Tuesday, October 23, 2012

International development in the 3rd Presidential Debate: Largely absent with a few sound bites

When the topics were released for Monday night’s foreign policy Presidential debate, it was clear the discussion would focus on a narrow set of core issues. However, there did seem to be an insertion point for talk of international development and foreign assistance while candidates were asked about “America’s role in the world” and “tomorrow’s world.” Putting this visually, Slate offers an interesting world map based on the limited scope of the foreign policy debate. 

  • ·     America’s role in the world
  • ·     Our longest war – Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • ·     Red Lines – Israel and Iran
  • ·     The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism – I
  • ·     The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism – II
  • ·     The Rise of China and Tomorrow’s World
The debate did often veer off topic towards the economy, jobs, and the federal deficit even though recent polling by the Better World Campaign shows voters do not think foreign policy has received its fair share of attention during the campaign. 

Several Observations:

Gov. Romney was the first to bring up foreign assistance during the debate, mostly in the context of helping to spur economic development.

Tied Aid

But, Mr. Romney also continues to support the restrictive concept of ‘tied aid,’ or attaching certain stipulations that recipients of U.S. assistance must meet. An accurate assessment that brings us back to the 1980's? It certainly takes a similar line of thinking to the infamous Washington Consensus.

In last night’s debate Mr. Romney spoke about tied aid to Pakistan, but during this year’s Clinton Global Initiative he unveiled his proposal for “Prosperity Pacts,” which:
“…will identify the barriers to investment, trade, and entrepreneurialism in developing nations. In exchange for removing those barriers and opening their markets to U.S. investment and trade, developing nations will receive U.S. assistance packages focused on developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law, and property rights.”

International Affairs Budget

As the trigger date (January 2, 2013) for sequestration draws nearer, many in the international development community are worried about the impact such cuts will have on this “often over-estimated by voters” part of the budget, like an estimated 3.33 million less people receiving food aid, or 1.3 million fewer vaccines delivered to children. Yet, despite the White House initially championing the agreement as a “win for the economy and budget discipline,” the President made absolutely clear last night that sequestration “will not happen!”
It’s going to be a very interesting lame duck session!

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