QUEENS, New York — On September 21, 2021, President Biden presented his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly as president of the United States. In his speech, President Biden addressed some of the most important issues the world faces today. Global poverty stood as one of these issues. Biden’s United Nations address highlighted other areas as they relate to global poverty, such as COVID-19 relief, food security and humanitarian aid. In his speech, Biden provides important information on the past, present and future actions of the United States in the fight to improve the plight of the world’s impoverished.
Biden’s United Nations address mentions the United States’ efforts to help other countries combat COVID-19. For example, by September 21, 2021, the U.S. had contributed a total of $15 billion to aid the global response to COVID-19 and “donated more than 160 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines” to nations in need.
During Biden’s United Nations address, he promised to pledge further action to help the world combat COVID-19 at the COVID-19 summit the following day. At the summit, Biden disclosed that the U.S. would purchase “an additional 500 million Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines” to supply “to low- and lower-middle-income countries.” Once the U.S. sends out these additional doses in early 2022, the United States’ COVID-19 vaccine donation total will amount to more than 1.1 billion vaccines.
Biden also mentioned that since the year 2000, the U.S. contributed $140 billion to aid developing countries in increasing the strength and resilience of health systems. In his speech, Biden vows to continue aiding these countries in this way amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Biden’s United Nations address, he mentions another issue relating to global poverty: food insecurity. Biden illustrates the severity of world hunger by citing the fact that almost “one in three people globally” lacks access to sufficient food. Biden states that the U.S. will work with its allies to address global malnourishment and develop sustainable ways to solve global hunger. To address the issue of global hunger and “invest in food systems at home and abroad,” Biden announced a U.S. commitment of $10 billion.
Other federal entities, such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are working to address global food insecurity as well. USAID leads the Feed the Future program, which seeks “to strengthen agriculture-led growth, nutrition and resilience” in order to reduce global food insecurity and global poverty as a whole.
The USDA also helps countries throughout the world build the capacity to confront food insecurity by training “farmers and foreign officials on plant and animal health systems, risk analysis and avoiding post-harvest loss.” Additionally, the department works with countries to increase agricultural productivity while improving resilience amid climate change.
In Biden’s United Nations address, he rightfully characterizes the U.S. as “the world’s largest contributor to humanitarian assistance,” providing for the basic needs of millions of vulnerable people around the world. The day after Biden’s United Nations address, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a U.S. pledge of an additional $290 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen in order to help ameliorate the humanitarian crisis in the country.
But, many wonder whether the United States doing enough for countries like Yemen? Is the United States doing enough for the global impoverished? While it is true that the United States allocates the most funds to humanitarian assistance than any other country in the world, such a fact can be misleading when considering the bigger picture. It is only appropriate that the U.S. serves as the largest contributor to foreign humanitarian aid because of the sheer size of the U.S. economy. Within the context of its federal budget and the country’s gross national product (GNP), it is evident that the United States can afford to do significantly more to combat global poverty.
Less than 1% of the U.S. federal budget goes toward foreign assistance. The U.S. contributes a much smaller proportion of its GNP when compared to other wealthy nations. Generally, there is an international understanding that wealthy nations should be contributing about 0.7% of their GNP to aid the development of impoverished countries. The United States contributes just about 0.2% of its GNP.
Oxfam America, a nonprofit organization that combats global poverty, provides an eye-opening comparison. Oxfam reports that U.S. citizens “spend more on candy, sporting goods and jewelry than the U.S. government spends on poverty-reducing foreign assistance.”
Biden’s United Nations address clearly demonstrates the United States’ strong history of humanitarian efforts to reduce global poverty. While the U.S. continues such commitments, as a global leader, there is certainly room for the U.S. to expand these commitments in order to improve the lives of the global impoverished.
– Savannah Algu