By John Hamre and Rhonda Zygocki, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: John J. Hamre is president and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Rhonda I. Zygocki is executive vice president of policy and planning at Chevron Corporation. The authors were members of the CSIS study’s Executive Council on Development. The views expressed are the writers’ own.
The world’s population is expected to grow to 9 billion in the next forty years, which will inevitably increase demand for food, water, land, energy and jobs. Such challenges will be closely connected to the United States’ economic and national security. Yet improving capacity to meet basic human needs will require more than just public assistance.
Now, more than ever, it is critical that America engages in trade, investment and development assistance. But while much of the nation’s engagement in these areas has until now been facilitated by the U.S. government, the current budget environment means that some of the best new opportunities lie in catalyzing the strength and drive of the private sector.
U.S. businesses, in particular, are ambassadors of American values and are more engaged in the economies where they operate, especially in the rapidly growing markets of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. By putting those values into action, the private sector can serve as the leading edge of American influence by promoting entrepreneurism; empowering communities; and demonstrating all the advantages of contracts, competition, transparency and fair dealing in the marketplace. Capitalizing on these opportunities will not only improve the lives of those in the developing world, but also improve America’s economic future and national security.
U.S. foreign assistance is and will continue to be an important arm of our diplomacy. However, we need to use it in new ways that highlight the importance of economic growth as the core principle of our overall development policy. We can do this by strategically and systematically deploying the considerable resources in our private sector – technology, capital and human resources – in combination with our government efforts around trade, investment and development.
In 1960, government funding accounted for 71 percent of financial flows to developing countries; today it is 9 percent. Private capital alone is now 50 percent of financing flowing into developing countries. By deepening our partnerships between the public and private sectors through early engagement and continual communication, creating more flexibility in our global development tools and policies, and using trade relations as bridges to long-term economic partnerships, we can work together to build a better, more secure future for both the United States and our allies in developing countries.
These opportunities will help American businesses grow, increase U.S. jobs and exports, and strengthen the global system of standards and openness. They will also create important avenues to work with governments in developing economies to build the social, physical, and institutional infrastructure that will continue to promote growth and engagement in developing economies. And, importantly, these opportunities can make significant contributions to the reduction of poverty and the improvement of people’s lives abroad. But to ensure such benefits are realized, the U.S. government and the private sector need to set a new course for public-private partnerships.
During her tenure, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recognized the unique attributes of the private sector, and, moreover, the importance of engaging them to restore America’s leadership in global development. “[Y]ou cannot have development in today’s world without partnering with the private sector, and that has been our mantra, and we are now creating examples,” she noted.
The opportunity has never been better for the U.S. government to utilize its relationships with the private sector to help build better, safer and healthier societies around the world. The question is whether it will take the initiative in trying to meet what is America’s key leadership challenge for the 21st century.