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Obama at UN summit: foreign aid is 'core pillar of American power'

At the UN Wednesday, President Obama unveiled a plan to revitalize US foreign aid programs, which have been marginalized since the end of the cold war.

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President Obama on Wednesday unveiled a policy directive that defines the pursuit of global development as a “core pillar of American power.” Under the directive, development and foreign assistance are for the first time elevated to the level of key factors in US national security and economic policy.

The long-awaited policy pronouncement seeks to give order and coherence to the country’s multibillion-dollar foreign assistance programs. Foreign-aid experts say these programs have lost effectiveness and been marginalized since the end of the cold war.

The White House directive, which Mr. Obama announced in New York at a UN antipoverty summit, calls for focusing US development dollars on proven partners and regions in greatest need. It foresees a tighter linkage of foreign aid to national security interests.

Obama told representatives of more than 145 countries attending the Millennium Development Goals Summit that the new policy would promote global development for the 21st century. It will be focused more on economic growth and the “democratic governance” that fosters human potential, he said, than on old assistance models that too often simply managed misery.

He offered food aid as an example of the change. The new approach would seek to empower communities to meet their own food needs, rather than continuing with old models that simply provided food for decades. “That’s not development,” he said, “that’s dependence.”

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