The case against a US retreat from international development

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS BRIEF)

 

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT

The case against a US retreat from international development

John R. Allen

As an instrument for peace, prosperity, and human advancement, U.S. foreign assistance constitutes one of the most important examples of American compassion. Since the Marshall Plan allowed hard hit citizens and enterprises to return to normalcy after World War II, advancing a new world order in the process, America has embraced its role as a global development leader.

Author

Yet today, aid—and with it, U.S. global leadership—are under threat.

Invigorating U.S. Leadership in Global Development” was the theme of the August 1-3 Brookings Blum Roundtable, which I was fortunate to attend. Now in its fifteenth year, the event annually explores various facets of international development, poverty reduction, and foreign assistance. While there, I heard from business leaders, heads of prominent nongovernmental organizations, lead budget and aid specialists from the U.S. government, and researchers about practical ways of solving big challenges—from supporting refugees, to strengthening fragile states, to making progress on the widely endorsed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Questions about filling development financing gaps and advancing U.S. leadership through multilateral participation were discussed as well.

One of the threads that ran throughout the three-day roundtable discussion was the distinction between U.S. leadership and American leadership. At a time when there is a retrenchment of global engagement and leadership by segments of the U.S. government, hundreds and thousands of organizations across the country—state and local governments, universities, civil organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis, NGOs, corporations—are actively engaged outside our borders. These groups provide an enduring form of U.S. global leadership on issues from human rights, to relief from natural disasters, to climate change.

I’ve always believed the leading edge of America’s influence is defined through our diplomacy and our foreign assistance. Underlying this is America’s leadership as a generous nation imbued with a humanitarian sense of responsibility. Yet today’s political context means we are rowing against a tide of nativism and populism. Even though grassroots and grass-tops support for international development abounds at the subnational level and among some federal government agencies, our current transactional approach to international relations is eroding America’s global reach. And if we retreat too far, our country’s moral authority will also slip away and be filled eagerly by other forces in the world, not least of all China. In the end, nature and foreign affairs both abhor vacuums.

THE ROLE OF THE SDGS IN COUNTERING NEGATIVE MEGATRENDS

In a world beset by worrying demographic trends, rapid urbanization, climate change, and a transactional approach to international relations, the universally agreed-upon SDGs remain the critical roadmap for humanitarian and development activities.

Few goals are more important than eliminating poverty, exclusion, and hunger from the world, educating our children, protecting women from violence, or addressing today’s climate emergency. Any movement on these goals will make the world a safer place and progress will be overwhelmingly in the interest of our national security. If the U.S. Government spurns the SDGs, as it now appears to be doing, we will be doing so at our own peril. Indeed, the Trump administration’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Treaty alone was a bad move in that direction.

My military experience taught me that the roots of radicalization are planted far upstream from the moment that someone picks up a weapon. Indeed, the roots of unrest, terrorism, and insurgency are often linked to hunger, poverty, and lack of opportunity—the very phenomena the SDGs are focused on. It is development solutions that address and can ultimately fix these problems, not military interventions.

An unstable security environment is often a direct result of the failure to satisfy human aspirations and yearnings.  Today’s unrest in the Middle East and across North Africa began in part with the rising up of young people who could no longer accept the realities of their human condition.

From a U.S. global leadership perspective, the more we align ourselves with these important and unifying international norms, the better will be the outcome, not just for the United States, but for the world. Homi Kharas’ brief, “U.S. global leadership through an SDG lens,” provides useful background on the topic. In addition, a new co-edited, co-authored Brookings book by Homi and a diverse set of external contributors, “From Summits to Solutions: Innovations in Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals,” explores distinct solutions related to everything from expanding women’s opportunities to preserving the oceans and setting goals in wealthy countries.

THE SECURITY-DEVELOPMENT NEXUS

In all my missions—whether in Bosnia, Iraq, or Afghanistan—I was mindful that certain fragile states cannot be permitted to fail because the strategic cost of inaction would be too great. In such instances, a coordinated approach between our security assistance and foreign assistance is essential.

In 2016 Jim Stavridis, my classmate from Annapolis, and I wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Expanding the U.S. Military’s Smart-Power Toolbox.”  The piece was focused on the need for combatant commanders to have the requisite authority to allocate their resources so as to leverage the full capabilities of military, diplomatic and development tools integrated with their mission. The authority we sought would have included funding for USAID programs to support youth-development and conflict-mitigation in places like Agadez, Niger, where better opportunities could dissuade young people from joining terrorist groups.

On the multilateral front, I recently joined World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim at a public event, where we highlighted the broad need to treat development, security, and humanitarian assistance in a more integrated way. Brookings and the World Bank are committed to working together in this area through research and targeted engagement aimed at bringing together diverse actors working on fragile states.

