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The Role of International Development in a Changing World [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service]

Speaker: Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development, the United Kingdom
Presider: Gene B. Sperling, Director, Center for Universal Education, Council on Foreign Relations
July 12, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations


GENE B. SPERLING: Welcome, everybody. Welcome. Thank you for being here tonight at the Council on Foreign Relations. And particularly for us at the Center for Universal Education, we are very proud -- and we'll even brag -- that we are able to host the first public speech in the U.S. by Douglas Alexander, who was recently appointed Secretary of State for International Development on June 28th, 2007. I've been in a new department before; that's when you're usually trying to find your furniture. But we're very, very honored that he would be here with us today on what is a short but important trip for him.

Let me say a little bit about our speaker today. Before being appointed the new head of DFID, he had previously been the secretary of State for Transport, the Minister of State for Europe, and the Minister of Trade previously as well. I was looking at some of the terms that he has been called recently. Several times the phrase "golden boy"; several other times "rising star."

Now, Douglas, as one who entered government at 38 myself -- or my most important position at 38, but is now 48-and-a-half looking at 50, when I see somebody getting a job like this in their 30s and being called "golden boy," et cetera, I would like to say I feel a touch of envy, but hatred may be more accurate! (Laughter.)

For many of us who have had the opportunity over the last seven, eight years to often go to the U.K. and be engaged in a variety of policy discussions, I have to say this is an exciting moment, because for many of us we did see, even many years ago, a clear cadre of which we'd call the best and brightest. And to see them -- to see David Miliband, to see Douglas Alexander, to see Des Browne now taking on the highest ranks, the highest minister levels in the British government is, I think, very exciting for many of us who have thought very highly of this cadre of rising stars. And perhaps it is now apt to say they have risen and are taken on this enormous responsibility.

I think that Douglas has a -- beyond the reputation and the experience of being -- of having handled so many important portfolios, he is also somebody who is admired not only for his policy analysis, but is somebody who has the skills to communicate with the public, which is shown by the fact that the prime minister has entrusted him with running the next campaign, which is, some say, 2009; others might say 2008. But we will see.

But we all know that in the area of development how incredibly important this is. And we know how much in the United States that much of what we have struggled with is not only good policy, but capturing the values, capturing the trust of our taxpayer, of our people that this is indeed a worthwhile and indeed compelling endeavor.

I think what is very -- you know, I think while -- what has been very exciting for many of us too -- and I say this now with my hat on as the director of the Center for Universal Education and the chair of the U.S. Global Campaign for Education -- but Prime Minister Gordon Brown has unquestionably been our global champion for the promotion of universal education around the world. Many of us looked to see who would give the first great leap forward, who would take that big step. And while Gordon Brown has filled many of those -- has championed many causes, for us who work on and believe in universal quality basic education around the world, he has set the bar at a higher level, together with the Netherlands government as well, and now becomes essentially the gold standard, the example that we ask of many of the other G-8 governments of the world.

And I guess as one was going in, one might wonder will the emphasis still be there? And I think one of the great signs is that if you'd asked, prior to Gordon Brown's election, who were five or 10 of these rising stars that were the ones that he was closest to and most trusted, two of the names that might have been on there would have been Douglas Alexander and a good friend of many of ours, Shriti Vadera.

The idea that the prime minister would select not just one, but two of his top people and make Douglas Alexander the secretary of State, but then to make Shriti his junior minister, is an enormous sign, I think, of optimism for those of us who hope that the prime minister will keep development on the front burner.

And so, with that, it is my pleasure and our pleasure at the Council on Foreign Relations to hand the floor to Minister Douglas Alexander. (Applause.)

DOUGLAS ALEXANDER: Well, Gene, thank you for that kind and somewhat intimidating introduction. It's not quite as difficult in politics to be a rising star as to avoid being a shooting star, but I'll do my best today.

Can I say it is a genuine honor and a privilege to be here at the Council on Foreign Relations, an institution that has done so much to promote debate and promote understanding of foreign policy for now more than 70 years. And it is, of course, a particular pleasure to be introduced by Gene. We first met some years ago when he was chair of President Clinton's National Economic Council, and more recently, I've come to admire his tireless advocacy for the cause of education through his chairmanship of the U.S. Education For All Campaign. And if that wasn't enough, I should also confess a deep admiration -- and he said hatred, but I'll say envy -- of Gene's work as a contributing writer to the West Wing. There is seemingly no end to this man's talent.

It's also genuinely great to be here in the United States, a country I know well and greatly admire having lived, studied and worked at the University of Pennsylvania and here in Washington in 1988 and 1989. That summer that I spent working here on the Hill was an extraordinary time, coming as it did between the seismic events of Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was then that Francis Fokuyama first made his claim in the pages of Foreign Affairs that were witnessing the end of history, and it is the character of that post-Cold War world he described and the consequences for my department's core mission, the eradication of global poverty, to which I want to direct my remarks here this evening.

