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Tom Arnold was previously Assistant Secretary General with the Irish Department of Agriculture and Food and was Senior Economist with ACOT, the Farm Advisory Service.At an earlier stage of his[…]

The CEO sets Obama’s development priorities.

Question: What should be the administration’s development priorities?

Arnold:    I think one of the first things is that trying to make sure that development is part of that agenda, because it’s a very crowded agenda already.   I mean, we’re facing a global financial crisis and the global economic crisis in its wake.  We’re facing, you know, I think major issues around climate change, and obviously, then, there’s the various very intractable political problems.  I mean, even places like, apart from the Middle East, which has been there all the time, areas like the India-Pakistan conflict, not conflict yet, but, I mean, the India-Pakistan situation, which is very difficult.  So I think there is a challenge to make sure that the US focus on development issues is there as an important part of the new administration’s agenda.  Now, I know that there’s a lot of very, I think, enlightened thinking has been going on within the US development community to take a really fresh look at how American efforts might be managed, resourced to best effect.  The current US approach towards development is actually founded on the 1961 foreign assistance act.  There’s been some very creative thinking going on about how that, a whole new look at that, a whole new legislative basis might be provided for that American assistance, and with that might come a look at the institutional underpinning of how the US goes about supporting its development assistance.  So, there’s some of the challenges, I think, and hopefully that it would be consistent, I think, with what President-elect Obama has said, that he sees US development assistance as an important part of foreign policy, that he sees greater level of American engagement in a multi-lateral way as an important part of how US policy proceeds from here.  And, in all of this, if you like, I would say the soft power that the development agenda can bring as a contributor to American foreign policy needs to be realized, needs to be acted upon and I hope it can be very, it can be effective.  I would say, you know, about the outgoing administration, I mean, they’ve had a bad press, it’s no secret, in much of the rest of the world, but yet President Bush has, in some of, a number of the areas within the development area made some very positive things.  I mean, the emphasis on HIV/AIDS that he gave, the whole area of focus on Africa and the increase in aid towards that.  So, there is, even though the bad press was there at many other levels, there is an area, a platform, a foundation of solid achievement there which I think the incoming administration can build upon.