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Is the U.S. a Development Commitment-Phobe?

by Global Washington Policy Coordinator Danielle Ellingston

The Center for Global Development released its 2009 Commitment to Development Index (CDI), and unsurprisingly, the United States ranked 17th out of 22, just below Portugal and above Greece.  The CDI rates rich countries on how much they help poor countries build prosperity, good government, and security. Each rich country gets scores in seven policy areas, which are averaged for an overall score.

The United States scored worst in the aid and environment policy areas, where it ranked 18th and 20th respectively.   In aid, the CGD found weaknesses in low aid volume, high tied aid, and poor targeting of aid to where it is needed most.  The environment policy weaknesses were high greenhouse gas emissions per capita, low gas tax, and not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.  The U.S. got some bonus points in aid for high private charitable giving- and we know that Washington State organizations had a lot to do with that.

The U.S. did well in the area of trade, where it ranked 3rd, behind Australia and New Zealand.  Our (relatively) low agricultural tariffs and subsidies were cited as our strength in trade policy.  Now if only we could get somewhere on providing duty-free and quota-free access to all poor countries, we’d be #1 in trade.

Who was #1 overall?  Sweden.  Read Sweden’s policy for global development and you’ll understand why – it reads like MFAN’s proposal for U.S. foreign aid.

There is hope for the United States in 2010- or maybe 2011, at the rate we’re going.  Obama announced a Presidential Study Directive () and a Quadrennial Review on Development and Diplomacy, and there is a lot of talk about reforming the Foreign Assistance Act, which isn’t so much a policy as a hodge-podge Read More

Global Social Event: North & West Africa

event re-cap by Global WA volunteer Saira Abbasey McDonald

El Centro de la Raza – Seattle, WA
October 21, 2009

Featured speakers:
·    Valerie Nkamgang Bemo, MD, MPH – Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
·    Carol Schillios – Founder and President of the Fabric of Life Foundation

Originally from Cameroon, Dr. Valerie Nkamgang Bemo worked with several field-based health non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Africa before joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  She is now engaged in work related to emergency medical response related to natural disasters like cyclones and flooding, food crises, and diseases like meningitis.

Dr. Bemo detailed some of the critical issues that affect development progress in West African countries today, including:
·    Conflict.  Though there is officially peace in most of the region, pockets of armed conflict remain in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote D’Ivoire.
·    Population movement:  Conflict often gives rise to population movement.  Displaced people face a host of threats to their health and security, as well as issues of integration in their new environment.
·    Climate change:  Climate change has had great impact on the populations living near the Sahel, the arid band of land that stretches the continent.  Inconsistent rainfall has had significant economic impact on farmers and others who depend on the rains.
·    Health:  In the last ten years, West Africans have made significant progress in health.  Dr. Bemo noted several remaining issues, including:
o     Maternal and child health:  Many women are dying preventable deaths in childbirth, and child mortality rates remain very high.
o    Malaria claims many lives—especially those of children—due to the high cost of treatment
o    Meningitis outbreaks occur frequently due to the increasingly dry climate

Despite these troubles, Dr. Bemo noted that West Africa has great economic potential and an Read More

Featured Organization: Woodland Park Zoo

Featured Organization: Woodland Park Zoo

WPzooIs global development the first thing that pops into your mind when Woodland Park Zoo comes up?  No?  Well then, it may be time to take yourself down to the zoo again, with or without the accompaniment of children.  When you do, you’ll find that the exhibits not only display exotic animals and educate visitors about the environmental and man-made dangers to their natural habitats, but also engage those same visitors in actions they can take to help local people protect the animals and themselves.

Just take the African Savanna exhibit for example.  It showcases the huge varieties of animals, predators including lions and African wild dogs and large herbivores including giraffes, hippos, Grant’s gazelles, fringe-eared oryx, ostriches, zebras and patas monkeys, that inhabit the wild grasslands of East Africa.  But the exhibit also focuses on the reasons those habitats are endangered–excessive vegetation growth in the waterholes, human/wildlife conflict over shared wildlife corridors, long fences erected in wildlife corridors.  As part of its exhibit, the zoo supports and publicizes the work of the Waterhole Restoration Project in Kenya, which is restoring 18 natural waterholes for the benefit of wildlife in Merrueshi Group Ranch, a wildlife corridor between Chulu and Amboseli National Parks.  The founder of the Maasai Foundation, which administers the restoration work, is a cultural interpreter at the zoo during the summer.  He educates visitors about his culture, their links to savanna wildlife and how they can help preserve it.  Built on the edge of the Savanna exhibit, a reproduction of a modern rural village of East Africa shows visitors how people live who interact with the wildlife around them.  There young visitors get the opportunity to make an African beading project to help provide funding for the Waterhole Restoration Project.

Zoo_RyanHawk2Such projects help Read More