That year in 1989 saw the ushering in of what Tom Friedman has called "the flat world," in which the division and spaces that characterize the previous 40 years gave way to an interconnectedness and fluidity that we witness today. This new world without walls is indeed in many ways very different to the world that preceded it. And so today I want to begin my remarks by posing four questions, the answer to which are I believe essential to the mission of tackling global poverty.

Firstly, what does the world look like at the beginning of the 21st century? Secondly, how can we achieve change in this world? Thirdly and more specifically, what must be the role of international development in that process of change? And finally, how do we work together to secure those changes?

So first, what does the world look like at the start of the 21st century? If you took your world view purely from reading newspaper headlines, you would find two dominating narratives seeking to make sense of today's world. First, terrorism and security; and second, climate change. And of course these are significant forces in our changing world. The global reach of terrorism at the start of the 21st century is unprecedented. Disparate groups claiming to be part of a common struggle united in a willingness to maim and murder have surfaced in countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Kenya and yes, the United Kingdom. The threat is real.

Tomorrow, I will fly back home through Glasgow Airport, the scene of the most recent incident in the United Kingdom. Unsurprisingly, therefore, our papers in Britain the weekend before last were filled with headlines about the latest attacks. Yet by last weekend our papers were covering quite different story: the simultaneous Live Earth concerts taking place in London and across the world, organized to warn of the risks of climate change.

That coming together of people across continents reflects not only growing concerns but also a growing scientific consensus that climate change needs to be addressed. From the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the National Academies of Science, the weight of scientific evidence accumulates almost by the month. And if the causes are becoming increasingly clear, so too are the consequences.

So yes, climate change and terrorism are powerful forces, but the scale of the attention they receive in the media can obscure other powerful forces which are also shaping our world and which receive far less comment.

Let's just take two examples: migration and population growth. When I met the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, yesterday, he characterized our age in our conversation as "the age of mobility." Every year more than 190 million people leave their shores in search of opportunity and a better life. That's more than the entire population of Brazil. Indeed, if all of the migrants from just one year founded a new country, it would be the fifth-largest in the world.

Not least, as an elected politician, I recognize there is a tendency to see this mobility as simply a threat. But the changing patterns of travel and work are having a profound effect socially and economically on the world's poor. The remittances sent home by migrants last year alone were triple that of global aid flows. Indeed, in some countries, up to a third of families now rely on remittances to keep them out of poverty.

And this migration trend is set to accelerate as the world becomes more populous. Between now and 2050, nine countries alone will account for nearly half of the world's population growth. Only one here, the United States, is in the developed world. So put simply, the greatest population growth will occur in the countries least able to support it. Economically, they are the poorest. Politically, they are among the most unstable. Environmentally, they are among the most marginal.

And this population growth increasingly means urbanization. This year, for the first time in human history, half the world's population lives in cities. Indeed, in Africa and Asia, the number of people living in cities grows, on average, by a million people each and every week.

So it is again such a rapidly changing backdrop that last week the U.N. published a report progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, and halfway to the 2015 deadline, there has been some clear progress. Since 1990, the percentage of the world's population living in extreme poverty, the equivalent of a dollar a day, has fallen from 30 percent to 20 percent. And thanks to the hugely important work of people like Gene and education campaigners around the world, nearly 90 percent of children are now enrolled in primary school. More people now have access to treatment for HIV/AIDS, a thirteenfold increase in sub-Saharan Africa alone in just the past three years.

So of course this progress is to be praised, but it's only part of the story. Only one of the eight world regions featured in the U.N.'s report is on track to achieve all of the MDGs. The decline in global poverty is mostly due to rapid economic growth in Asia. Africa is still most off track. And although the U.N. found that number of desperately poor people living in sub-Saharan Africa has leveled off, in its words, there are still 350 million people in the continent living on less than a dollar a day. Hunger still strikes that continent. Thirty percent of children under 5 are underweight, a figure hardly changed since 1990.

And despite -- yes -- huge progress in education, today there are still 77 million girls and boys around the world who will never get the chance to go to school. As a father of two young children just starting out in education, these facts strike a particular chord.

And as a father who's incredibly proud of his 3-year-old daughter, I'm particularly conscious that the face of poverty in developing countries is overwhelmingly female. A disproportionate number of women live in poverty, and progress on reducing maternal mortality, for example, is actually being reversed in some areas of Africa today.

