Oxfam America Reaction to State of the Union Address

Jan 27, 2010, 23:01 ET from Oxfam America

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- After President Obama's State of the Union Address tonight, Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America, made the following statement:

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"In the face of tremendous economic challenges, we welcome President Obama's recognition that leadership on the world stage advances the common security and prosperity of all people.

"President Obama understands the importance of development and that it can only be achieved with a whole government approach that ensures our policies are supported and reinforced across federal agencies.  He is turning words into action in places like Haiti, by elevating development as one of the three pillars of US foreign policy, along with defense and diplomacy.  

"And while our immediate concern in Haiti is saving lives, we must also work with the people of Haiti to help the country's long-term development needs. Decisions made today will shape Haiti's future for decades to come.

"The increased attention to Haiti has exposed a history of inadequate and contradictory development assistance policies. Responding to the crisis in Haiti should be the catalyst for the key reforms needed to increase the effectiveness of the US foreign aid system in reducing poverty. The Administration is moving in right direction but greater commitment is needed to aid and development policy reform.

"More than a billion people go hungry every day, a human tragedy further exacerbated by faltering investments in agricultural production and outdated trade policies. Demands for greater access to export markets in the developing world could lead to greater poverty and inequality by undermining developing country farmers. US trade policy can and should do much better, and we look forward to working with the Administration to restart the WTO talks and get the Doha Development Agenda back on track.

"Hunger and poverty around the world is also made worse by the growing impacts of climate change. President Obama's commitment to tackling the energy and climate challenge, which he reiterated tonight, was demonstrated in his efforts to hammer out an agreement with world leaders on climate action last month, including critical financial commitments from the US and other countries to help vulnerable developing countries adapt to climate change.

"Now is the time to act boldly and wisely to deliver on those commitments, which will only reap substantial benefits to the US by promoting global stability and security and protecting our investments in development around the world. And taking action on climate change will not only revive our economy, but also help build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.

"As more troops are deployed in Afghanistan, conflict is expected to increase in and around local villages. This means everything must be done to protect civilians caught up in the middle of the conflict. And as the Afghan people are trying to pull themselves out of poverty and conflict, a greater emphasis on the importance of development must be made as part of the President's Afghanistan strategy. There is no purely military solution to Afghanistan and fighting poverty in a country where half of Afghans are impoverished is also vital. The well being of ordinary Afghans will be undermined if aid is based on military objectives, rather than Afghans' needs.

"From his actions over the last year and punctuated by tonight's speech, President Obama has embarked our country in a new era of engagement and partnership with the world. At a time of financial insecurity, Americans are understandably concerned about their own economic well-being, but we must remember that addressing the needs of the most vulnerable populations around the world is both the right thing to do, and the best road to take to create a more just, prosperous, and secure world for all."

Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice. www.oxfamamerica.org

SOURCE Oxfam America