President Barack Obama is pressing for the next president to continue key global development initiatives in order to “keep the momentum going” following dramatic gains.
“I’m here to say that whoever the next president is, development has to remain a fundamental pillar of American foreign policy,” he said Wednesday during the White House Summit on Global Development in Washington.
Shortly after speaking, the White House announced that the president had signed into law the bipartisan Global Food Security Act.
The law directs authorities to promote global food security, to help communities become more resilient to the impact of events such as drought, and to improve nutrition. It codifies much of a signature Obama initiative known as Feed the Future.
The Republican-led Congress also adopted the Electrify Africa Act, which is linked to Obama’s signature Power Africa initiative.
The Electrify Africa Act provides a framework for a public-private partnership between the United States and sub-Saharan African countries to help millions of people gain access to reliable electricity.
Obama called development “one of the smartest investments” a nation can make.
In 2010, he issued his U.S. Global Development Policy, declaring global development a “core pillar” of engagement, one equal to diplomacy and the military.
“We know there is a correlation between no education, no jobs, no hope, the violation of basic human dignity, and conflict and instability,” he told the group, which included development leaders, private and public sector officials, members of civil society, religious groups and entrepreneurs.
The White House said the Feed the Future program, which was implemented after a spike in world food prices in 2009, had significantly reduced poverty and malnutrition.
In 2015, it provided nutrition interventions to nearly 18 million children, according to the administration.
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Obama’s Power Africa initiative has “set the stage for a steady flow of private sector investments in an expanding energy sector,” and global health programs have led to lower maternal and child mortality rates around the world, according to the administration.
When Obama took office in 2009, he continued initiatives begun under President George W. Bush because they were “delivering results and saving lives,” the White House said.
The initiatives that started under Bush include the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which promotes economic development and the fight against global poverty; the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative.
PEPFAR has so dramatically reduced the number of people on treatment-based research, that the program has shifted its focus to the most vulnerable groups, officials said.
“An AIDS-free generation is within sight,” said Gayle Smith, U.S. Agency for International Development administrator.
The malaria program has saved more than 6 million lives since it was implemented, Smith added. Other health programs have helped save the lives of 4.5 million children and 200,000 mothers since 2008, according to USAID.
Organizers said the summit also highlighted the need for more development efforts.
“We're reminded every day that nearly a billion fellow human beings still confront poverty. For this reason, we want to continue and build on the progress,” said Mary Beth Goodman, the National Security Council’s senior director for development and democracy.