The economic, social and political position of women in many countries is today actively preventing us from reducing child and maternal mortality and stopping the spreads of HIV/AIDS. So empowering women must be a priority for us all. Access to better and safer sexual and reproductive health resources are essential.

So as the latest U.N. report makes clear, the development challenge facing us is daunting. Meeting the Millennium Development Goals will take a massive effort from both developed and developing countries. As developed countries, we must live up to the promises we made as donor countries at the European Union, the G-8 and, of course, at the United Nations. But notwithstanding the real importance of such external factors, whether economic, whether political or whether environmental, the future of the poorest people in the world will depend critically on what happens within their own countries. It is the actions of their political leaders, institutions and citizens that are of central importance.

The potential for globalization, directed well, to lower barriers and extend opportunities is real, but these potential opportunities matter little today, for example, to the citizens of Zimbabwe, who continue to be subjected to a brutal, unfeeling regime, for today in that country a single banana costs 15 times more than a four-bedroom house did just seven years ago. So of course, to progress, countries must develop comprehensive plans not just to invest in education, but to build infrastructure and improve access to basic services like health care, water and sanitation. But good governance matters and is and will remain fundamental to their success.

Put simply, for all the discussions and debates about globalization, the actions of states continue to matter today. But equally, they must face up to new imperatives. In the 20th century, a country's might was too often measured in what they could destroy. In the 21st, strength should be measured by what we can build together.

And given the interconnected nature of the challenges we face, I would argue this evening that we have to simultaneously be fighting to end poverty, to secure trade justice and to tackle conflict and climate change, as well as working to defeat terrorism and ensure the preservation of our security. Indeed, I want to suggest to you this evening that it is no longer enough to make the familiar case for development reflecting the virtuous circle between economic growth and social justice, a familiar dialogue between politicians and the development community.

This relationship, of course, got us the historic aid commitment we now have and a consensus with the development community on some of the key actions we must together take in the future. But I would argue today that in order to build on that progress we have achieved to date and to tackle global poverty anew, we must now advance the case to change by better articulating the commonly held values around which we must rally the whole international community to our cause.

We must form new alliances based on these common values, ones not just to protect us from the world, but ones which reach out to the world, a new alliance of opportunity. And therefore, politics as well as policy will be key to making further progress, for we need to demonstrate by our words and our actions that we are internationalist, not isolationist, multilateralist, not unilateralist, active, not passive, and driven by core values consistently applied, not simply special interests.

Isolationism simply doesn't work in an interdependent world. There is no security or prosperity at home unless we deal with the global challenges of security, globalization, climate change, disease and poverty. We must recognize these challenges and champion an internationalist approach, seeking shared solutions to shared problems.

Multilateralist, not unilateralist means a rules-based international system. Just as we need the rule of law at home to have civilization, so we need rules abroad to ensure global civilization. We know self-interest and mutual interest are inextricably linked. National interests can be best advanced and protected through collective action.

There are few global challenges that do not require the active engagement of the United States. We need a global community able to act together through modern, effective institutions, including a reformed United Nations, the IMF, World Bank, WTO and indeed the European Union. But we do need to act and not be passive. We must reiterate our responsibility to act together to address the biggest challenges of our time, whether poverty, human rights abuse, climate change and genocide, as well as security. It can be right, when certain conditions are met, to intervene in the affairs of countries to prevent genocide, crimes against humanity, humanitarian suffering or threats to democracy. We believe that our collective responsibility to protect individuals transcends the right of nations to absolute sovereignty.

And finally, of course, we must be driven by core values, not simply special interests. Our place in the world depends on us making choices based on values, values like opportunity, responsibility and justice. It is these values that inform our enduring commitment to human rights, democracy and good governance. It is these values that call us to ensure that power, wealth and opportunity are distributed more equitably. And it is these values that remind us that we have a responsibility to act as global stewards of the environment for the sake of future generations. Social justice is an intergenerational as well as an international issue.

Now, winning support for this approach is not easy. We must all work to make them the accepted norm. This means persuading political leaders, indeed community leaders, faith leaders and civic leaders, to actively support these principles, whether they're in Europe, the United States, China, India or South Africa. For I believe reaching out and articulating not only our values but also our vision of the future holds the key to securing progress not simply on health and education, which, of course, will remain a strong focus, but on some of the most immediate challenges we face in seeking to reduce global poverty -- increasing growth, dealing with climate change, tackling conflict and creating an effective international system.

Let me take each of those four in turn. Firstly, increasing growth. Just as employment is the surest path out of personal poverty, so economic growth is the surest path out of poverty for nations and regions. East Asia lifted 500 million people out of poverty since the 1980s while its income doubled and its trade trebled. But simultaneously, in Sub-Saharan Africa poverty increased as the region saw its share of world trade shrink to just 0.5 percent. So trade is crucial to growth and improving the income of the poor. Indeed, no country has reduced poverty in the last 30 years without also increasing trade.

