Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a Washington policy address Wednesday said the Obama administration intends to put development and foreign aid on the same level as diplomacy and military power in U.S. foreign policy. She also said empowering women around the world is not just a personal priority but a strategic interest of the United States.
Clinton, in office now for nearly a year, has spoken frequently about the need to upgrade and modernize the U.S. foreign aid program. But her speech at a Washington policy institute was the first devoted entirely to the subject and she said it is time to elevate development as a "central pillar" of foreign policy.
The Secretary, speaking at the Peterson Institute of International Economics, said the United States seeks a safer, more prosperous, more democratic and equitable world but it can't be assured of progress toward that goal as long as a third of mankind is mired in poverty.
"We cannot stop terrorism or defeat the ideologies of violent extremism when hundreds of millions of young people see a future with no jobs, no hope and no way ever to catch up to the developed world," said Hillary Clinton. "We cannot build a stable global economy when hundreds of millions of workers and families find themselves on the wrong side of globalization, cut off from markets and out of reach of modern technologies."
The Obama administration has already promised to double the non-military U.S. foreign aid budget to $50 billion a year by 2012 and Clinton's speech offered no new commitments.
But she said the U.S. Agency for International Development, which in the process of doubling its overseas staff, must be rebuilt into the world's premier development agency. She also said the U.S. aid community must have the courage to rethink its strategies and must not simply add up the dollars spent, but assure that the programs achieve lasting change in recipient nations.
"In countries that are incubators of extremism like Yemen, or are ravaged by poverty and natural disasters like Haiti, the odds are long," she said. "But the cost of doing nothing is potentially far greater. We must accept that our development model cannot be formulaic, that which works in Pakistan may not work in Peru. So our approach must be case-by-case and country by country, region-by-region."
Clinton paid tribute to two aid initiatives of the Bush administration - the Millennium Challenge Corporation - which makes grants to countries with concrete plans for good governance and fighting corruption, and PEPFAR - the anti HIV-AIDS program - which has provided millions of Africans and others with anti-viral medications while stressing AIDS prevention.
She also said the administration intends to better coordinate traditional aid programs with others aimed at boosting foreign trade and investment like AGOA, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.
And she said the United States is moving to put women at the "front and center" of U.S. development work, saying women and girls are one of the world's greatest untapped resources.
"This is not only a strategic interest of the United States, it is an issue of personal importance to me, and one I have worked on for almost four decades," Hillary Clinton. "I will not accept words without deeds when it comes to women's progress. I will hold our agencies accountable for ensuring that our government and our foreign policy support the world's woman and achieve lasting, meaningful progress on this issues."
The Secretary of State said she is working to integrate U.S. aid efforts more closely with diplomacy and defense operations abroad without politicizing aid programs - saying the "3-D's" - development, diplomacy and defense - must be mutually-reinforcing. She also said that advancing human rights is an "integral part" of the U.S. development agenda.