President Obama spoke about the importance of advancing global development at the White House Summit on Global Development this past July. He focused his speech on development as a “key pillar” of his foreign policy and reassured that it would remain so for the next president.

The Obama Administration has funded global projects such as reducing poverty and encouraging global economic growth and stability. These programs add to former President George W. Bush’s efforts to focus on fighting global disease through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

According to the official White House website, Obama’s U.S. Global Development Policy that he issued in 2010 was the first time that “global development was elevated, on par with diplomacy and defense as a core pillar” of U. S. policy. Following Bush, Obama and his administration have continued to focus on solving global issues throughout his time in office.

The Washington Post cites the Obama Administration’s Feed the Future program as one of its successes. The agriculture-based program supported 9 million farmers and increased their sales by more than $800 million. The Global Food Security Act will systematize the program so that its impact extends long past the Obama Administration.

Susan Rice, the National Security Advisor, wrote in a Huffington Post article about why it is so important that Obama is dedicated to development. “Development is not a charity – it is a prudent investment in the security and prosperity of us all,” she wrote. Development is an investment that helps to stabilize global conditions and to create opportunities.

Rice wrote that Obama’s White House Summit on Global Development will help to support global economic growth, to improve food security and nutrition, to improve global health, and to invest in leadership. The programs already supporting these causes, like the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and Feed the Future, will all help to eradicate poverty and secure a prosperous future through the continued support of global leaders and organizations.

Obama’s White House Summit on Global Development will hopefully mobilize already existing aid and development programs of all kinds. With goals to advance development in a variety of ways, the Summit will hopefully help to expedite poverty reduction efforts and stabilize global conditions.

Addie Pazzynski

Photo: Flickr

When it comes to the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), the United States’ sugar subsidies may not leave a sweet taste.

Touted by the U.S. government as a deal intended to alleviate barriers to fair trade amongst 12 countries lining the pacific rim, the TPP has met considerable backlash in congress this summer.

Many in Washington on both sides of the aisle have alleged that the TPP is full of deals that favor US corporations in lieu of global interests—especially when it comes to the global sugar market.

As the Obama administration was drafting the TPP, which is said to focus on redoing trade barriers such as tariffs and strict market controls between Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and the US (among others), the sugar lobby was also tightening their hold in Washington.

The sugar support program currently protects the interest of growers in the United States by heavily inflating the costs of domestic sugar. The going world price for sugar is 10.94 cents; the price in the United States is more than double that, at 24.45 cents according to the August 2015 future commodities market.

Logically, this might seem as if it would actually help foreign sugar growers in places such as Mexico. If they are able to sell their cane at a lower price the US should present an readily available market.

Instead, there is a great deal of red tape that surrounds sugar importation into the United States: less and less foreign sugar is allowed to make it into the United States every year, which can spell catastrophe for the exports of developing countries

“Mexico struck a preliminary deal in October to send less sugar to the U.S.,” wrote the Wall Street Journal. “The U.S. is the world’s fourth-largest sugar consumer and relies on its imports, most of which come from Mexico.”

What does this mean for the future of economic development in places like Mexico? As it stands, Mexico produces more sugar than it consumes increasing the necessity of selling the surplus on the global market.

Under the existing agreement, 300,000-to 400,000 tons of sugar sit idly in Mexican storehouses, doing nothing to help spark the Mexican economy. Since the NAFTA regulations were imposed (reaffirming U.S. sugar support) the number of people living in “food poverty in Mexico has grown from 18 million” to 20 million, according to Foreign Policy in Focus.

TPP, in theory, should eliminate the NAFTA tariffs and regulations. In practice, however, the sugar lobby continues to write enormous subsidy-saving checks in Washington.

“We can’t compete with our hands tied,” said mill owner Juan Cortina, who is also the head of Mexico’s sugar chamber. “The United States offers its sector certain benefits and we should have the same. If not there is no level playing field.”

In light of the previous NAFTA agreements, the U.N. has warned that the TPP could “aggravate global poverty” as trade deals worth about $300 billion are negotiated behind closed doors.

Now, in 2015 the doors are open, and the ever-powerful United States sugar lobby is public for everyone to see.

Emma Betuel

Sources: WSJ, Al Jazeera, Reuters, Herald Tribune, Spartanburg Herald Journal, San Diego News, Foreign Policy In Focus, Washington Post
Photo: MOMA

For over fifty years, USAID has been addressing the needs of those living in extreme poverty overseas, promoting stable, self-sustaining democracies and advancing security and prosperity on a global scale.

