The stormy financial climate is no excuse to set aside promises made and restated on various international fora, regarding the aim to reduce poverty and foster economic growth. Global poverty is a challenge for all of us, not only from a moral point of view but also for the well being of our economies. The current level of integration leaves no country immune to what is happening elsewhere and links the development agenda directly to the economic and security agendas of our countries.
The Transatlantic Taskforce on Development was launched as a partnership between the German Marshall Fund (GMF) and Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to renew the approach towards development in light of the current global crises. Dr Gerry Salole, Chief Executive of The European Foundation Center, reiterated that "everybody's feet need to be held on fire."
Jim Kolbe, Senior Transatlantic Fellow of the GMF didn't beat around the bush when opening the Brussels presentation of the report on March 20, 2009 stating that "there is nothing new in this report." Yet the fact that development and poverty are being examined on a transatlantic basis and that people from different political perspectives and backgrounds, including both public and private sector, have taken part in it render it innovative.
The Transatlantic Taskforce sets four priority areas to tackle global development, chosen due to their potential to being translated into effective policy prescriptions and to consensus finding on both sides of the Atlantic:
- Development, Democracy and Security
- Climate Change
- Food Security
- Effective support for development
On the first priority area, the taskforce stressed the link between the three issues and noted that only holistic approaches can be used to confront them due to the complex and interlinked causes of poverty. Mr. Kolbe sent a clear message on the premise of security over development and democracy, while highlighting the broad interpretation of security viewed not solely in militaristic terms. Recommendations included focusing on prevention and improving coordination between actors. Good governance is viewed as a cornerstone and favorable to economic growth. There is consensus on the necessity to promote "good institutions, checks and balances, and achieve the rule of law."
Climate change could naturally not fail to be included on the list. It not only directly impacts economic growth, but also engenders natural disasters that mostly hit the most vulnerable countries whilst a large amount of the generated pollution comes from the developed world. Alice Poole, Transatlantic Fellow who managed the initiative, expressed that the most important Taskforce recommendation was to establish the price of carbon. "Climate change" she says "is partially the result of market failures since the price of goods and services do not fully reflect the harmful effects of carbon." She also advanced the argument that pricing the cost of carbon is a good, albeit partial, option to finance development strategies. Ms. Poole also presented the concept of global responsibility in a new way, stating that this global challenge may be faced in a regional way "transcending borders while not necessary global." Participation should also be pending on the level of development.
The issue of food security has also gained momentum in light of the recent food crisis. Viewed as both a means (to alleviate poverty and enhance security and development) and an end, focus should be placed on small producers and women, who account for the vast majority of African farmers. Trade liberalization in both the developed and developing world is a must, while the latter should eliminate agriculture subsidies.
As for the effective support for development, Dr. Salole stressed that it was crucial to "recognize the importance of the local scale in terms of focus for financial concessions, infrastructure, knowledge and human capital," stating that "it is key to include non-governmental actors, especially engage diaspora, foundations and think tanks as well as the private sector in the development mission."
This report has certainly not found the miracle solution to eradicate poverty, yet its impact should not be underestimated. The timing of its launch is crucial as both the crisis has put "70 million people more into poverty this year" and the new Obama administration is committed to doubling US aid to promote development by 2012. What is more, common ground has been found on both sides of the Atlantic on a series of topics suggesting that the soil for joint effort is fertile. As Mr. Kolbe indicated "this report aims to be a process, a starting point rather than a result and mostly, raising awareness and inciting engagement."
Marie Grunert is a graduate in International Relations from SAIS (Johns Hopkins) and currently an Editor at Atlantic-community.org.
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