That's why Gordon Brown, as prime minister, has asked me to chair the Cabinet Committee on trade policy and work to align our policies on aid, debt reduction and trade, for he understands that there are two goals that must be pursued simultaneously: a more level global playing field, and, critically, the capacity to trade.

Delivering the promise of the Doha Round remains for us a priority. The difficulties are real, but so too are the potential gains. And while the international rules are vital, so too is that national capacity. If you look at a map of Africa today, you will see that the roads and rail connect resource-rich areas to the coast, rather than joining up the most populous areas, a product of the continent's colonial history. So it is no surprise that the cost of moving a container between Accra and Lagos is three times the cost of moving it to Europe, and that transport costs in Africa are twice that of Asia.

And developing countries can and must also improve their readiness for business by also tackling unnecessary bureaucracy. It takes 153 days to start a business in Maputo, but 3 days in Toronto. What message does that send to investors looking at global opportunities?

But even if we get such improvements at country level, and an international trade deal that benefits developing countries, the economic growth and poverty reduction that it brings could be taken away by the consequences of climate change. Climate change is the greatest long-term threat we face. And as Nick Stern's seminal report on the economics of climate change made clear, the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of taking appropriate and timely action.

So globally, we must move towards a post-Kyoto framework based on an understanding in the United Nation's Climate Change Convention that we share common, but differentiated responsibilities. Fundamentally, we require a global cap, with a target of reducing emissions. In order to be meaningful that will have to be translated into national targets as well. The rich world needs to be at the forefront with other major emitters playing their part as well.

Again, as Nicholas Stern argues, within a global framework carbon trading has a fundamental role to play as a cost-effective mechanism to deliver emissions reductions. It also serves to create a carbon market. Today's carbon market is worth some $9 billion, but could grow to between $50 billion and $100 billion. Indeed, used appropriately, this can deliver investment in low-carbon economic growth.

Now, alongside this, the whole international development system, in particular the international financial institutions, need to ratchet up support for developing countries wanting to pursue a low carbon path to economic development. Gordon Brown announced back in March that Britain would create a new 800 million pounds Environmental Transformation Fund.

And today I discussed with Bob Zoellick, the new president of the World Bank, how we can take forward this work not least because the true irony of climate change is that the countries least responsible for it will be worst affected. Greater variations of rainfall combined with rising sea levels will lead to more extreme weather, particularly in parts of Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. But if climate change has the potential to sweep away development gains made in poor countries, that destructive power is matched by the effects of conflict.

Today the United Kingdom stands together with the United States in confronting international terrorism and confronting violent insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. But right around the globe, conflict and security challenges threaten development. By 2010, half of the world's poorest people will be in countries at risk or recovering from conflict. Civil war costs on average $54 billion to a country's economy and means an average 20 years in lost development.

International development therefore has a role in reducing violent conflict, firstly by investing more to prevent it. Research shows that $2 spent on conflict prevention means saving on average $8 that the international community will have to spend later on dealing with a conflict. We must also make our response to armed conflict more effective, and provide more practical and political support to peace processes, as we have done in Burundi and the in DRC, where we and others, including the U.N. through MONUC, support extraordinary elections that have led, so far, to a peaceful outcome and the best chance the DRC has had for two generations to build something better.

Right now, the international community faces a test of its willingness to resolve conflict and protect the lives of millions. The U.N. has described the situation in Darfur as the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world. Over two million people are displaced. As many as 4 million, two thirds of the population, are dependent on international aid for food and basic needs. We, the United Nations and the international community, have to act. If the concept of our responsibility to protect is to mean anything, it must mean something in Darfur.

Yet international action on the kind of challenges I have described, of course, requires effective international institutions. The international system we have today was created largely to operate in a world as it was in the second half of the 20th century, not the first half of the 21st. So in the face of new challenges we must renew our international institutions.

The U.N.'s legitimacy as a global actor is unparalleled. But over time, fragmentation, duplication and excessive competition for resources within the United Nations have reduced the impact of its development work. That is why the report of the U.N. High Level Panel on System Wide Coherence is so important and why we are so keen to see its recommendations implemented.

To take just one example, the U.N. has 23 agencies working on water and has had to create a whole new body -- U.N. Water -- simply to coordinate them. Everyone is partly responsible, so no one is fully responsible. There should be a unified U.N. presence in countries, based around a single program, with one leader, one office and one budget.