In terms of explaining the linkages between foreign aid and global security, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, an NGO/business/retired military network, is doing terrific work. Fanning out to cities around the U.S., they advocate for adequately resourcing our development and diplomacy activities and I have the privilege of sitting on their National Security Advisory Council. I commend the work of Liz Schrayer, USGLC president and CEO, whose round table brief “Foreign Assistance in the America First Era” outlines the bipartisan support for the development work in the Trump administration.

WOMEN HOLD UP HALF THE SKY

A key takeaway from the 2018 round table was how extraordinarily important women are in conflict resolution, and in achieving development objectives. Indeed, peace outcomes from conflict that involve women typically have a much longer or a much greater probability of success than those that only engage men.

Women in some of the toughest places exhibit entrepreneurial instincts that in many cases far outstrip those of men, making them an excellent investment option. I saw this firsthand in Iraq and Afghanistan, where we made microloans available to women all over the country. Invariably those loans were paid back on time or early and the outcomes stimulated economic progress on the ground, which then reduced conflict and violence.

So the whole idea of future military commanders working closely with USAID and State Department and similar organizations, NGOs, and others, to try to find a way to empower women at the civil society level and women in the governments in these countries is well on track, and should be a “doctrinal” approach as we go forward. It is imperative we expand support for programs and projects that empower women in these societies.

FORGING AHEAD

The global development agenda is daunting, but practical reforms and interventions can ensure progress. Making inroads in tackling poverty and other big problems requires working with the private sector, with civil society organizations, and with other diverse players across the security and development communities. If we navigate wisely and hold to a rational, hopeful outlook, we can achieve great things for America and for the world.

For its part, Brookings will continue researching fragility and what it will take to leave no one behind in the toughest places. Scholars are planning additional mini-roundtables on fragility and are completing a research project on multilateral and international organizations. Work on measuring current trends and gaps on the SDGs is ongoing, along with plans for a future book on dealing with the furthest left behind in the race to meet the SDGs.

This blog was first launched in September 2013 by the World Bank in an effort to hold governments more accountable to poor people and offer solutions to the most prominent development challenges. Continuing this goal, Future Development was re-launched in January 2015 at brookings.edu.

For archived content, visit worldbank.org »

Jordan Adopts “Green Growth” to Promote Economy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Jordan Adopts “Green Growth” to Promote Economy

A tourist boy takes a picture of a camel at the Red Rose ancient city of Petra

Amman – Jordan has started the implementation of a series of measures to encourage green growth and create new job opportunities.

The new package of measures is focused on creating decent jobs in a country that suffers from rising unemployment and low economic growth rate of only 2.3 percent in 2017.

This came in the Jordan Economic Monitor report, which was released during a ceremony held in Amman.

The report also said that the new green growth measures were aimed at benefiting the most from local energies and reducing dependence on costly imports.

Co-sponsored by the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and the World Bank, the report noted that regional instability, especially in Syria and Iraq, was the main factor behind the commercial recession in the Kingdom.

It added that crises in the region have contributed to the slowdown in economic performance in Jordan, which was only 2 percent in 2016, compared with the growth rate in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which was 3.2 percent for the same year, according to recent figures by the World Bank.

The Jordanian government has recently launched its economic growth plan, which seeks to double the rate of economic growth during the period 2018-2022. Last month, the ministry also launched the National Green Growth Plan, which focuses on energy, water, waste, transportation, tourism, and agriculture.

Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury, in a speech delivered on his behalf by Ziad Obeidat, said that regional conflicts have directly impacted the Jordanian economy.

He noted that the average domestic GDP rate for the years 2006-2010 was 6.5 percent compared with 2.6 percent in 2011-2016, and the unemployment rate among young people reached 35.6 percent compared with 30.8 percent in 2015.

For his part, the World Bank’s acting director for the Middle East Kanthan Shankar said: “Jordan has an opportunity to vitalize green growth and undertake climate action as part of a sustainable solution to fiscal, economic and climate vulnerabilities.”

“Such actions would spur job creation, reduce dependence on commodity imports, attract foreign direct investment and leverage international climate finance,” he added.

Putin’s Russia Is Crumbling From The Inside

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

This article first appeared on the Atlantic Council site.

At first glance, Russian actions since the 2014 annexation of Crimea appear to signal a resurgence of power in the international system. Increases in military spending, forays into the Middle East and a foreign policy punching above its weight have all served to remind the world that Russia maintains influence on the global stage.

However, behind the Cold War-levels of military activity and violations of international laws are fundamental issues which will plague Russia going forward.