Founded by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, USAID, or United States Agency for International Development, works in over 100 countries to address a wide array of prosperity goals. These include advancing food security and agriculture, improving global health, providing humanitarian assistance and protecting human rights, among other objectives.

Despite its humanitarian efforts, USAID has garnered some criticism over the past few years. First and foremost, critics and watchdogs have claimed that USAID policies and actions are often more focused on advancing U.S. policy interests than global humanitarian interests.

In particular, a 2010 study by two Harvard and Yale economics professors found that the size of U.S. food aid shipments are determined more by the size of U.S. crops than they are by recipient need. Moreover, the study found that about half of the funding for food aid was allocated for shipping, often for American cargo ships.

Additionally, a 2012 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research examined contracts issued by USAID for the 2010 relief effort in Haiti. It found that only .02 percent of these contracts went directly to local Haitian firms, while over 75 percent of the contracts went to American firms. One of these firms has received up to $173.7 million from USAID since the Haitian earthquake. However, the data provided does not track local subcontracting and grant making, which may or may not be significant.

Amidst these and a variety of other allegations against USAID involving wasteful or misplaced spending, the U.S. government has made some concerted efforts in the past few years to reform USAID.

Beginning in 2010, President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched USAID Forward, an ambitious reform effort aiming to increase USAID’s transparency and provide more efficient, effective service.

In particular, USAID Forward incorporates rigorous evaluations for each new program undertaken, investments in new innovations to aid in sustainable development, better risk assessment tools and transparent fiscal reports.

In addition, USAID Forward has significantly increased its public-private partnerships and is working more directly with local governments, the private sector, civil society and academia.

The Agricultural Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, passed in early 2014, also included some major food aid reforms. Specifically, the bill placed greater emphasis on improving the nutritional quality of food aid products, ensured that sales of agricultural commodity donations do not adversely affect local markets and created a new local and regional purchase program, among other reforms.

The Obama Administration has additional food aid reform goals in mind, including reducing the volume of commodities subject to cargo preference legislation, increasing cash donations and “providing greater flexibility in procuring commodities in local and regional markets.”

– Katrina Beedy

Sources: USAID, Reuters 1, Reuters 2, FAS, Reuters 3, Hagstrom Report, CEPR, Business Week, GovTrack
Photo: Flickr

investing enough in africa
Africa represents the globe’s greatest untapped market. It is host to seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies, boasts a projected gross domestic product growth of six percent per year for the next decade and has a population that is expected to double by 2050.

The United States knows from experience that investing in fledgling economies and democracies yields high returns. Eleven of the country’s top 15 trading partners were once on the receiving end of U.S. aid.

Yet the Obama Administration has received criticism for not investing enough in Africa. In 2012, only one percent of all U.S. foreign direct investment went to Africa. This August will see the first U.S.-Africa summit, while, according to the Economist, “Asian and European cities have hosted numerous summits for African leaders, ending with ceremonies to sign agreements worth billions of dollars.”

Power Africa is a program, announced in June 2012, with the aim to double the electricity supply in Africa. It is financed both publicly and privately, and represents the cornerstone to the U.S.’s investment policy in Africa.

The question remains, however, is it enough to secure a partnership with the continent that will be mutually beneficial? The U.S. — with its commitment to transparency, the rule of law, democracy and its history of building up developing economies — and Africa — with all of its market potential — have the makings of a great partnership.

Currently, China has years of investment history over the U.S. After the Cold War, when America’s attention reoriented to the Middle East, China turned to Africa. Since then, China has been heavily involved with building infrastructure in the continent.

Electricity is an industry that has been left open to high-tech and innovative U.S. firms. Obama’s Power Africa initiative could serve the double benefit of providing electricity to sub-Saharan Africa, as well as securing a U.S.-Africa partnership.

Secretary of State John Kerry is aware of all the potential in Africa. “This is a moment of great opportunity for Africans,” he said. “It is also a moment of decision.”

A moment of decision for American leaders. Will the conversation about Africa switch from military strategy and security to bolstering economic growth?

“Our role in Africa goes beyond security assistance. We are working to develop the prosperity that is critical to a better future,” says Kerry.

Not every leader agrees with Kerry. Far-right conservatives criticize certain investment efforts in Africa.