The World Bank plays a vital role in providing development assistance to poor countries and, of course, in gathering knowledge about development. Its relationship with developing countries should be one of partnership not patronage. That will require more dialogue in country and devolved decision making within the bank, and better representation for developing countries on the bank's board. The bank also needs to ensure its analysis and advice is fully informed by the emerging thinking on issues such as climate change.

Now, for more than 50 years institutions like the World Bank, the IMF, and indeed the United Nations have reflected the determination of a previous generation of visionary statesmen to secure the peace and build anew out the ruins of war.

As I have sought to suggest in my remarks this evening, these early years of this young century present new challenges to a new generation. So I end where I began, by recognizing the urgency of addressing the needs of the world's poor. Given the inter-related challenges we face, it is not only morally right but a politically imperative for we can't say our generation doesn't have the financial resources to eradicate global poverty. We can't say our generation doesn't have the technological capability or the scientific know-how to end needless suffering, and we can't say our generation does not have reason to do it. It is, quite simply, up to us. It is our shared responsibility. It is our shared opportunity. And working together, I believe it can be our shared achievement.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

SPERLING: Thank you very much. We do have time for questions. Doug also said to me before -- I was telling him that the moderator usually says, "Please, only ask questions; no comments." He responded, "I've only been in office two weeks. I can take some comments." (Laughter.) So -- and seriously, I do believe that, as he expressed to me, he is interested in hearing not only questions but some thoughts and advice on what people in this room, in this country are thinking.

While we are -- people are pondering their question, let me ask you one because it's an interesting governance issue for many of us. As I look out this room, many people have been in various branches of the government. We have various people at USAID now and in other departments. One thing that probably has never been done quite as well in the U.S., but you seem to be broaching on, is the coordination of trade and development. From a governance perspective, you've been the minister of trade. You're now describing -- and maybe you can help explain this -- that you would be -- that you would now be chairing a broader intergovernmental task force that would deal with trade. Can you explain how it would actually function, this effort to coordinate the trade and development, both from a governance perspective and what the policies would be like? And if you feel in answering it further in terms of the climate change, et cetera, I think this issue from kind of a governance perspective of integrating trade into some of the issues -- climate change, trade -- is one that probably is an area where there could be more thought in the U.S., and I think we'd be interested in hearing what the prime minister is thinking in making these kind of changes.

ALEXANDER: Sure. Let me start with Gene's question. When Gordon accepted the leadership of the Labor Party, he talked about an enhanced role for the work of the Department for International Development, and set me one of my earliest challenges, which was to ensure that we aligned our thinking and our policy work in terms of not simply the traditional instruments associated with the Department for International Development, aid flows and debt reduction, but also the broader issue of trade. And I think that reflects the fact that Gordon cares passionately about poverty reduction, and partly because of his length of service as one of the leading finance ministers in the G-8, recognizes how critical the trade component is to the kind of agenda for economic growth that I sought to reflect in my remarks.

So in that sense, we have a Cabinet system of government within the United Kingdom; we work on a system of Cabinet committees. And I will chair the Cabinet committee that deals with international trade policy. I'll be working very closely with John Hutton, my ministry colleague in the new Business Ministry. And that's the department of which predecessor I worked as the minister for trade. So we will make sure that the voice of British business, of course, informs the conversations that we have. But we also have to work closely to ensure that we deal with Peter Mandelson, who's, of course, the trade commissioner in the European Union, because competence for trade policy within the European Union reflects the basic insight that if we are sitting down as part of the WTO and as part of broader negotiations, then being able to find a collective voice for the 27 members of the European Union does give influence and reach for those voices within the trade negotiations.

So it's an exciting opportunity. I think it reflects the enduring commitment that Gordon has not simply to poverty reduction, but in particular to the role that economic growth can play in poverty reduction. And I think it is an exciting opportunity for the government.

SPERLING: I'm sorry, that was a -- you know, on both sides, one has to show a certain amount of deference to the press.

QUESTIONER: That's always nice to hear!

SPERLING: Would you identify yourself, Mr. Baldwin, to the crowd there?

QUESTIONER: My name is Tom Baldwin. I'm from the Times of London. Your speech didn't mention President Bush once. (Laughter.) How far was your speech, nonetheless, aimed at him, and I think in particular the sections about multilateralism and unilateralism, and the need for a rules-based international system, and directed to the man or woman who may follow him in the White House?

ALEXANDER: Let me say first of all, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already spoken directly with President Bush. You would expect that, given the strength and historic partnership between our two nations. And I would regard it as being essential in terms of Britain's strategic relationships that there continues to be a strong and effective dialogue between the United Kingdom and the United States. We've worked together on many issues for many years.

