The Obama Administration has recently come up with its framework for a new global de-velopment policy strategy, with particular policy papers on Agriculture, Health and Climate Change. The Catholic Task Force for Africa reflected on these papers and the fol-lowing comments reflect our thanks, concerns and suggestions.

This new effort by the administration offers the needed focus on development as a key prominent component of US foreign policy. Where there were competing views on what development is and who should carry out such mission, the White House wants to be the decision maker on what development is to be. Putting development front and center is the good news from our perspective. However, we take issue with where development deci-sions will be housed. It seems that the National Security Council (NSC) is to be the chair of an interagency council directing any decision on development issues rather than US Agency for International Development (USAID). This approach would give preference to a lens that allows defense and security perspectives to trump development concerns. De-velopment strategies and programs should be managed differently from concerns over national security issues, even if they are very real.

Investing in true human security in Africa can bring security to the US as well. True hu-man security is rooted in attending to the issues of poverty reduction, debt relief, im-proved health care, good governance, fair trade, post conflict reconstruction and recon-ciliation and more. Soft diplomacy which attempts to win the hearts and minds of people should not be seen only through security concerns. Our fear is that this gives an open door for US Africa military command (AFRICOM) to be perceived as the driver of US foreign policy on Africa. This is a wrongheaded misuse of funds and gives the wrong message to those on the ground.

In the White House papers, there has been very little mention or support for grass root civil society engagement that would impact Africa. Although the documents speak of capacity building workshops that came out of discussions from the G20 meetings, we have to remember that only one country from the continent is at that elite table, leading us to believe that any conversation or proposals from the G 20 for capacity building would not adequately engaging with Africa. We believe that grassroots capacity building is critical for development in Africa.

A glaring missing piece in these documents is the importance of trade as an engine for development. Added to that is the reality that development strategies for Africa need to address the underlying con-flicts that are raging in many areas of Africa over re-sources, those fought by a large number of militaries and those fought in board rooms. Development thinking should be pro-active in addressing issues that have to do with re-sources and trade. Most of the US trade policy is now driven by profit centered and private sector corporations. Government concerns seem to be focused so much on aid that trade is omitted. Without trade being addressed as part of any development agenda, there will continue to be pov-erty and hunger in the vulnerable areas of Africa. The US Trade Representative mostly meets with corporations to discuss how to promote the interests of the later. We need clarity and accountability from these corporations. A better fair trade policy can mutually benefit the US and help put Africa on the path to prosperity and freedom.

Another issue that may not find a place in these policy pa-pers but we believe is important to encourage in some way is the fact that there is dysfunction in the intra-African trade deals. African nations need better trade relations among themselves. For example, the Republic of Central Africa should be able to tap into the resources of Morocco, Egypt, and elsewhere. Rwanda and Uganda have been ex-porting illegally resources from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for a long time, but there is not any natu-ral resources trade agreement between the three nations that we are aware of. Africa needs better fair trade deals from those near as well as from afar.

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is the voice of many African leaders. NEPAD was adopted in 2001 at the 37th assembly of heads of states and govern-ment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), known today as African Union (AU). It was adopted as an over-arching development framework with the purpose of sus-tainable development and economic independence for Afri-can people and nations. There are a lot of good things within NEPAD to be recognized. If and where there are problems with government-to-government agreements, strong and active participation in African countries by local faith communities, civil society, and grassroots agencies equipped with improved capacity will guarantee a fair deal for all.

Below is the policy papers and fact sheets

President Obama’s Development Policy and the Global climate Change initiative
President Obama’s Development Policy and the Global food Security
Fact Sheet: U.S. Global Development Policy
President Obama’s Development Policy and the Global Health Initiative

By Fr. Rocco Puopolo, Executive Director