The Export-Import Bank provides loans, loan guarantees and credit insurance international consumers of American goods. The funding for the bank is up for review by Congress, and Tea Party conservatives have called it “corporate welfare.” Obama supports the bank and says that if it is taken away, American firms will lose ground in Africa, giving room for Chinese, German or Indian firms to close the gap.

There are also critics of the Power Africa program. One issue some have pointed out is that the program is focused too much on green power. An African ambassador insists that the entire continent is in need of power to fuel industry, whether that means using coal and huge dams. But, the U.S. has humanitarian and environmental standards that go with the aid it gives.

“The challenges are real,” Kerry is not afraid to admit. But, he continues, “The goal of a prosperous, healthy and stable continent is within reach.”

– Julianne O’Connor

Sources: The Economist, U.S. State Department, Bloomberg
Photo: The Economist

President Obama has ordered an increase in U.S. involvement in the search for warlord Joseph Kony and members of his organization, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). This course of action follows the 2009 legislation that mandated the “support for increased, comprehensive U.S. efforts to help mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability.”

Kony is infamous for his years of attacking central African villages, mutilating civilians and abducting children. He has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, but has not been sighted for “some time.” He is believed to be in the Central African Republic, where conflict and the absence of an effective government make it easy for him to hide.

The new aid package includes four CV-22 Ospreys, a type of tilt rotor aircraft with short takeoff and landing capabilities. They will be effective in taking quick action should Kony be sighted in central Africa. This marks the first incidence of military aircraft being deployed in the effort to find Kony. About 150 Air Force Special Operations forces will be in charge of flying and maintaining the aircraft.

U.S. officers will be in central Africa to provide “information, advice, and assistance” to the African Union military task force that is already looking for Kony. The search spans across Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo.

As with the troops that Obama sent to support the search for Kony in 2011, the new batch of U.S. personnel will be combat-equipped, but prohibited from engaging LRA forces except in cases of self-defense. The addition of these troops brings the total of all U.S. forces in Uganda to 300.

Although the LRA poses no direct threat to the U.S., the Obama administration sees this mission as a helpful way to build partnerships with African governments in a region that is ripe for the development of terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda.

— Madisson Barnett

Sources: The Washington Post, USA Today

Growing up in Ireland, Samantha Power would come home after school and 
practice erasing her Dublin accent to speak more “American.” To her, the “the American flag was the symbol of fortune and of freedom”.

Power immigrated to America with her brother and mother, and eventually gradated from Yale University in 1993. After her graduation and before attending Harvard Law School, she covered the Yugoslav Wars as a freelance journalist for several years, experiencing firsthand the horrors of war, and the inaction by the U.S. government.

In 2003, her book “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction. What began as a Harvard law school paper, her book analyzes 20th century genocides and strongly criticizes governments, especially the U.S. government, for failing to recognize and prevent genocides (e.g. Bosnia, Rwanda).

Power joined President Obama as a foreign policy fellow in 2005, when he was still a senator. During his 2008 presidential campaign, she resigned as a senior foreign policy adviser when it was revealed that she referred to Hillary Clinton a “monster” during an interview, which she wrongly believed was off the record. She was in fact directing that comment towards Clinton’s campaign policies.

As part of the National Security Council, she was instrumental in the United States’ decision to intervene militarily in Libya, in expanding President Obama’s human rights approaches, creating the Atrocities Prevention Board in the White House, and drawing the world’s attention to the brutalities in war-torn countries. She supports open government and the doctrine, the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P).

The “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine urges nations to interfere in a country’s internal affairs, potentially with military force, to “thwart genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, or ethnic cleansing.” This doctrine is significant because it places a responsibility on the international community to protect not only their own citizens, but also for individuals around the world. Starting from the war crime trials after World War II, leaders and governments found that they could be held accountable and punished for their actions. The idea of a sovereign country having the power to do whatever they want to do is no longer feasible in the 21st century.

At 43 years old, Power is the youngest US ambassador to the United Nations in history. She has focused on UN reform, women’s rights and human rights, human trafficking, while supporting refugees and promoting democracy.

Since her July confirmation hearing, she has been continuously wearing a simple bracelet on her wrist, engraved with the word “fearlessness.” From her visits to the Central African Republic, to crossing illegally into Darfur, and to her speeches in human rights communities, she has demonstrated continuously that she is fearless.

”When innocent life is being taken on such a scale and the United States has the power to stop the killing at reasonable risk, it has a duty to act,” said Power. 

