- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) — The Brookings Institution will launch a new initiative aimed at reducing global poverty, with a $2 million grant from Richard C. Blum, chairman of San Francisco-based Blum Capital Partners L.P.

"Dick Blum's … support will enable our scholars to accelerate and focus their research in a crucial area of public policy," said Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott.

The directors of all three Brookings research programs — Economic Studies, Foreign Policy Studies and Governance Studies — will participate in the Global Poverty Reduction initiative, which will also involve several Brookings experts in economic development and the reduction of poverty in developing countries.

The project will be led by Carol Graham, vice president and director of Governance Studies and co-director of Brookings's Center on Social and Economic Dynamics.

Graham said that the Bush administration's recent commitment to increase U.S. foreign aid by $10 billion over the next three years through the Millennium Challenge Account will open up public debate on America's foreign assistance policy for the first time in decades.

"It will allow for a rethinking of fundamental issues related to global poverty reduction," said Graham.

"The Millennium Challenge Account has the potential to transform the way America engages developing nations on poverty and development. But the current proposal raises as many questions as it answers," said Brookings Senior Fellow Lael Brainard, who holds the New Century Chair in Economic Studies and Foreign Policy Studies at the think tank. "The Global Poverty Reduction initiative will enable Brookings scholars to bring fresh analysis and research to bear on these questions, which are central to the globalization debate."

With the Millennium Challenge Account, or MCA, as an immediate opportunity to address some of the crucial needs of the developing world, the new Brookings initiative will examine several issues related to foreign assistance, including:

— How can the increased funding for the MCA account — which will be managed by a new Millennium Challenge Corporation reporting to the Cabinet — be used as an opportunity to expand and improve U.S. foreign assistance efforts, as well as increase their coordination with those of the multilateral institutions?

— How can public and congressional support for U.S. foreign aid be generated and sustained when the country is faced with increasing budget constraints at home?

— How can multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank better respond to complex problems in developing economies — such as those related to governance failures and to contagion in financial markets? How can these institutions support the increasing contributions of actors such as civil society and information technology?

— How can trade and investment be harnessed to foster stable growth and poverty reduction, as well as provide better safety nets to mitigate the effects of periodic downturns on the poor? What are the means for encouraging developed nations to lower their trade barriers and reduce subsidies to domestic enterprises over the long term?

— How can education investments reach the poor? How can the plight of girls, who have unequal access to education in many countries, be addressed? To what extent is public frustration and extremist political behavior a result of inadequate education systems and related lack of employment opportunities?

— How can the Peace Corps and similar volunteer programs become a greater force for development? Could more countries participate as both recipients and/or providers of volunteers?

Brookings says the Global Poverty Reduction initiative will explore these and other questions in a way that informs and helps frame the public and congressional debates. The first phase of the project will focus on the immediate questions posed by the new MCA account, and will be directed by Lael Brainard. This effort will involve close collaboration with Steve Radelet and other experts at the Washington-based Brookings Center for Global Development, which is directed by Nancy Birdsall.

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