I suppose the basic insight of the speech was that we must, along with other nations, continue to work on the shared challenges that we face, because if you look at issues ranging from global poverty reduction, the focus of my remarks this evening, or the security threats and the challenge of terrorism, or indeed climate change, I would argue that all of those challenges demand that we work effectively together to find shared solutions to shared problems. So in that sense, I look forward to continuing to work with both the American administration and with many other countries around the world to see if we can progress the agenda I set out this evening.


Q My name's Hattie Babbitt. And my question comes from my past life in the last half of the '90s of being the deputy at USAID and having the Clean Development Mechanism portfolio. So it's a climate change question.

Who in this government -- your government -- is going to be responsible for these sets of issues? And here is my example. It seems to me that the Indians' voices have come together. What I now hear from various Indians on the issue of climate change is, "We believe it's real, we believe it's man-made, we believe it started with the Industrial Revolution. We believe that greenhouse gas concentrations are a function -- in the atmosphere are a function of the developed world's having put them there. We're eager to attack the problem. We think it's an urgent problem. And we'll do it as soon as you get the money -- give us the money."

And I wonder who in your government is going to deal with that sort of set of issues. Is that you, or you and who?

ALEXANDER: Okay, firstly on the personnel, and then on the challenge. Hilary Benn, who was, of course, my predecessor in the Department for International Development, has now moved over to our Environment Department, and I welcome and celebrate that fact in the sense that he had many of the insights that I'm coming new to in the last couple of weeks long before he's now assumed lead responsibility on the environment.

His predecessor in the environment brief was David Miliband. He's now become our foreign secretary. And I think few surveying the British scene over the last year would have failed to notice the prominence and centrality of concerns about climate change for David. So in that sense, we're in a very strong position where, not simply from a development perspective but also from a foreign policy perspective and, of course, from an environment policy perspective, I think there's a shared understanding as to the importance of this issue.

In terms of our engagement with other countries on this matter, there are multiple opportunities for ministers to engage on these issues. One of David's basic insights when he was at Environment, and indeed he repeated this in an interview that he gave to the Financial Times last week, was that climate change shouldn't be seen simply as a responsibility of environment ministers, it must be seen as a responsibility of development ministers, of finance ministers, of foreign ministers. And in that sense, I share that view that we need to engage in a dialogue right across government.

In my previous role as Transport secretary, about a month ago I traveled to Beijing and engaged in dialogue with my counterparts in the Chinese government on exactly these issues, because of course transport, as one of the sectors which certainly in the United Kingdom has had indicators going in the opposite direction for many other sectors of the economy, has responsibilities as well.

In terms of how do we move forward that process, as I said, we (are keen ?) to see progress towards ultimately a global cap-and-trade system. We see the next major step as being the meeting that will take place in Bali, and we're working hard in anticipation of that meeting to discuss these issues both with developing countries and developed countries. But I think the basis on which those discussions will take place will be what I suggested in my speech, which is common but differentiated responsibility.

SPERLING: So that I'm not being too prejudiced against people in the back, I see Nancy Birdsall with her hand up there.

QUESTIONER: Thank you, Gene. It was a wonderful speech, and I think those of us in the development community here are really grateful for the energy and the independence and the leadership that's been coming from the U.K. on these issues.

I wanted to ask you a question about something that's quite near and dear to us in Washington, which is the leadership selection process at the World Bank and the IMF. We've just gone through a process in which, unfortunately, although I think we have a very good leader finally at the World Bank, the selection process did not emphasize multilateralism, representation of developing countries, openness, competition, merit-based approach at all. And now we're beginning a process, or maybe coming too close too quickly to the end of the process on selection of the new managing director at the IMF.

So the question is whether we can hope that in the context of the U.K.'s position in Europe and in Europe itself, there will be some effort to ensure -- independent of the merits of the candidate that has already been nominated, that there be some strong effort to pick up on the reform movement that that has floundered, started or formalized -- or not formalized by the boards of the IMF and the World Bank many years ago, to develop a system that would be more open, transparent, merit-based and so on. Is there anything -- can you say anything about what the position of the U.K. will be in the grand sense and on this specific issue in the -- at the --

SPERLING: Yes, what you want to know --

QUESTIONER: -- in the grand sense, philosophically, and in the immediate sense, what are you going to do, if anything?

SPERLING: Well, you know, two hours after you've just met with President Zoellick, would you like to -- (laughter) -- would you like to slam the process that chose him? (Laughter.) No, I -- (chuckles) --

Nancy is head of the Center for Global Development, which is one of the leading think tanks here, and really engaged in quite a -- actually, using the Internet, a kind of quite interactive process on this. So this is something that they've really taken a leadership role in thinking about.

ALEXANDER: Thanks. Thanks, Gene, for forewarning me as to the elephant trap that was being presented to me.

