WASHINGTON — On July 20, 2016, diplomats, business leaders, development experts and others gathered at The White House Summit on Global Development, hosted by President Obama. The event looked back on the achievements of the Obama administration in the area of global development and secured support for future aid efforts.
President Obama has faced many challenges as he sought to expand and improve upon the Bush administration development efforts. John Norris of the Center for American Progress explains these challenges in an article he penned for global development media platform Devex. President Obama faced the Great Recession at the start of his presidency. His $787 billion stimulus package drained both the energy of the administration and its resources.
Despite this major setback, President Obama was able to maintain the level of U.S. foreign assistance that President Bush had raised. This alone was a great achievement, but President Obama’s efforts did not stop there. In addition to the international affairs budget, President Obama also kept the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), both important parts of the Bush administration development legacy.
Experts note that President Obama’s biggest success was probably re-empowering USAID by returning to the agency partial control of its budget and reestablishing a policy shop. This allowed to work hand-in-hand with the State Department and the White House in making foreign policy decisions.
Presidential initiatives such as Feed the Future, the Global Health Initiatives and Power Africa all saw success. The recognition of the importance of local actors and an increase in public-private partnerships was particularly significant.
In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama pledged to put an end to extreme poverty by 2013. He was also a major force behind the adoption of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015.
When it comes to global development, it appears that President Obama has certainly done his part. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice discussed the upcoming White House Summit on Global Development and stated that, “We have successfully established new and effective approaches to development that leverage new models of financing, empower local partners, harness innovation, and measure our progress in terms of real-world results.”
While we have come a long way, there is certainly more to be done, as Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs at USAID Stephanie Bluma wrote in the White House Blog. She believes that we must continue our current efforts, “so that the next generation of leaders and communities around the world can continue to build a path out of poverty and contribute to global prosperity, stability and progress.”
– Philip Katz