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Brookings Blum Roundtable

2020 and beyond: Maintaining the bipartisan narrative on US global development

2019 Brookings Blum Roundtable

Over the past 15 years, a strong bipartisan consensus—especially in the U.S. Congress—has emerged to advance and support U.S. leadership on global development as a key pillar of U.S. foreign policy. 2020 presidential and congressional candidates are taking the field and looking for themes that will galvanize their campaigns in 2019.

Regardless of which political stripes win at the ballot box, the president and Congress taking office in January 2021 will be faced with old constraints and new opportunities. In the development arena, issues that are drawing attention include the growing prevalence of state fragility and violence, climate change, the unprecedented level of refugee populations, China’s entry as a major development actor, and how to address development issues such as education, youth, women’s empowerment, sustainable infrastructure, and job-friendly growth.

The 16th Brookings Blum Roundtable will consider what narrative and practical proposals will not only maintain current levels of U.S. development leadership and investments, which have remained static in recent years, but respond appropriately to rising global challenges. Ahead of the roundtable, Brookings commissioned eight briefs to set the scene for discussion.

Boxes of relief items from USAID arrive for victims of super typhoon Haiyan, in Manila

Despite the current administration’s recent budget requests, which have called for cuts in the International Affairs budget of nearly one-third, Congress strongly rejected these proposed cuts. This bulwark of support is due to successful and longstanding efforts to build bipartisan congressional support for a robust foreign assistance program based on business interests, national security, and humanitarian concerns. Can the foreign assistance community—particularly in Washington—use the opportunities presented by political challenges to articulate a more effective approach to international aid and the assertion of soft power?

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Filipino students dance to take part in the One Billion Rising global campaign to end violence against women and children, during the Valentine's Day celebration at St Scholastica's College in Manila, Philippines, February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC1BB6610190

Over the past 25 years, we have seen progress in critical areas for empowering women, as well as some backlash against it. Progress in global development included a 44 percent reduction in maternal mortality globally, 40 percent decrease in child mortality, and an additional 41 million girls enrolled in primary school. Areas of slower progress include political equality, reduction in violence against women, pay equity, legal ownership, economic participation, and access to reproductive health services. Many are claiming that 2020 will be a historic year for women. The time is right for all of us to call for a new, transformative agenda for women in 2020 and beyond.

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Azonmayon Moses, 21-year-old teacher and first time voter, poses for a picture in his classroom in the Makoko shanty town built on stilts in a lagoon in Lagos, Nigeria February 4, 2019. He is anxious that who ever becomes president does not order the demolition of the precarious settlement he calls home. Azonmayon said: "He must give us assurance that if we vote for them, that they are not going to do anything to us, they must allow us to stay here safely." But he is no fan of the current president. "Everything is hard in the time of Buhari. To find a job is very difficult, to buy food is very hard for us now so that's why we don't need him now." Picture taken February 4, 2019. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja - RC19D2735C00

In an era when youth are the fastest-growing segment of the population in many parts of the world, new data estimates 263 million children and young people are out of school, overwhelmingly in poor countries. Additionally, 825 million young people will not have the basic literacy, numeracy, and digital skills to compete for the jobs of 2030. Absent a significant political and financial investment in their education, beginning with basic education, there is a serious risk that this youth “bulge” will drive instability and constrain economic growth. More money alone will not fix the problem. Addressing this global challenge requires new champions at the highest level and new approaches.

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Palestinian students, who will compete in the International Technovation entrepreneurship program, work on computers at An-Najah National University in Nablus in the occupied West Bank July 25, 2018. Picture taken July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini - RC1CD9B8BE00

Launched just over six months ago, Generation Unlimited aims to help prepare the world’s 1.8 billion young people for the transition to work and engaged citizenship, by connecting secondary-age education and training to employment and entrepreneurship. This is the largest cohort of young people in history, but many of them are the victims of a global education and training crisis so they are not equipped to enter the work place.

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Natan Cabral, 5, stands on the cracked ground of the Boqueirao reservoir in the Metropolitan Region of Campina Grande, Paraiba state, Brazil, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino             SEARCH "BRAZIL DROUGHT" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RC1BC8B7DB20

The World Bank estimates that by 2050, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia will generate 143 million more climate migrants. In 2017, 68.5 million people were forcibly displaced, more than at any point in human history. It is becoming obvious that climate change is contributing to so-called slow onset events such as desertification, sea level rise, ocean acidification, air pollution, rain pattern shifts, and loss of biodiversity. This deterioration will exacerbate many humanitarian crises and may lead to more people being on the move. Multilateral institutions, development agencies, and international law must do far more to thoroughly examine the challenges of climate change.

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REFILE - CORRECTING GRAMMAR Migrants wait for food and clothes at the migrant camp Vucjak, in Bihac area, Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic - RC13263A9760

The stubborn challenge of fragility continues to drive a host of obstacles to global peace and prosperity. One report calculates that the number of people living in fragile contexts will grow from 1.8 billion in 2018 to 2.3 billion in 2030. While poverty continues to fall everywhere else around the world, fragile states are projected to be home to 80 percent of those living in extreme poverty by 2030. As a result, the challenge of state fragility is now being viewed as both a global security threat and the principal obstacle to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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A U.S. flag flutters in front of a portrait of the late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at Tiananmen gate during the visit by U.S. President Donald Trump to Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj - RC1564EC0810

Should current tensions between the United States and China continue escalating, the defining geopolitical feature of the first half of the 21st century will almost certainly be the strategic rivalry, or even a new cold war, between these two countries. A geopolitical clash will be costly to both countries. In all likelihood, prospects for cooperation depend heavily on the geopolitical sensitivity of specific issues, the geopolitical importance of the countries concerned, overlapping interests, and the party that controls the U.S. executive branch.

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Voters listen as U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) speaks during his 2020 U.S. presidential campaign at the Iowa River Brewing in Marshalltown, Iowa, U.S., February 9, 2019. REUTERS/Scott Morgan - RC14160B05C0

There is no doubt that populist winds are running through America, just as they are worldwide—even isolationist pockets on the left and the right. But poll after poll shows the vast majority of Americans understand that retreat from the globe is dangerous—that infectious diseases recognize no borders and the ripples from protracted conflicts can eventually reach America’s doorsteps. From the global refugee crisis to growing competition with China, these global issues affect the United States. The key to inspiring citizens is to show them the good return on our investment from America’s global leadership.

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