New president's action on global poverty will determine future of U.S. security and prosperity, says economist

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Krishna Ramanujan

The United States and the next president "desperately need" fresh policies regarding developing countries and the fate of more than 4 billion people who live on less than $10 a day, argued Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development.

Birdsall spoke on "A Global Development Agenda for the Next U.S. President," at Cornell's Goldwin Smith Hall Nov. 3, the eve of the presidential elections, as part of the Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker series organized by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.

"I want to argue that our security and prosperity are more and more dependent on what happens in countries where people are poor by any reasonable standard," she said.

Referring to the coming "post-American century," Birdsall noted the rapid rise of today's emerging market economies in India, China and other low- and middle-income developing countries. These countries will also dominate the world's population by 2050; "the end of the West is another way to think of it," Birdsall said.

She discussed four themes around which "recommendations for the next president" were built. For starters, the United States should lead from its strengths and put U.S. technological and business prowess to work for the world's poor, she said. Next, the United States should build shared prosperity by helping create a more "interconnected world" through trade, immigration and investment in struggling global economies, she said.

Her third recommendation was to "modernize foreign assistance" through better organization, leveraging "multilateral mechanisms like the World Bank," applying "developmental expertise in Iraq and Afghanistan where we are spending billions and wasting billions," and better crisis response.

Finally, the United States needs to "take a multilateral approach" with stronger support for international institutions that encourage greater engagement from a wider variety of countries.

Birdsall advised that the next president create a cabinet-level agency to "champion global development" early in his term.

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