Hillary Clinton on development: aid, agriculture, health and women

January 8, 2010

     By Duncan Green     

Hillary Clinton gave a big speech at the CGD development thinktank on Wednesday. Here are some of the things that jumped out for me:clinton280

Strategic importance of development policy: ‘Development was once the province of humanitarians, charities, and governments looking to gain allies in global struggles. Today it is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative — as central to advancing American interests and solving global problems as diplomacy or defense. [It is] time to elevate development as a central pillar of our foreign policy and to rebuild USAID into the world’s premier development agency.’

Importance of domestic resource mobilisation: ‘We expect our partners to practice sound economic policies, including levying taxes on those who can afford them, just as we do; or, in countries rich in natural resources, managing those resources sustainably and devoting some of the profits to development.’

More money for agriculture: ‘we are investing $3.5 billion over the next three years in partner countries where agriculture represents more than 30 percent of GDP and more than 60 percent of jobs, and where up to 70 percent of a family’s disposable income is spent on food. Farming in these places plays such a large role that a weak agricultural sector often means a weak country. Small family farmers stay poor, people go hungry, economies stagnate, and social unrest can ignite, as we have seen with the riots over food in more than 60 countries since 2007.

By offering technical support and making strategic investments across the entire food system — from the seeds farmers plant to the markets where they sell their crops to the homes where people cook and store their food — we can help countries create a ripple effect that extends beyond farming and strengthens the security and prosperity of whole regions.’

And health: ‘One of our countries’ most notable successes in development is PEPFAR, which has helped more than 2.4 million people with HIV receive life-saving anti-retroviral medications. Now PEPFAR will be the cornerstone of our new Global Health Initiative. We will invest $63 billion over the next six years to help our partners improve their health systems and provide the care their people need, rather than rely on donors to keep a fraction of their population healthy while the rest go with hardly any care.’

Excessive faith in technology: ‘There is no limit to the potential for technology to shrink obstacles to progress.’

But the most striking paragraphs came towards the end, on gender and development:

‘So today, the United States is taking steps to put women front and center in our development work. We are beginning to disaggregate by gender the data we collect on our programs, to measure how well our work is helping improve women’s health, income, and access to education and food. We’re starting to design programs with the needs of women in mind — by hiring more women as extension workers to reach women farmers, or women health educators to improve our outreach to women and girls. And we are training more women in our partner countries to carry forward the work of development themselves — for example, through our scholarships to women agricultural scientists in Kenya.

This is not only a strategic interest of the United States, it is an issue of personal importance to me, and one I have worked on for almost four decades. I will not accept words without deeds when it comes to women’s progress. I will hold our agencies accountable for ensuring that our government and our foreign policy support the world’s women and achieve lasting, meaningful results on these issues.’

I’ve blogged before on the substantial progress being made in reforming US aid. I thought there was some really encouraging stuff in here, but for a highly critical commentary, see William Easterly’s blog for Foreign Policy. Listen to the speech here.

January 8, 2010
Duncan Green