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New Report Finds Needs for International Development Unmet - 2004-04-21

A new report from the World Economic Forum says developed nations are not doing enough to spur international economic development, prevent the spread of AIDS and reduce environmental degradation. A group of scholars met in Washington to discuss the report as well as the role of the United States in facing these challenges.

The report, released Tuesday, says developed nations, businesses and civil society groups are doing far less than what needs doing to meet the goals of the United Nations Millenium Declaration, an ambitious blueprint for international development.

Ann Florini heads the Global Governance Initiative, the World Economic Forum project that drafted the report. She said that on a scale of zero to 10, the world scores a paltry "three," earning a failing grade for its development policies. "The world is doing roughly a third of what it ought to be doing if it were serious about trying to achieve this limited, basic global agenda," she says. "That is pretty dire findings."

The U.N. declaration, issued in September, 2000 calls, among other things, for reducing the number of people living on one dollar a day or less from 1.3 billion to 900 million by 2015. Other goals include preserving environmental resources, ensuring access to clean drinking water, and making primary education universal within the next decade.

Commenting on U.S. trade policy, economist Lael Brainard said the Bush Administration favors bilateral trade agreements, something she says is far less likely to cut into poverty rates than are multilateral treaties. Ms. Brainard says the bilateral agreements have not opened up U.S. markets to the products most crucial to developing economies:

"If you had to choose one area, or maybe two areas of trade that are going to be most meaningful for the poor, in the world, you would choose, A, agriculture and B, apparel," says Ms. Brainard. "You will notice that in none of those bilateral trade initiatives do we scratch the surface of agriculture. It is for obvious reasons, because it is very difficult to dismantle the U.S. system of subsidies."

Environmental policy expert Nigel Purvis argued that current U.S. policies are actually at odds with some of the declaration's goals. He says the Bush Administration is pushing a pro-business agenda at the expense of environmental sustainability. He referred, for instance, to the Bush Administration's decision to abandon the 1997 international Kyoto protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"When it comes to the environment, we are somewhat schizophrenic in this country. We think that there is a tension between environmental quality and economic growth," says Mr. Purvis. "There is significant concern about emphasizing the environment for fear of loss of jobs and competitiveness."

But Mr. Purvis praised the Bush Administration for undertaking projects, such as the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, aimed at preserving forests and wildlife in Central Africa.

The panelists also spoke positively about the Bush Administration's policies of funding anti-AIDS efforts in sub-Saharan Africa.