Putting Development and Diplomacy at the Forefront

April 16, 2010 By Jordan Smith

While using development and diplomacy as national security tools has “not always been at the forefront of US foreign policy, under the Obama Administration and Secretary Clinton’s State Department, they are receiving unprecedented attention,” according to Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs.  She gave an important speech at American University on April 8 entitled “Smart Power: Applications and Lessons for Development.”

Speaking about the strategic ideas behind Smart Power, Otero said, “Our task is to advance America’s national security interests by tackling the threat of climate change to our fragile environment” and other long-term, transnational threats, such as poverty, HIV/AIDS and women’s rights.

U.S. foreign policy needs to invest in its civilian tools, she said. “President Obama and Secretary Clinton seek to implement a foreign policy that considers development, diplomacy and defense as mutually beneficial to one other,” said Otero. “When these three pillars are implemented in concert with one another, we amplify the dividends of peace and justice, creating stronger and more vibrant societies.”

The need for investments in Smart Power tools has its roots in U.S. security. “The Obama Administration understands that we cannot reach a more equitable world when one-third of humankind lives in conditions that offer them little chance of building better lives for themselves or their children. Or when half the world’s population – women and girls – are excluded financially, politically or socially. Nor can we stop terrorism or defeat the ideologies of violent extremism when hundreds of millions of young people see a future with no jobs, no hope, and no way to catch up to the developed world.” This is what “drives the U. S. government’s current effort to incorporate development into every aspect of our foreign policy. It is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative – and it is central to our role as a leader in today’s world.”