Lant Pritchett: Four High Points of Obama's MDG Speech

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the reception for the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Photo by: Pete Souza / White House

What did U.S. President Barack Obama get right about development in the speech he delivered during the closing plenary of a high-level U.N. gathering last week? Lant Pritchett of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government names four.

Obama outlined a new U.S. global development policy before world leaders at the recently concluded U.N. high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals in New York. Pritchett says the speech and Obama’s development policy is a “big winner on four big ideas.”

>> Obama Unveils Development Policy at UN MDG Meet

Pritchett outlines these four points in a blog on “Aid Watch,” where he observes that:

- Both speech and policy places economic growth at the center of the U.S.’s development policy and development objective. - Obama’s speech “came down hard and right” on the debate between programmatic action and improving systematic capability by identifying capacity building as a central part of development. The MDGs are correctly interpreted as “what will be accomplished when there has been development - not vice versa.”- The speech rightly puts emphasis on innovation. It also correctly identifies rigorous evaluation as key to creating a good environment for innovation. - Obama is right not to mention any dollar figures, which prevented his message from becoming the popular but not necessarily effective call for “let’s do more” but, rather, “let’s do better at what we are doing.” It is a tougher sell internally but one that is useful, especially to those actually working on the ground.

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.