appeal to support a new global order, but a calculated appeal to Americans’ self-interest, accompanied by a sophisticated series of short films to explain its benefits.
Only two years ago, Aizel Quisano was one of thousands of young people in the Mindanao region of the Philippines who were both out of school and unemployed. A future in her hometown of Lamitan City looked bleak. She was desperate for work and even considered leaving her family to seek employment in Cavite, a city 850 miles to the north, near Manila. But now, those days are behind her. New life skills and a new job at an organic farm in Lamitan City are enriching both her life and her community.
Last week, the Administration released its full FY18 budget request, which includes a 32 percent cut to the International Affairs Budget and signals the potential elimination of U.S. assistance to 37 nations. China, on the other hand, recently held a summit to launch a multibillion dollar global infrastructure and development initiative spanning 65 countries that account for 60 percent of the world’s population. One Belt One Road is President Xi Xinping’s ambitious effort to re-assert China’s global economic leadership. China seeks to revive the historic “Silk Road” trading route— spanning from the Netherlands to Indonesia— which helped facilitate international trade for centuries.
America’s leadership in institutions like World Bank and IMF is critical to influencing the agenda on global economic growth and development— which, in turn, shapes opportunities for American businesses to invest around the world. At next week’s World Bank/IMF Spring Meeting, businesses and NGOs will join finance ministers and development leaders from around the world to address today’s global challenges and opportunities. What will America’s voice be, given recent proposed budget cuts?
Empowering women and girls has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to deliver development results. Studies show that if women had the same access to economic resources as men, agricultural productivity could increase by 20 to 30 percent and help lift 100 million additional people out of poverty. Moreover, child mortality can be cut by nearly 10 percent by providing one additional year of education for women of childbearing age.
Today, more people have access to mobile phones than to electricity or clean water— and it’s making a difference in the fight against global poverty. In 2000, only 4 percent of people living in low- and middle-income countries had access to mobile phones. In 2015, that number rose to a whopping 94 percent. Here’s how technology is demonstrating a real, measurable impact.