November 4, 2008

Lecturer: New President Must Assess Global Development

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After the official result of the election is known, and the acceptance and concession speeches are over, it will be up to the winning candidate to formulate his agenda for the next four years. Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development, discussed in a lecture last night that it is increasingly important for the president-elect to address the issue of global development.
Birdsall’s lecture was given as part of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies’ Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker Series. The series brings renowned professors to Cornell to discuss current events in the globalized world. Birdsall’s talk centered around the CGD’s recently published book, The White House and the World: A Global Development Agenda for the Next U.S. President, which gives cost-effective and timely recommendations to the United States government to help the developing world. As the premiere policy-oriented think tank on this subject, the CGD hopes to put global development at the forefront of the foreign policy minds of the American people and government.[img_assist|nid=33266|title=Around the world|desc=Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development, gives a talk yesterday in Goldwin Smith about what the next president should do about global development.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Two billion people live on less than two dollars per day, and almost five billion people are classified as poor by Western societal standards. Although most of these people live outside of the United States, as trends in research show, they will have a growing impact on the lives of Americans.
Research by the CGD has shown that by the year 2050, the majority of the world’s population will be in non-Western countries such as China and India. And, as the world becomes more and more interconnected, the attitudes and policies of the U.S. towards these countries will become essential to the country’s success in the world.
After discussing this trend, which Birdsall referred to as the
“Post-American Century” (citing Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria), she delved into the CGD’s recommendations for the next president.
“The U.S. desperately needs a fresh approach to [global] development,” Birdsall said.
First, she discussed that the U.S. must lead from its strengths. As the world’s superpower, Birdsall explained, America could be doing much more to help other nations. She also noted that the U.S. must build on the shared prosperity of the nations of the world. By instituting duty-free, quota-free access to the United States market, Birdsall believes that America could help the cause of global development.
Birdsall then discussed the necessity of modernizing foreign assistance to countries in need. The last time a foreign assistance act was passed was during the Kennedy administration. Birdsall believes that this trend must change in order to ensure the continued success of the U.S. in international relations.
Birdsall’s final recommendation was to utilize international institutions to take multilateral approaches to international issues. Using organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Birdsall believes that the U.S. can effectively move the world into the new global era. Through­out the lecture, Birdsall continued to reference the looming election.
After discussing several of the topics, she asked the audience which candidate they believed could best handle the presented issue as president. Each time Birdsall called for a poll, the audience was reluctant to vote. However, based on those who did vote, it appeared that the audience thought there were strengths and weaknesses as to how both candidates would approach global development as president.
This seemingly split vote interested Birdsall, who remarked that this was “a largely Obama crowd.”
As planned, there was a brief discussion of the lecture after its completion. Much of the discussion, unsurprisingly centered on the election and how each candidate would handle the issue of global development. Moreover, several audience members wondered whether or not each candidate, if elected president, would follow through on his campaign promises.
“Where is the political support for [global] development to come from?” Prof. Gary Fields, labor economics, asked. Fields, who specializes in economic development and global economy, believes that global development is an issue that will be important in the next four years.
However, he believed both candidates had shied away from the issue. To Fields’ question, Birdsall responded optimistically. She believed that the president-elect, once in office, must remain steadfast in talking to the American people, so to gain support for his global initiatives.
The director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Prof. Nicolas van de Walle, government, wondered if campaign promises would lead to action.
“Joe Biden mentioned [increasing] foreign aid in the debate with Sarah Palin,” he said.
But, van de Walle was not sure if anything would be done or if this would be an unfulfilled promise.
Birdsall also was not sure if enough will be done. She just hopes that the candidate who wins the election will use the CGD and the available research to his advantage.
“I want the president [and Congress] to have our book on the shelf. I want them to have a person to call. That’s what the Center for Global Development is all about,” she said.