Demographic struggles have stricken the state since World War II, commodity price fluctuations and sanctions have crippled economic output and the current defense spending trends are unsustainable. Against the backdrop of harsh economic reality, the illusion of Russian resurgence can only be maintained for so long, and NATO policymakers should take note.

An increased NATO presence in the Baltics and more robust defense measures are all necessary and proportional steps towards creating a formidable deterrent to protect the United States’s more vulnerable allies in Russia’s neighborhood.

Russia, however, is not the existential threat to Europe that the Soviet Union once was, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. Time is not on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s side, and he can only ignore fundamental flaws in the socioeconomic landscape of Russian society for so long.

Building submarines and nuclear weapons will not reinvigorate the Russian economy and could eventually degrade what progress has been made to re-establish Russian prominence on the world stage.

Related: Nolan Peterson: The Syria strike deals Putin a double blow

The inertial nature of demographic pressure makes it an exceedingly difficult problem to address but also allows nations to forecast more easily. By nearly all calculations, Russia’s projected population growth appears stagnant at best. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the population of Russia (despite upward of 9 million immigrants) declined each year until 2013.

04_14_Putin_Vulnerable_01Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 11. Jacob Sharpe writes that the war in Ukraine, once popular among Russians, is now hurting morale and draw attention to the economic malaise at home.SERGEI CHIRIKOV/REUTERS

The combination of a decreased standard of living, a decline in the number of women aged 20 to 30 and an increased mortality rate have all damaged the prospects for growth in Russia. Rosstat, the Russian state statistical agency, estimated that the population will decline 20 percent in the next 35 years if current trends continue. This decline has been halted and even reversed to a minor extent in recent years, but reversing long-term trends will be difficult.

The economic outlook for Russia offers similarly bleak prospects, yet there are some signs of a slight turnaround. When compared to a negative 3 percent growth over the past two years, even the small 1.2 percent growth projected by the Russian finance minister (as well as the World Bank) is something to celebrate. Moscow has made some spending adjustments to reflect current oil prices, and Standard & Poor’s has upgraded its credit rating to stable.

The Russian people, however, are still in dire straits. In 2016, one-quarter of Russian companies cut salaries. Overall, the average Russian wage dropped 8 percent last year and 9.5 percent the year before. International sanctions imposed on Russia continue to cause problems, and energy prices have not recovered to previous highs.

Even as some Russians celebrated the election of U.S. President Donald J. Trump, who has expressed a desire for better relations with Russia and suggested that sanctions may be at least partially lifted, the potential for the removal of sanctions could lead to a speculative capital rush, creating more uncertainty in an already fractured economy.

Worsening the economic downturn is the Kremlin’s spending to modernize and expand its military capabilities amidst declining revenue and depleted reserves.

In a recent defense industry meeting, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated that “funding has already been set aside for the coming years and that amount won’t be changed.” That statement doesn’t appear to be entirely correct, as defense spending is set to decrease by 7 percent, but it is telling when other federal departments were dealt 10 percent reductions.

For the time being, it seems this plan has won Putin praise at home and power abroad, but in the long-term it could place him on unsteady ground.  As early as 2015, Russia had begun tapping into its “rainy day fund ” (generally regarded as an emergency measure to address economic slowdowns), and the minor economic recovery is not enough to make up for these shortfalls.

Related: Putin’s Flirtation with Le Pen is likely to backfire

A continuation of this spending behavior combined with budgetary constraints could force Putin to make politically risky fiscal adjustments. He may have convinced his admirers that a bit of budgetary belt-tightening is necessary to ensure Russian security and stature, but economic backpedaling is only digestible for so long.

Even the Ukrainian conflict, once a source of popularity among the Russian people, has begun to hurt morale and highlights the economic malaise at home.

However, Vladimir Putin is not a man to be underestimated, and Russia will remain a threat. It still possesses one of the most powerful militaries in the world, a massive stockpile of nuclear weapons and a reinvigorated willingness to use its political muscle to influence the international system.

Yet while a cursory examination of approval ratings may show an unassailably popular leader, Putin’s power structure is more fragile than it first appears. Financial strain will continue to pressure state-dependent segments of the Russian populace, which have historically been the bedrock of Putin’s support.

It seems Putin’s Russia won’t perish in a Manichean clash in the Fulda Gap, but like the Soviet Union before it, today’s Russia will crumble under the weight of its own mismanagement and economic failure. Perhaps history does repeat itself.

Jacob Sharpe is an intern with the Transatlantic Security Initiative in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.

