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"Democracy and Development Intrinsically Linked"--- Rice

26 April 2007 at 20:24 | 456 views

By Jane Morse, USINFO Staff Writer.

Well-governed democracies must be able “to deliver for their people” or they will not be able to sustain momentum for democratic development, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice(photo).

At an April 16 meeting at the State Department with members of the Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion, she emphasized the link between democracy and economic development.

“If you’re really only talking about job growth, trade, investment, you’re not making the connection to the next level of development,” she said. That “micro level of development,” Rice explained, “is making sure that there’s an educated population, making sure that there’s a healthy population, making certain that the benefits of democracy are translating downward into the population so that when the next term for accountability comes, which is the next election, those young democracies are able to point to something that they have delivered.”

Rice convened the first meeting of the Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion on November 6, 2006, with the goal of gleaning insights and advice from a team of experts inside and outside the State Department to promote democracy and formulate foreign policy and foreign assistance. She praised the committee for its work and expressed the hope of adopting some of the ideas that have been generated.

In addition to Rice, U.S. government officials serving on the committee include Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance Randall L. Tobias, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula J. Dobriansky (the committee’s executive director) and Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Barry F. Lowenkron.

The committee also includes former U.S. government officials and representatives of corporations, nongovernmental organizations, public-policy organizations and academic institutions.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, chairs the committee.

New members of the committee include Joshua Muravchik, currently a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and Brian Atwood, formerly the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Atwood also emphasized the links between economic development and democracy. “You really can’t achieve full development unless you have democratic governance,” he told the committee.

He added that he has come to believe that “poverty is a cancer that affects democracy as well as development, and that it breaks down social cohesion. And indeed, I would even go so far as to say that when that social cohesion is broken down, it contributes to violence, and it therefore is very, very dangerous.”

Atwood urged the U.S. government to recognize that poverty is a real threat to national security and should be addressed more aggressively.

Carl Gershman, of the National Endowment for Democracy, blamed corruption as a “fundamental problem,” especially among the newer democracies. Corruption, he said, “tends to undermine the credibility of democracy today.”

Rice concluded the meeting with expressions of hope that the upcoming round of the World Trade Organization negotiations will be successful. “Nothing could be better for poverty reduction than a successful Doha round,” she said.

“It’s extremely important to recognize that our most important poverty reduction tool is to open up markets for the good of those countries that are trying to rise out of poverty,” she said. “[A]ll of the foreign assistance that we give is going to be augmented and amplified many times over by strong free trading polices as well.”

Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) funds, Rice said, have a very strong emphasis on fighting corruption and promoting good governance. (See related article.)

The MCC is a U.S. government corporation that was established in January 2004 to reduce global poverty through the promotion of sustainable economic growth. But before a country can become eligible to receive this assistance, MCC must review the country’s performance on 16 independent and transparent policy indicators.

More than 22 million people in 11 partner countries are benefiting from MCC-funded projects. But some unexpected problems have now become apparent, Rice said, citing “the degree to which old-fashioned issues like roads are absolutely critical to economic development.”

One “screaming” example, Rice said, is Afghanistan. There, she explained, roads are needed desperately to give farmers access to markets in order to sell legitimate products — such as pomegranates, which spoil quickly — instead of poppy, which does not spoil and is used in narcotics production.

Additional information on the MCC is available on the corporation’s Web site.

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