A Memo to the Next President: Think Globally

With a global economic slowdown and a deepening food crisis, the biggest foreign policy priority for the next President must be building a global economy that benefits poor and working families in the United States and around the world.

The World Bank estimates that 100 million people have been pushed into poverty this year by rising food and fuel prices. In the U.S. 13.3 million children live below the poverty line. Throughout the world, 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day. The statistics, already staggering, will only worsen with the current economic crisis. Wall Street executives and their surrogates have accumulated wealth in unregulated markets at the expense of the poor and middle class. Bold action is needed to reinvigorate economies, invest in people, and build the infrastructure of the 21st century.

First, the new President must invest in global development that brings health care and education for all. The challenges of global poverty can be met by prioritizing human security. Health care, education, housing, decent jobs: these are the core building blocks of healthy communities. Investing in these pivotal areas anchors our global village in the interest of lower income people and builds a safer, more stable world. A just and responsible foreign policy would cancel the external debts of the poorest countries and eliminate odious debts of middle-income countries. It would advance fair-trade regimes so that the resources of countries around the world can be directed towards the needs of the people. Strengthened communities can unleash the human creativity needed to meet the demands of a changing global economy.

Second, the next President must commit to a global green investment agenda. The U.S. must end its addiction to oil. An economy based on fossil fuels has led to unnecessary wars, economic crisis, and environmental catastrophe. The new President can use political leverage for technology transfer as well as private-public partnerships to advance solar, wind, and other renewable energies. Creating innovative green jobs can sustain the environment while allowing countries in Africa, Latin America and other regions of the global South to leapfrog their development in creative new ways. Manufacturing renewable technology equipment like wind turbines or solar panels could reinvigorate economies from Detroit to Dakar. Similarly, building and improving public transportation systems like high-speed trains can create new jobs while protecting the environment. Survival of the planet hinges on bold and immediate action by the next President.

The third and perhaps most urgent foreign policy priority for the next President must be ending the cycle of continuous war. The overall U.S. military budget currently stands at $965 billion, nearly half of the world’s military spending. According to a recent report produced by Foreign Policy In Focus, the ratio of U.S. funding for military forces vs. non-military international engagement is 18:1. This dramatic imbalance in the foreign policy toolkit allows military objectives to drive international engagement, leaving development and diplomacy poorly resourced. The next President must end the war in Iraq with its escalating human and financial costs; halt the expansion of U.S. foreign bases; curb the global arms trade by stemming the flow of U.S. weapons around the world; and rebalance global engagement to advance principles of peace and justice. U.S. leadership on these initiatives will not only create a safer, more stable world, but will also unleash resources that can sustain the global green economy the world needs in this 21st century.

Emira Woods is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies.