Restoring America's Moral Leadership By Fighting Worldwide Poverty
"John Edwards... followed [up on his health care plan] yesterday with an excellent speech on poverty at home and abroad, with some good and specific ideas."
The New York Times
John Edwards believes that the United States must be a global leader in the fight against poverty. Solving global poverty is a moral imperative, but it is also a security issue. Global poverty increases the risk to America by providing a safe harbor for instability, extremism, and terrorism. Edwards' strategy against global poverty will require every weapon in our national security arsenal. For the last six years, too many burdens have been placed on the Department of Defensenot because it has asked for this mission or is the best suited to handle these challenges, but because it has been the most capable and well-funded national security institution.
As president, John Edwards will fundamentally transform America's approach to the world. As part of his $5 billion initiative, he will bring high-level attention to help people in three priority areas: primary education, preventive health, and greater economic and political opportunity.
Enrolling Every Child in School:
Education is critical to bringing countries out of poverty, but more than 100 million young children are not in school. In addition to an education, school offers a safe environment and a place for immunizations, fresh water, and an adequate diet. The benefits of education are particularly strong for girls: with education, they marry later, have fewer and healthier children, and are better paid in the workplace. However, many children are denied the opportunity to go to school because their families cannot afford the fees, their communities are too poor to have a school, or they must work. [DATA, 2006; UNICEF, 2007]
Edwards Will Lead the World toward a Primary Education for Every Child:
Edwards will endorse the goal of universal basic education by 2015 and commit $3 billion a year to this causeenough to enroll 23 million childrenand encourage our allies to provide the remaining $7 billion needed. Edwards will invest in effective public education where available and community-based schools in other areas. Countries and schools receiving aid will be required to eliminate fees for attendance, books, and uniforms that bar millions of students from enrolling. Resources will also be used for teacher education, classroom construction, and teaching materials.
Investing in Preventative Medicine:
Millions of people suffer and die from easily preventable diseases. A $5 dollar mosquito net could save a family from malaria, a $4 dose of medicine can help prevent a mother from transmitting AIDS to her newborn at childbirth, and a few cents could vaccinate a child. In the poorest countries, 530,000 women giving birth die each year. More than 10 million children die each year before their fifth birthday from preventable diseases, many of whichlike diarrheaare preventable with clean water and basic sanitation. [Unicef, 2005; U.N. Millennium Project, 2005]
As president, Edwards will:
* Fight the Three "Killer Diseases." Developing countries suffer from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. An early leader on these programs, Edwards will build on current initiatives such as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the President's Malaria Initiative, and U.S. bilateral tuberculosis programs also create a new public-private program with major pharmaceutical companies and other industry groups to reverse the spread of the three deadly diseases and provide universal access to preventive and treatment drugs by 2015.
* Invest in Clean Water: The World Health Organization has found that every $1 invested in clean water yields an economic return of $8. Edwards will double the U.S. investment in clean water. He will also convene an international summit of government, businesses, and non-profits to agree on necessary investments to make water safe worldwide by 2015. [WHO, 2006]
* Invest in Immunizations and Preventative Medicine: Edwards will invest in preventative health care in poor countries, beginning with increased vaccinations and the provision of sterile equipment and basic medications. UNICEF has found that fully immunizing a child against the top six childhood killer diseasesmeasles, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, tuberculosis and tetanuscosts just $17 and can save the lives of some 2.5 million children each year. [UNICEF, 2007]
* Rescind the Global Gag Rule: In 2001, President Bush signed an executive order barring U.S. family planning aid to foreign non-profits that offer abortions other than for a threat to a woman's life or in the case of incest, provide abortion counseling or referral, or lobby to make abortion legal. This "gag rule" stifles free speech and forces non-profits to choose between vital U.S. funds and providing essential health services. Edwards will overturn this order.
Creating Economic and Political Opportunity:
Political and organizing rights enable poor citizens to force their countries to create progressive laws, reduce oppression, and increase economic stability. The right to own propertybarred for many citizens in some developing countriesreduces poverty and increases stability.
As president, Edwards will:
* Invest in Microenterprise: Successful microfinance programs making loans averaging less than $200 spark entrepreneurship while drawing a 98 percent repayment rate. Microinsurance can provide an inexpensive and effective way for poor families to avoid bankruptcy from death, illness, and funeral expenses. Edwards will increase resources for non-profits running these programs five-fold. [Opportunity International, 2007]
* Strengthen Democracies: Edwards will expand support for the National Endowment for Democracy to strengthen political parties, train political candidates, educate voters, and monitor elections. The resources will help countries with a history of political violence or extremist or terrorist activity.
* Promote Labor and Property Rights: Edwards will property law reform in the Millennium Challenge Account, encouraging nations to give their citizens the right to invest in property.
Creating a Cabinet-Level Post on Global Poverty:
Despite its importance to our national security, the United States still lacks a comprehensive strategy to fight global poverty. Our foreign aid programs are fractured and uncoordinated, delivered by over 50 separate government offices. As a result, bureaucrats fight over overlapping jurisdictions while resources are not tied to any government-wide priorities.
As president, Edwards will:
* Appoint a Senior Advisor Responsible for Global Poverty: The new Cabinet-level position within the White House will coordinate global development policies across the federal government. The adviser will have the authority to coordinate budgets among the relevant programs at the U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. and other relevant agencies. During Cabinet meetings in the Edwards Administration, the official will be a voice for the fight against global poverty.
* Reform the Governing Statute and Congressional Oversight: Edwards will also replace the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 with a new Global Development Act to modernize, consolidate, and simplify foreign aid and call on Congress to revamp its committee structure to create clearer and more effective lines of authority.