What has Obama said about aid, development and climate change?

December 10, 2008

     By Duncan Green     

I’m in the US for a couple of weeks to promote the book round universities and thinktanks (details here). But an added bonus is to experience the new mood in Obamerica. I won’t add to the mountain of op-eds and blogs on the global and historic significance of seeing a black family in the White House. Or to the gigabytes of ‘advice’ on what the new administration should do first. Instead let’s look at what he’s said so far on aid, climate change and development.

On aid there’s plenty of good news, but one big reason for concern. During the campaign, Obama pledged to

· ‘Make the Millennium Development Goals America’s goals’
· Double US aid from $25bn to $50bn by 2012
· Increase funding to the Global Fund on HIV, TB and Malaria
· Eradicate deaths from malaria by 2015, dramatically expanding access to anti-malarial mosquito nets and drugs
· Increase funding for child and maternal health
· Expand access to reproductive health programmes
· Establish a $2bn Global Education Fund
· Spend up to an extra $1.3bn annually to expand access to clean water and sanitation
· Establish an Add Value to Agriculture Initiative, creating a fund that will extend seed capital and technical assistance to small and medium enterprises
· Create a new Small and Medium Enterprise Fund to promote jobs and growth, with an initial focus on bednet production and distribution

The reason for concern came during the Vice Presidential TV debate. When asked what spending a recession-hit administration might have to cut, the first thing the Vice President Elect, Joe Biden, said was, ‘Well, the one thing we might have to slow down is a commitment we made to double foreign assistance.’ When money is tight, cutting aid is always a tempting option for rich country governments.

On energy and climate change, Obama has pledged to:
· ‘set a goal of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050’
· ‘propose an investment of $150bn in alternative energy over 10 years’
· Set up a new ‘Global Energy Forum to lay the foundations of the next generation of climate protocols.’

Darfur: ‘take immediate steps to end the genocide in Darfur by increasing pressure on the Sudanese and pressure the government to halt the killing and stop impeding the deployment of a robust international force’.
Israel-Palestine: ‘make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a key diplomatic priority’

Global governance: Obama’s instincts are clearly multilateralist. The Obama website pledges to ‘reform the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’, but gives no details. What else have people read?

Trade: According to Jason Furman, Obama’s economic adviser, ‘Sen. Obama believes we need to change our trade focus from the Bush years so there is a true focus on workers, jobs, farmers and on ensuring that we are lifting standards of living overseas.’ This includes renegotiating NAFTA to strengthen environmental and labour safeguards.

OK, that’s what’s on the record (and I’d appreciate any additions from other sources). I’ve now got a couple of weeks of conversations here to assess the subtext. That includes a day on Capitol Hill, so I watched 3 episodes of West Wing (the Matt Santos series, presciently based on the idea of an Obama victory years before it happened) on the plane over as essential preparation…..

One Vote ’08
Obama campaign website
Obama’s speech to the Clinton Global Initiative
Reuters report on Obama trade policy
‘The US elections: Impacts on International Development’, Powerpoint presentation by Lawrence Haddad of Institute for Development Studies


December 10, 2008
Duncan Green