– Sarah Yan

Sources: Washinton Post, Discover the Networks

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been identified as having a significant impact on environmental problems through changes in the climate. Although carbon dioxide is the most abundant anthropogenic greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, United States President Barack Obama’s administration has begun taking steps to decrease methane emissions.

Methane makes up only 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution, yet it has 20 times the potency of carbon dioxide. This allows for the gas to have a significant impact on the global climate. Moreover, methane emissions largely come from leaks in oil and natural gas production, various agricultural processes and melting permafrost.

During a 2009 United Nations climate change conference, Obama declared that the U.S. would decrease its GHG emissions 17 percent by 2020. Since then, environmentalists have argued that a substantial reduction of climate change impacts would require methane emissions to be addressed. And although a methane reduction strategy has been around for a while, the natural gas industry has been able to expand rapidly regardless of its connection to methane emissions.

The White House has stated that the Environmental Protection Agency plans to assess methane emissions and develop a strategic plan of action that is proportionate to the severity of impacts.

Reducing methane pollution may require for regulatory actions to be taken towards the oil and natural gas industry. If that is the case, there will be more of a need for U.S. to realize its renewable energy potential. This means the U.S. government would have to take meaningful steps to allow for offshore wind to develop on the Atlantic coast with solar and geothermal energy expansion in the West. It is possible, but political will and coordination on multiple levels of both the public and private sector will be necessary.

A shale-gas revolution has defined contemporary energy policy. Abundance in natural gas seemingly allowed for the heavy-emitting coal industry to be phased out for cleaner energy sources. However, analysis on methane’s impact on the global climate indicates that the effects are still significant and the GHG has to be reduced.

Therefore, with the Obama administration’s announcement of plans to cut methane emissions, it seems as though renewable energy would be the ideal avenue for energy policy.

– Jugal Patel

Sources: Reuters, New York Times
Photo: Ars Technica

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.” – President Obama, Second Inaugural Address, January 2013

This past October, only 67% of Americans believed that global warming is affecting the world, according to a pole by Pew Research Center. On a list of 20 world issues that the Congress and president needed to focus on, global warming ranked number 19 according to Americans.

In response to this, President Obama is currently working on a website that will enable Americans to view how the ever-changing climate is affecting their own regions and hometowns. John D. Podesta, Obama’s counselor, believes that “localizing this information gives a sense of how this affects people and spurs actions. If you’re thinking…how your local community will be affected, it’s likely to change that question of salience.”

Podesta and John P. Holdren, the White House science adviser, formed the idea of, which strives to illustrate data of calculated wildfires, dangerously rising sea levels and dry spells.

Their website is based on urgency and helping Americans to understand the necessity of focusing on the environment; it is also based on the necessity to prepare Americans for the affect that the damaged climate will have in the future. The Obama administration is currently helping governments to strengthen their methods of transportation, such as bridges, shorelines and roads, so that the local community would be protected from dangerous changes in weather that are more common because of the climate change.

Obama stated that one of the most important steps to alleviating climate change is to reinforce international relations. In doing so the US will work with other countries to find a global solution to this global challenge and spread action through major countries that contribute to pollution emissions.

In the beginning stages, Podesta and Holdren’s website will merely feature information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the United States Geological Survey and the Defense Department. They are expecting the first revealed page to primarily focus on sea levels and eroding and flooding coastal lines.

Most people are aware of Google Maps and Google Earth, Google’s projects in which you can locate most addresses on the globe, and they are considering mixing their ability to map with the government’s information on climate change and risk measurements.

With this website the US population will have a greater chance to understand the imminent danger that climate change is bringing, and they will also have a visual representation of the potential harm it could bring their states and hometowns.

– Rebecca Felcon

Sources: White House, The New York Times, Climate Action Plan
Photo: Politico


Defense, Diplomacy, and Development. These are the “three D’s” that the United States employs while dealing with other countries. While each brings a number of strengths and weaknesses, one must be the central focus of American foreign policy. This approach is development. By improving standards of living abroad, Americans not only improve the lives of others, but they improve their own lives. Through actions that work to increase development in foreign nations, the United States improves its national security, enhances its economy, improves the environment, and fulfills an ethical responsibility in working to eliminate poverty completely.

By ending global poverty, the United States enhances its national security. According to national security strategy documents employed by both the Bush and Obama administrations, the largest threats that the United States will be facing over the next two decades come “less from conquering states than from failing ones.” It is the failing states that likely lack the financial capital to construct sovereign governments or build strong economies. It is also within these fragile states that corruption and extremism can take hold due to a lack of effective governance. If left unchecked, these states can develop into a threat for other nations. By developing failed states into nations that can effectively rule over their own population and help foster construction of functional economies, the United States reduces the likelihood of having to deal with a conflict that emerged from a failed state’s internal disorder.