World Bank ‘pauses’ Indus Waters Treaty processes by India, Pakistan to resolve row

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

World Bank ‘pauses’ Indus Waters Treaty processes by India, Pakistan to resolve row

INDIA Updated: Dec 13, 2016 15:31 IST

PTI
India had taken strong exception last month to the World Bank’s decision to set up a Court of Arbitration and appoint a Neutral Expert to go into Pakistan’s complaint against it over Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
The World Bank has paused the separate processes initiated by India and Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements.“We are announcing this pause to protect the Indus Waters Treaty and to help India and Pakistan consider alternative approaches to resolving conflicting interests under the Treaty and its application to two hydroelectric power plants,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said.

The pause was announced by Kim in letters to the finance ministers of India and Pakistan. It was also emphasised that the Bank was acting to safeguard the Treaty.

Pausing the process for now, the Bank would hold off from appointing the Chairman for the Court of Arbitration or the Neutral Expert — appointments that had been expected on December 12 as earlier communicated by the Bank.

India had taken strong exception last month to the World Bank’s decision to set up a Court of Arbitration and appoint a Neutral Expert to go into Pakistan’s complaint against it over Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir.

Surprised at the World Bank’s decision to appoint a Neutral Expert, as sought by the Indian government and at the same time establish a Court of Arbitration as wanted by Pakistan, India had said proceeding with both the steps simultaneously was “legally untenable”.

Both processes initiated by the respective countries were advancing at the same time, creating a risk of contradictory outcomes that could potentially endanger the Treaty, the Bank noted.

“This is an opportunity for the two countries to begin to resolve the issue in an amicable manner and in line with the spirit of the treaty rather than pursuing concurrent processes that could make the treaty unworkable over time. I would hope that the two countries will come to an agreement by the end of January,” Kim said.

China And Canada Will Work Together In Asian Infrastructure Investment Banking

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News Paper)

Canada confirms plans to join AIIB

CANADA will apply to join the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Ottawa’s finance department said yesterday, in a coup for Beijing after Washington had tried to dissuade US allies from signing up.

“Canada is always looking for ways to create hope and opportunity for our middle class as well as for people around the world,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a statement issued in Beijing.

“Membership in the AIIB is an opportunity to do just that,” he said.

The Beijing-headquartered multilateral lender, which began operations earlier this year, has been seen by some as a rival to the World Bank and the Philippines-based Asian Development Bank, which was founded in 1966.

The US$100 billion AIIB counts several major European countries among its shareholders after they joined up despite the objections of the United States.

The United States remains by far the world’s largest economy and hosts both the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

AIIB President Jin Liqun welcomed Canada’s decision, which he called “a vote of confidence” in the institution that showed Ottawa’s “confidence in the strong foundations the bank has built in our first few months.”

The US and Japan — the world’s third-largest economy — have notably declined to join the AIIB.

But Jin said that Washington now had a “very positive opinion on the bank.”

China “does not regard itself as the big boss” in the lender, he added, and its shareholding would “definitely be diluted” as more members joined, which could ultimately lead to Beijing losing the de facto veto power it holds over some of its decisions.

In a speech, Morneau suggested Canada was seeking to strike a balance between the US, its close ally and neighbor, and the growing Asian giant.

China is Canada’s second-largest trading partner after the United States, with exchanges topping C$85 billion (US$66.5 billion) last year.

“We have important relationships with the world’s most powerful nations and have developed a capacity for mutual accommodation and governance,” Morneau said yesterday in Beijing.

“Should we become the first North American member of the AIIB, I have every confidence that we bring constructive and balanced views to the table.”

Joining the China-backed lender would create jobs and business opportunities for Canadians, he said, adding, “Participation in the bank is clearly in Canada’s best interest.”

Canada’s announcement came during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to China, where he met Premier Li Keqiang to try to strengthen ties before the G20 summit this weekend in Hangzhou.

Trudeau yesterday hailed a new era in relations with China during his first official visit to a key trading partner, saying he aims to boost “stability and regularity” in their ties.

Trudeau and Li agreed to annual meetings and the eventual establishment of a mechanism to discuss national security and rule of law. Trudeau said they will work together to discuss issues of common concern, including climate change, judicial training, gender equality and empowerment of women and children.

“Renewing our relationship with China is extremely important to Canada,” Trudeau said at a joint news conference after his meeting with Li. “Until now, the China-Canada relationship has somewhat lacked in stability and regularity.”

Trudeau and Li also announced an agreement to extend a September 1 deadline that China had imposed on Canada to tighten its screening of canola exports, which could have led to major losses for Canadian farmers.

China is the biggest foreign consumer of Canadian canola, which is usually refined into an edible oil, but Li said Chinese canola producers and consumers were worried about imported canola carrying disease. Trudeau said Canada and China were working “very closely toward a long-term solution in the coming days and weeks ahead.”

 
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