SPERLING: (Chuckles.)

ALEXANDER: In all seriousness, let's take each of the institutions in turn.

I have just come from a meeting with Bob Zoellick, and I found it a hugely encouraging meeting, in the sense that I think there is a individual made of real stature and real ability who certainly has a job of work to do, but is one where he will have our support, as a major shareholder in the Bank, in terms of taking forward work within that institution.

And as I sought to reflect in my remarks, we've got some sense as to some of the changes that we would like to see evolving through the Bank in the future. But obviously, just like I am, he's finding his way in the first couple of weeks on the job, and I expect that in the months between now and the annual meetings, he will be setting out his thinking about the medium- and longer-term strategy of the Bank.

The IMF is structurally rather different in the United Kingdom, in the sense that I don't have ministerial responsibility for the IMF. That lead ministerial responsibility lies with the chancellor, who is no longer Gordon Brown, we're all getting used to saying, but is Alistair Darling. And in that sense, Alistair's made clear -- and I wouldn't resile from anything he said -- that we support a(n) open and merit-based approach to appointments in the IMF. And in terms of where the discussions have reached, my understanding, although I was on a plane for a few hours and have been meeting Bob Zoellick, was that these discussions continue within the European Union. And in that sense, we'll see where those discussions lead.

SPERLING: It is 6:50, so I'm going to do the following. I'm going ask for three or four comments in a row, and then I'll let you wrap up.


SPERLING: So, Vivian, I saw your hand somewhere, right there.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Vivian Lowery Derryck, the Academy for Educational Development. And thank you, really, for lifting our spirits in terms of a view towards development.

You talked about the urgency and the moral imperative of poverty reduction. For many of us who work on Africa, the Blair commission, or the commission on Africa, was a remarkable contribution to that because it had the -- it was a noble idea, and it mobilized resources, and it built a constituency, and it made sure that the G-8 looked at Africa literally every year.

So my question is, do you plan to expand on that idea, perhaps linking trade and poverty reduction, or talking about the interconnectedness of the various issues that you mentioned? Thank you.

SPERLING: You know, the one thing from sitting here, when you're 5-foot-5-1/2, is my perspective on the room is not as great.

ALEXANDER: (But an average ?), Gene. (Laughter.)

SPERLING: (Chuckles.)


QUESTIONER: Ewen MacAskill from the Guardian. You mentioned HIV/AIDS and the need for safe sexual practices. You said that in a capital where -- it's laudable that President Bush gives so much money for AIDS programs in Africa, but that program is completely chaotic and indefensible, various agencies doing different things, and one of the worst is the failure to -- the opposition to the use of condoms, which is probably doing as much damage as it does any good to the rest of the program.

SPERLING: And fortunately for you, I've given you a minute or two to think about it as we take -- I will take two more. In the way back there, and then I'll let Desmond Bermingham, a DFID veteran, close up.

QUESTIONER: Fred Tipson from Microsoft. Do you think it's possible to really address global poverty without a significant change in U.S. policies on agriculture and energy?

QUESTIONER: Thanks, Gene. Yes, I'm Desmond Bermingham, formerly with DFID, but now the head of the Education For All Fast Track Initiative based here in Washington. Gene started in his opening remarks praising the U.K. and the Netherlands for their leadership on education over the past two years. I was wondering whether, Douglas, you'd like to say a bit about how you see education contributing to those bigger agenda items that you've raised this evening, firstly.

And secondly, the U.K. and the Netherlands have led the way, but what would you like to see the other donor countries, in particular the G-8, doing to help deliver decent quality education to every child?

SPERLING: All right, we've given you four.

ALEXANDER: Okay, let's take the last one first.

When Gordon had said to the leadership of the party and then spoken with folks of Downing Street and was asked, what's your government going to be about, he said his immediate priority was the National Health Service in the U.K., but he said my passion is education. And in that sense, I think one of the most exciting features of Gordon's leadership, both as chancellor and now potentially as prime minister, is his passion for education isn't limited by national borders. And in that sense, my sense is the visits that he's made to Africa and elsewhere have profoundly shaped his thinking about the importance of what is a great liberating force, and in that sense, I am genuinely respectful of the work that Gene and colleagues have done in terms of building a consensus around the fast track process that's in place.

In terms of what work we need to do, I think we need to continue to work, all of us, to fill gaps in programs which on the ground can make a very material and real difference to the lives and opportunities of kids. And it is, of course, not only answer, but it's an absolute essential answer to the kind of sustainability of economic progress that we want to see not just in Africa, but more broadly across the developing word. So in that sense, I think Gordon -- all the indications suggest from his public remarks and his private conversations that education will continue to be a passion and a focus for his work.

