Change the Global Community Can Believe In
President Barack Obama has challenged us to remake America. Asking Americans to “choose hope over fear and unity of purpose over conflict and discord” his words spoken during the inauguration continue to echo beyond the borders of the United States, reaching communities in nearly every corner of the globe. As the global economic crisis continues, it has become even clearer that the challenge President Obama and his Administration has set forth—to re-imagine and re-create our nation—cannot be accomplished if we only look inward. The process of re-making America must be accomplished in partnership with the global community.
Globalization has rendered our economy increasingly more interdependent and our security challenges more complex, yet America still has a currency and influence that resonates abroad. The alliances that we repair, modify or forge in this unprecedented era of global transformation will shape the future of the United States. As a global leader, this country has the responsibility and the capacity to promote innovative policies and development efforts that result in sustainable economic and social outcomes. However, if America is to successfully assume a leadership role in the poverty reduction arena, we must act in partnership as members of the global community and re-think our engagement with developing countries. This Administration must take concrete actions to improve the effectiveness of our foreign assistance dollars not only by increasing our commitment to global development, but also through a shared vision of global engagement that aligns development assistance efforts with larger trade, diplomatic, security and investment priorities.
Improving U.S. Foreign Assistance through coordinated Global Partnerships
The Global Fairness Initiative (GFI) is an international NGO based in Washington D.C. whose mission is to promote a more equitable, sustainable approach to globalization. In working towards our goal of improving livelihoods of the working poor, GFI strategically engages partner governments, businesses, worker, and civil society organizations. Operating precisely in the space where theory meets practice, GFI looks to inform national and international decision makers based on real life, development experiences and programs.
The Obama Administration provides an opportune moment for America to closely examine and improve our foreign assistance framework. As the new administration looks for guidance on effective development and poverty reduction efforts, a first step is to reach out to those on the ground experiencing our policy in action. The design and implementation of foreign assistance strategies, would benefit greatly from a more grassroots perspective that includes the experiences of local and international NGOs, philanthropic foundations, and foreign governments partnered with the United States in capacity building programs and poverty reduction initiatives. Knowledge and identification of synergies with existing programs , leveraging best practices, and the experience of field staff and partner organizations can only enhance national decision makers’ abilities to create effective structures that support our broader development and foreign policy goals.
Prioritizing Development in U.S. Foreign Policy
Development efforts must be placed on a similar level as other U.S. foreign policy tools. Furthermore, the Administration should define a unified vision for global engagement that integrates the goals and priorities of each U.S. Government agency. It is certain that unless America draws on and coordinates the wide range of diplomatic, trade, defense, investment and development tools at our disposal, challenges such as economic instability, climate change, the food crisis, and terrorism will never be resolved. By creating a shared vision of global engagement across agencies, the temptation to respond to narrow interests is avoided and political space created for developing Bi-lateral relationships based on an integrated approach that strategically engages a wide range of actors across sectors. In better understanding the links between development and economic stability, a broader range of national and foreign policy objectives can be achieved.
As GFI strives to promote inclusive economic relationships, our work on labor rights and informal sector development in the DR-CAFTA countries has revealed firsthand the necessity for prioritizing development as a complementary element for other U.S. policy tools. Beyond engagement in traditional labor rights dialogue, GFI seeks a broad approach that not only raises the voice of poor workers internationally, but also works to help Governments, employers and all members of society develop a competitive economic structure inclusive of these individuals including those in the informal economy. While much work remains to be done in order to make substantial progress towards labor rights and other development goals, current programs in the DR-CAFTA countries can be a starting point for achieving greater poverty reduction impacts through coordination of bilateral engagement across, trade, development, diplomacy and security initiatives.
The United States will continue to be judged by its development efforts and ability to expand economic opportunities both at home and abroad. Broad global challenges require a new approach, and strengthening our commitment to foreign assistance will require opening ourselves to suggestions from our developing country partners as well as drawing on the vast experience of foreign and U.S. development professionals operating on the ground. It is time for global development objectives to be given their proper place in the Government’s agenda and key partners from all sectors engaged to produce tangible poverty reductions impacts with sustainable results.
The Global Fairness Initiative