In addition to improving national security, ending global poverty improves the American economy. The United States has $500 billion invested in developing countries. Working to increase economic output in developing nations allows for higher returns on those investments while improving the standard of living for those who reside within those nations. As more people in the world earn higher wages, they can then afford to buy more expensive American goods. Ending global poverty, therefore, not only improves the lives of those abroad, but it also improves the lives of Americans.

Yet another advantage of ending global poverty is reducing the toll that humans put on the environment. In many impoverished areas, access to clean and green technologies is not economically feasible. Ending global poverty allows for improved access to these ecologically-friendly technologies. By enhancing standards of living, those living in developing nations are able to use cleaner technologies to fulfill their energy needs. These cleaner technologies can help reduce carbon emissions from developing nations, which improves the lives of everyone worldwide.

Finally, ending global poverty is an ethical action that the United States has the capability to accomplish. The United Nations has stated that extreme poverty can be eliminated completely by the year 2030. The United States, as the largest economic power in the world, can help contribute to this cause by aiding in the development process that needs to take place. By continuing to provide funds to developing nations, and by supporting economic growth in these areas, the United States can help make poverty history.

Ultimately, the goal of ending global poverty should be the primary focus of United States foreign policy. Working to end global poverty improves American national security by creating stability in foreign nations. It also improves the American economy by increasing the purchasing power of people abroad, providing them with the capability purchase American goods. Additionally, improved purchasing power provides people in foreign countries with improved access to cleaner technologies, which will help reduce the global impact of humans on the environment. And finally, working to end global poverty is an ethical action that the United States has the power to carry out. Improving standards of living abroad not only benefits Americans, but it benefits the entire globe. By working to end global hunger, the United States will help make poverty a thing of the past.

Jordan Kline

Sources: Wilson Center, US News and World Report, The Guardian
Photo: Foreign Policy

Although most people are familiar with social workers and the various governmental agencies with which they work, not many are familiar with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). This organization was founded in 1955 as a consolidation of seven other organizations for social workers in the United States.

According to the NASW’s website, it is dedicated to enhancing the professional growth and development of its members across the country, as well as to create and maintain professional standards and ethics and to promote effective social policies.

The NASW has published a standard Code of Ethics in order to maintain consistent practices amongst social workers throughout the United States. It emphasizes the need to forego discrimination, maintain respect for all clients, and to advocate for social justice.

The organization focuses its efforts on two major aspects of social work: professional practice and social advocacy. The NASW works to encourage social workers to adopt practices that lead to the ultimate goal of providing tangible services, effective counseling and psychotherapy, and assisting communities.

Each state has a chapter of the NASW, and there are also chapters in New York City, metropolitan Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and an international chapter.

The NASW also runs a NASW Press in order to publish scholarly articles and monographs about social work. In addition to its official newsletter, the NASW Press runs the quarterly journal Social Work.

Advocacy and promoting social justice is another major focus of the NASW. It seeks to engage social workers with grassroots advocacy campaigns for federal legislation, candidate elections, and social reform. Some of the current political issues that the NASW is addressing include health care reform, immigration, and drug policy reform.

In order to keep social workers informed about ways that they can engage in advocacy campaigns, the NASW has organized a listserv for members so that the NASW government relations staff can keep members informed of different advocacy efforts. The NASW also runs a CapWiz system that allows social workers to email or send letters to their members of Congress.

In 2012, the NASW issued a document to the Obama administration entitled “Building on Progressive Priorities: Sustaining Our Nation’s Safety Net.” The document calls on the Obama administration to promote and encourage bipartisan approaches to seek sustainable and effective solutions to benefit Americans in need. It asks for the administration to invest in social work efforts, expand social work research, rebuild the economy, strengthen health care, advance the rights of women and disabled people, care for children and the elderly, and protect veterans and their families.

Beyond simply being an organization designed to unite social workers across the country, the NASW seeks to promote a code of ethics for all social workers as well as to promote activism amongst its members in order to improve the lives of people in need across the country. The NASW serves as a centralized and effective way for social workers to engage in activism, promote valuable legislation, and better serve the populations that need them the most.

Sarah Russell Cansler
Photo: White House