Let me deal with Ewen's question next. Ewen, it's good to see you. We seem to get everywhere. (Laughter.)

HIV and AIDS. I mean in the course of my very brief visit to Washington today I've spoken with the head of USAID, the Millennium Challenge fund and PEPFAR. That speaks to my respect for the scale of resource the Americans put into some of these particular challenges -- and you mentioned very significant sums have been flowing in in recent years -- but also a recognition that, like other countries, we all need to work to ensure that there is alignment of the resource that is being supplied to maximum effect. And in that sense, I would simply say that I've had constructive and useful dialogues, which I expect to continue in the months ahead.

Vivian, on your point, in terms of your kind remarks in terms of the Africa Commission, I'm really proud of the Africa Commission, too, partly because when we had the opportunity with the G-8 coming to my part of the world, in Scotland at Gleneagles, I took real pride in the fact that the judgment was made that the two issues were going to be international development, principally, with a focus on Africa and climate change. And as the months passed since Gleneagles, notwithstanding the real challenges that we continue to face in terms of people meeting their obligations and their commitments, I think that judgment to make climate change in Africa the priority seems ever more prescient. And it will be one of the legacies of Prime Minister Blair to put it very essentially at the top of the international agenda.

In terms of where we are, of course the MDG report last week emphasized the scale of the challenge for the continent of Africa in particular, and there is a growing recognition of some very particular challenges that that continent faces in terms of liberating itself from poverty and moving towards broader development.

But in terms of your point on trade policy, I would simply emphasize what I said in the speech, which is I do believe the best prospect of the kind of development we want to see in Africa, but more broadly across the developing world, lies in continuing -- notwithstanding disappointments and frustrations with seeking success in the Doha Round, and in that sense, be very clear that we are in the business of seeking to try and make progress in the Doha Round, and indeed that was reflected in the conversations I had with Susan Schwab earlier today, who's the U.S. trade representative.

On the final question, in terms of agriculture and energy, listen, all countries face challenges in terms of agriculture and energy. One of the insights of Sir Nicholas Stern's report which I think is most revealing and significant is not simply what many people in the British public heard, which is that we face a planetary emergency, but also if we make rational policy choices, then actually we can find a way of having a sustainable path of both economic growth and environmental sustainability.

But that will have implications for all of us in an area such as energy policy. And in that sense, we are working closely with our colleagues in the European Union. And it will involve all of us across the international community reflecting on how we generate power, how we use power. And that's thinking which I'm heartened is taking place with increasing urgency within the European Union and I think will affect all of us in terms of policymaking in the years ahead.

SPERLING: Thank you. We have just about two minutes to go. And I just wanted to, if you'd like -- you told me -- you were talking to me about Darfur upstairs. And I'm trying to predict what some of the uncalled-on hands might be asking about, so just any words or in terms of your own plans or engagement in what you I think rightly called as the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world right now.

ALEXANDER: Sure, I mean, I'm conscious that this is an issue which is of very real concern, not just in councils but amongst many in the American public. And indeed newspapers in Britain on the day that I left were filled with adverts expressing concerns that people had in relation to the very grave situation in Darfur. That's why my intention within the next few days is to travel to Sudan and to Darfur. And I will be seeking to communicate clearly our expressed wish that there be continued progress and support of the comprehensive peace agreement. Because in terms of Darfur itself, it is a course related directly to broader challenges faced by the government of Sudan.

But I also think it's very important that the international community seeks to work effectively together, not simply on the ground to address the immediate humanitarian crisis where heroic efforts are being made by non-governmental organizations in very difficult and challenging circumstances, but also continues to work together to speak with one voice to say that we do need to see the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and to see real progress on what is, at the moment, an afflicted land.

SPERLING: Well, thank you very much. I -- you know, I want you to know, you know, we're very honored to be here. This audience -- I will give you a list of the people here, but from people like Joe Carney, who heads education at USAID, to David Goldwyn to -- I could go throughout this list -- are people who have -- either currently in the government or previously held high positions or are writing and engaged.

And I think the fact that we could put an invitation out on Friday and have this kind of a packed house here is, I think, both a reflection of the partnership and enthusiasm and hopes people hold for the Brown government but also a sign of, I think, the growing and sincere interest in the U.S. in development and in the connections that you're bringing in terms of trade and climate change. And so I'm -- you know, greatly appreciate those of you who have turned out on short notice at this time. And I greatly appreciate the fact that it is 2 a.m. your time right now and that you just flew in.

ALEXANDER: That was probably obvious in my answers. (Laughter.)

SPERLING: And we all appreciate that you made time on your first visit here to speak with us, so thank you very much.

ALEXANDER: Thank you. (Applause.)








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