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Q&A With Ed Cain: Development Cooperation Forum Tackles Growing Global Disparity

Q&A With Ed Cain: Development Cooperation Forum Tackles
Growing Global Disparity

On Dec. 7-9, 2005, the Carter Center's Global Development Initiative (GDI) convened an unprecedented group of global leaders, thinkers, and policy makers to tackle the ongoing issues surrounding the world's efforts to help those less fortunate.

GDI Director Ed Cain oversaw this Fourth Development Cooperation Forum and in this Q&A gives an insightful glimpse into its goals and accomplishments.

Why is it important to support development in the poorest nations?
President Carter has repeatedly warned that the greatest problem facing the world today is the growing chasm between the richest and poorest people on earth. The results of this growing disparity are the root causes of most of the world's unresolved problems. There is little debate among those who study these problems whether it be fighting disease – like Bird Flu, or stemming illegal immigration or avoiding conflict – that creating greater equity and reducing human suffering through development offers the answer to these problems.

What was different about the Global Development Initiative's Forum on "Achieving More Equitable Globalization" in trying to address these problems – hasn't there been enough talk?
There has been enough talk. There has been a decade of global conferences on what action needs to be taken to address various development needs in the area of health, education, and gender. This all culminated with a Millennium Declaration in 2000 followed by a major Development Financing Conference in Monterey Mexico in 2002 – the year we held our last Development Cooperation Forum. This year's meeting was timed to see whether the rhetoric over those years matched the reality of what was happening on the ground by hearing from developing country partners of The Carter Center' s Global Development Initiative.

Why this year?
We hold our forums (or fora) when we have important information and experiences to share on how development cooperation is working or not working based on the experiences we have had with our developing country partners in Albania, Guyana, Mali, and Mozambique. This year was ideal since, not only did it follow the drafting and unanimous parliamentary approval of a national development strategy process facilitated by GDI in Mozambique – known as Agenda 2025 - but it also coincided with a number of key global events that could either enhance or hinder the prospects of Mozambique being able to achieve that agenda. This is true not only in Mozambique, but also in GDI's other partner countries that have national strategies. The global events that I am referring to are the G-8 meeting in Scotland, the UN's fifth anniversary Millennium Summit, and the World Trade Organization Meeting in Hong Kong – all of which were meant to identify concrete actions needed to meaningfully advance development – particularly in Africa.

What did the 2005 Forum achieve?
First of all, we were able to assemble an extraordinary group of country partners from civil society, the private sector, and government- including the Presidents of Mali and Mozambique - and give them the opportunity to interact informally with prominent development leaders and senior officials from the IMF, World Bank, and donor governments. This interaction led to a very candid exchange on the obstacles these countries continue to face in order to be able to more effectively address poverty and have a viable chance at becoming a contributor to and beneficiary of the so called "globalization process." This is a process where the rules of the game are heavily in favor of benefiting wealthy countries, often to the detriment of the poor. Our meeting sought to identify ways to change that dynamic.

What were the specific concerns of the developing countries?
Most fundamentally, they complained of not being able to identify the policies they felt would lead to the kind of transformative growth they needed in order to become a player in the globalization process and, by so doing, address poverty in a meaningful and sustainable way. Both Presidents spoke passionately on this point. At the same time, it was recognized that the necessary institutions were absent to allow them to articulate and argue those policies with the international community. They also lack the institutions to implement the kind of home-grown policies they seek to follow - institutions which will uphold the rule of law and create conditions where civil servants and the private sector can function effectively.

What action can be taken to rectify these problems?
The most fundamental need is leadership both in developing countries and in the developed world. We witnessed that leadership among our partner country participants at the forum. They know what they need to do in order to meet their obligations in establishing a trustful development cooperation relationship. Bold leadership from the developed countries and the international financial institution is still needed. It is acknowledged that development doesn't work unless it is country owned, and by that I mean, countries must believe in the policies they are implementing. While it is recognized that capacities need to be built to identify and implement such home grown policies, there are too few resources being made available by donors to meet these needs. Furthermore, it was felt that while investment is needed in strengthening the systems and structures of governance that create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs and the private sector, this will take time. Meanwhile, there is tremendous suffering taking place which needs immediate attention – HIV-AIDS, malaria, and a whole range of preventable diseases. Serious resources need to be funneled to community-based programs to address these needs while we work to establish the conditions which will allow the developing world to become part of the global economy and reverse the growing disparity problem. Our forum report will identify key actions to be taken in order for this to happen.

Carter Center Photos: Deborah Hakes

Ed Cain, director of the Carter Center's Global Development Initiative, addresses the 2005 Development Cooperation Forum held Dec. 7-9 in Atlanta.

Global partners from civil society, the private sector, and government discuss the growing global gap between rich and poor nations.

The Fourth Development Cooperation Forum drew participants from around the world, including Jennifer Westford (above), minister of public service in Guyana; and Sékouba Diarra (below), technical advisor of Mali's ministry of economy and finance . Three current presidents were also in attendance, along with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

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