No bold pledge resembling 2013’s to end extreme poverty in two decades: U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night didn’t serve up much on international development cooperation.
On the contrary, Obama spoke of combining “military power with strong diplomacy” — no mention of foreign aid — and asked Congress to authorize the use of force against the Islamic State group.
In a speech largely focused on the economic recovery and other domestic issues, Obama called climate change the greatest threat to future generations and urged world leaders to finalize a climate deal in Paris this December. He called for a “free and open Internet,” promised to “finish the job” of closing the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and suggested U.S. values to “defend free speech and advocate for political prisoners and condemn the persecution of women or religious minorities or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender” make the country safer.
The series of steps he’s outlined to resume relations with Cuba amounted to diplomacy in “small steps,” Obama said, citing Pope Francis.
“These steps have added up to new hope for the future of Cuba. And after years in prison, we’re overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs. Welcome home, Alan,” the president said as Gross shook his fists in the air.
Gross was released in mid-December after having served five years of 15 in a Cuban prison for smuggling communications equipment meant for “democracy promotion” into the country — charges Gross has denied — while working as a DAI consultant on a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Obama praised “our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and health care workers” who are working on rolling back Ebola in West Africa.
“I couldn’t be prouder of them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts,” he said, adding: “But the job is not yet done — and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development and eradicate extreme poverty.”
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