March 26, 2018

Thinking Global: Impact through commitment

By Jennie Lefkowitz

In Lesson #5 of my previous post, I promised to share my thoughts about the hearing; “China in Africa: A New Colonialism?“. It discussed China’s engagements across the African continent and challenged China’s intent and the effects of their engagements.

Now, at this point you’re either intrigued or scrolling to the next blog post. If you’re neither of those, please comment below what you are thinking. Note: Indifference is not a thing, here. You could be one of those you-read-so-fast-you-can’t-stop-quickly-enough-to-skip-through people, like my pup trying to do zoomies on hardwood floors, but I want to know.

Last summer I conducted research in Ghana on the implementation of One Health and learned about the state of Ghana’s Veterinary Services (VS), the infrastructure supporting them, and the relationship between the VS and government. Whilst there, I saw substantial Chinese presence, particularly along the coast. I heard many opinions, both in gratitude and dissatisfaction.

At the hearing, Ms. Bass had the most interesting question: “What’s the solution, here? … What leverage do we (the United States) have over China to get China to act differently?”.  I’d strip this down to relationships: If the US is seen as a positive investor, giving and trying to help build the capacity of developing countries, the ultimate relationship will be largely positive in nature and our ability to influence their behavior will be enhanced. A reputation for benevolent investment as a nation will lead to preferential opportunities presented to US funders. This preferential treatment will create incentives for China to radically alter its foreign investment strategies in order to compete for these investment opportunities.

A second hearing I attended, “Why Food Security Matters,” was by a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations. Notice there is no punctuation in this hearing’s title. No period, question mark or colon. It’s quite declarative, which exactly describes the conviction of the testimonies and commitment of the subcommittee. Former Governor Bealsey quoted Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee: “Show me a nation that cannot feed itself, and I’ll show you a nation in chaos.” Also of important reference, Winning the Peace: Hunger and Instability, shows that food insecurity produces instability.

At USIP, “Human Rights: The Foundation for Peace” kicked off the new series of Bipartisan Congressional Dialogues. You can learn more about the dialogues here. Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts noted three approaches to Human Rights:

  1.     Punishing human rights abusers
  2.     How to end armed conflict
  3.     Prevention of abuse and systematic discrimination

Punishing those who abuse human rights means people were abused. Spending resources on ending armed conflict means sending our soldiers in to life-threatening danger. Rep. McGovern believes we should be more focused on preventing abuse and discrimination as to spare our soldiers and protect persons from abuse.

What do all three talks have in common? If hunger, human rights violations, and exploitive foreign investment are all factors of destabilization, present in most areas of conflict, and proposed solutions of all three factors are long term and preventive in nature, then investment in resources will not be for the short term.

To this effect, I would challenge the current notion that US’s Armed Forces are its most effective foreign policy tool. Effective, benevolent investment and aid in developing nations has shown to be incredibly impactful in addressing the underlying socio-economic issues such as income and food instability which lead to conflict in these countries. If “our most precious resources are the blood of the men and women who serve,” as Lieutenant General John Castellow affirmed, then wouldn’t such a strategy be favored?  

Most often the solution which drives the most sustainable, long-term change is the one that takes 10 to 20 years to implement and requires sustained and consistent funding. This is however, directly in conflict with the 4-5 year cycle of most political systems. Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA, put it quite succinctly, “long term programmes build resilience and ultimately build capacity”. It is often an inherently more difficult challenge, both politically and fiscally to make the case for investment in addressing complex causes of a society’s problems due to the sophistication of any required solution. However, the bipartisan-oriented solutions and approach of these talks is a start to ensuring we see continued investment in the developing world and ultimately improve US diplomatic relations and national security.

(Also of note is the importance of appropriate but dynamic representation in order to insure successful implementation. This 2013 UN Report evaluated 20 years of work of its Commission of Sustainable Development.)

Ok, Jennie, this is a blog of veterinary student externs so where is the link to being a veterinarian? Animal health? Well, I’m glad you asked. If we are talking about long term programmes, we are NOT talking about programmes which provide short term solutions. Agriculture and livestock are commonly looked to in order to improve the ability of the developing world to feed its own citizens as many are in rural societies. Development of the agriculture sector within a developing nation and it’s subsequent impact on food security of the country’s citizens will lead to improved economic growth. With agriculture and livestock, animal health, disease surveillance programmes and technology accessibility are a necessity to protect and build these investments. So if we’re going to talk food security that means food safety across the entire supply chain…which means veterinary involvement is a necessity. Yet, we’re either at a point in which the conversation is simply trying to bring attention to the need of change in foreign policy or, the role of agriculture and livestock are being overlooked in the solutions.

Despite the myriad of reasons for pursuing long term sustainable development strategies, these are often rejected in favor of short term, easily quantifiable goals. These programmes are, in their essence complicated beings, requiring sustained bipartisan support and, whilst the polarized politics of today are doing their best to undermine these efforts, events and talks such as these show that behind the headlines very talented people from across the political spectrum are working together to deliver progress.

2 Responses to “Thinking Global: Impact through commitment”

  1. Hibah Abuhamdieh Says:
    April 1st, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    I love this! This is exactly what I am interested in. I will be going to similar hearings for sure!

  2. Jennie Lefkowitz Says:
    April 6th, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Awesome! I can’t wait to read about your externship experience!

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