Monday, January 30, 2012

US Foreign Policy Priorities 2012

In the next 11 months, the United States will drive its development agenda alongside its diplomatic priorities as part of efforts to harness a “decade of opportunities” in overseas engagement.

Jake Sullivan, director of policy planning at the U.S. Department of State, in a recent interview stated that one of the country’s foreign policies for 2012 is to “consolidate the efforts that we have undertaken to shift from a decade of war and a focus on threats” to a “decade of opportunities.”

Video link here.

Among these opportunities are to push development alongside diplomacy — a push backed and initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The United States will also continue supporting democratic transactions in the Middle East and Africa, expanding engagement in Asia and the Pacific, and deepening partnerships with Central and South American countries, Sullivan said.

Answering questions at a recent webchat with journalists across the globe, Sullivan also hinted at U.S. development priorities in Caribbean and Africa as well as countries like Bangladesh, where health and agriculture are key focus sectors. In the Carribean, Sullivan said the United States will continue its extensive programming to curb the spread of AIDS and provide treatment to people living with HIV. This commitment is in line with Clinton’s vision of an AIDS-free generation, he added. Improving Africa’s trade sector is also to remain an important development and diplomatic priority for the United States. Sullivan said “it is an incredibly important priority for the Secretary and for this Administration” to promote job growth and business in the region.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Asking for UN Reform

The United States unveiled Jan. 20 a comprehensive U.N. reform agenda based on four pillars: economy, accountability, integrity and excellence. The United States wants to see a leaner budget, smaller staff, better procurement practices and stricter fraud sanctions at the United Nations in the coming years.

The agenda outlines the reforms and changes the country, which is the U.N.’s top budget contributor, intends to pursue and support over the next few years.

Why Reform Matters: The United States has led at the UN since its creation because a strong, effective UN is among the best tools we have to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. The UN works to prevent conflict and keep peace, to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to isolate terrorists, criminals and despots. The UN goes where nobody else will to provide desperately needed humanitarian and development assistance to the world’s neediest people; and promotes universal values that Americans cherish, including human rights, democracy, and equality.

The UN shares the burdens of global security among all nations, rather than leaving the United States to manage them alone. The Obama Administration is committed to achieving a reformed and renewed UN that saves lives, keeps the peace, seeds development, finds common solutions to the urgent problems of a new century, operates effectively —and lives within its means.

This comprehensive UN reform agenda is based on four key pillars: economy, accountability, integrity, and excellence. 

Economy: A Leaner UN. Every dollar sent to the UN represents the hard work of a taxpayer somewhere, and any dollar wasted at the UN is a wasted opportunity to build a better, freer, more prosperous world. The United Nations should face these tough economic times by tightening its belt and doing more with less.

Accountability: A Cleaner UN. Taxpayers around the world deserve to know exactly how the money they send to the UN is spent and to have confidence that every dollar, euro or yen is handled honestly and well. The UN has made important advances in recent years, but much more remains to be done to strengthen oversight mechanisms, ethics enforcement, whistleblower protection, and transparency. 

Integrity: A Respected UN. As a founding member, host country, and largest contributor, the United States has a particular interest in seeing that the UN lives up to its founding principles and values and standing firm against actions by member states that discredit the UN and the important work it does. 

Excellence: An Effective UN. Billions of people depend, many for their lives, on crucial UN services. They deserve a UN that delivers real results and that performs – from senior officials in New York to front-line implementers in African villages – to the highest standard of excellence.

Read complete details of the proposal here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Bellagio Initiative

New ideas for advancing well being in the developing world emerge on a daily basis.

The Bellagio Initiative is a series of global consultations to produce a new framework for philanthropic and international development collaboration in pursuit of human wellbeing in the 21st century. The project is led by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), the Resource Alliance and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Throughout 2011 and moving into 2012, the Initiative is engaging a diverse international group of practitioners, opinion leaders, social entrepreneurs and donors to consider innovative solutions to some of the major challenges affecting poor people today. The Initiative is built on Global Dialogue meetings with key constituencies around the world, commissioned papers and a recent Summit which was held in Winter 2011 at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, Italy.

The Rockefeller Foundation is continually seeking out a wide range of partners – entrepreneurs, activists, technological innovators, social innovators, government leaders and others who are constantly experimenting to find new ways to solve the challenges they confront. In convening the Bellagio Initiative, they provided a forum to listen to those partners and their innovative solutions for the philanthropic and development communities.

In particular, at the Bellagio Initiative Summit in November they brought some of these partners together, giving them the chance to expand their networks and source new ideas. A full in-depth report on the Initiative will be released later in 2012. For now, it's possible to hear just a few of the insights that emerged from the Summit. Watch the video for key moments and learnings now:

The video includes contributions from Bellagio Initiative delegates, including: 
Caroline Anstey, World Bank James Chen, Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation Jay Naidoo, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition Malcolm Bruce, UK House of Commons Roberto Bissio, Social Watch Samia Yaba Nkrumah, Member of Parliament, Ghana Tariq Cheema, World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Trends in Development 2012

At the end of the year, Isobel Coleman writing for the Council of Foreign Relations identifies three major trends for international development in the coming year. The full article is linked here

An excerpt is below: 

As the world adjusts to seven billion people, and begins its creep toward eight billion, doing more with less will become increasingly important...   Greater efficiency and effectiveness in development is paramount. 

Three trends to watch in the coming year that can help improve development outcomes. 

 1) mHealth and mGovernance Applying mobile phone technology to global health challenges has huge potential to improve health outcomes... MHealth is still in its infancy, but the potential is there for some transformative improvements to health care delivery in rural areas. MGovernance is also an area to watch. Mobile phones are becoming a tool for governments to communicate information, build connections with citizens, and receive feedback, particularly in countries with little infrastructure. 

2) Agricultural Productivity As competition for resources becomes more intense in the coming decades, dramatically increasing how efficiently we use available resources – in particularly, energy, food and water – will be a critical part of the solution to closing the gap between supply and demand... In the horn of Africa, poor governance and climate conditions have combined to create chronic food shortages and famines...  As drought spreads to West Africa, innovations in this field will be another important trend to watch in 2012. 

3) Establishing Identity Registering minorities and women allows them better access to legal channels to claim their rights, whether that is to report a crime, dispute ownership of land or other property, or gain access to social services and education. Gaining state recognition is certainly the first step for the 12 million stateless people in the world, but it is also the first step to citizenship for billions of people in developing countries that have no official identity... Other countries with millions of unregistered citizens, who in some places are disproportionately women, should watch closely.