ODA is a vital diplomatic tool to fight terror

By Howard H, Baker, Jr.

The following, originally published in The International Herald Tribune/Asahi Shimbun, January 8, 2003, is reproduced here with The Asahi Shimbun's permission.

The United States and Japan have occupied the two top global positions as overseas aid donors for over 20 years. We have gradually come to the same philosophy for aid: helping others to help themselves. For both countries, robust aid programs that focus on stimulating economic growth are a foreign policy priority.

Helping other nations achieve prosperity and opportunity is not only the right thing to do, it will also help defeat terror. A failed state in Central Asia; a curriculum in an obscure Pakistani school; or political repression and poverty half a world away can have a direct and devastating effect on our own national security. For Americans post-Sept 11, national security is no longer an abstract concept. But terrorism threatens all of us - itfs not just the thousands in the World Trade Center. Terrorism has left its mark on Bali, the Philippines, and many people in Asia and beyond. It is a global phenomenon.

Poverty doesn't cause terrorism. Yet persistent poverty and oppression leads to hopelessness and despair.

When governments fail to meet their citizens' most basic needs, these failed states can become havens for terrorists. Development is not easy, but the conditions required for sound development are clear. There can be no development in an atmosphere of chaos and violence. Successful development also requires literate and healthy citizens, prepared and able to work.

Overseas development assistance (ODA) is a critical foreign policy instrument in the post 9-11 world. Used effectively, it can help poor nations meet their education and health-care needs. However, monies not accompanied by essential legal and economic reform can be wasted. In many poor nations, corruption runs deep. Private property is unprotected. Markets are closed. Monetary and fiscal policies are unsustainable. Private contracts are unenforceable.

President George W. Bush has recently created the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which will increase our development assistance by 50 per cent ($5 billion) over the next three years. The goal of the MCA is to encourage developing countries to make "the right choices for their own people."

Good government is pivotal for development. The MCA will reward nations that root out corruption, respect human rights, and adhere to the rule of law. Healthy and educated citizens are the agents of development, so we will reward nations that invest in their people through maintaining and strengthening public health and education programs. Sound economic policies unleash the enterprise and creativity necessary for development. The MCA will reward nations that have open markets and sustainable budget policies, nations where people can start and operate a small business without running the gauntlets of bureaucracy and bribery.

Countries that live by these three broad standards - ruling justly, investing in their people, and encouraging economic freedom - will receive more aid from America. More importantly, over time, they will really no longer need it, because nations with sound laws and policies will attract more foreign investment. They will earn more trade revenues. And they will find that all these sources of capital will be invested more effectively and productively to create more jobs.

President Bush has stated that the MCA ties this significant increase of aid to political, legal and economic reforms. "By insisting in reform, we do the work of compassion."

Working strategically and collaboratively with Japan, we are re-evaluating how to optimize our combined alliance resources, including ODA. Working together, we are making strategic investments in countries that have sound policies and are instituting reforms, countries in which we share great interests. Japan has the proven capacity, through sound use of its ODA, to provide for peace-building and development, for example, in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

In fighting terror and promoting good government, ODA is more of a vital diplomatic tool than ever. Even in an era of declining revenues and strict budgets, we hope that Japan will continue to support a healthy ODA program.

As the number one and two donors, it is our global responsibility to coordinate our programs and ensure that we provide the maximum amount of benefit to those nations most capable of using that aid to better the lives of their citizens.

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