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Helping People Feed Themselves Resumes Key Place in US Policy

By Susan Carey Dempsey on September 28, 2009No Comment

The endlessly fascinating constellation that is the Clintons brought the 5th Annual Clinton Global Initiative Conference to a close today, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivering a keynote addressing highlighting an important initiative being undertaken by the Obama administration: an attack on chronic world hunger.

In his introduction to his wife’s speech, former President Clinton acknowledged that a series of U.S. administrations including his own had erred in giving up on efforts to help people in developing countries feed themselves. “It was a wrong-headed policy,” he said. “We were all wrong, but she was determined to reverse it.”

The initiative announced by Secretary Clinton represents, she said, “the elevation of development as a key element of our foreign policy.” Acknowledging that there was substance to the debate over whether development efforts had produced the intended results despite years of effort and billions of dollars spent, she said “we have not achieved the lasting results we desired.” She cited corruption, lack of coordination and other factors as impeding their success.

Nevertheless, she stressed, the importance of food production as it relates to national security and threatens the stability of societies, above and beyond the moral imperative, made it critical that it be addressed.  She outlined 5 principles that would underpin the Obama food initiative:

  • The US would partner with the developing countries to implement the plan
  • The plan would invest in attacking the underlying causes of hunger, for example, finding better ways to link farmers to markets. “We will put women at the heart of our efforts” she said. “Women are entrepreneurial, accountable and practical. They pay loans back at a higher rate than men.”
  • Improved coordination, bringing players together not only from businesses, foundations and universities, but from different agencies within the US government for the first time.
  • Leveraging the benefits of multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, involving more countries.
  • A long term approach: “Do not mistake our patience for complacency,” she said. The program will include a significant investment in monitoring and evaluation. “We will publicly track progress and results.”
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