This week I hosted a meeting at CFR with Anne-Marie Slaughter, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton and director of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State from 2009 until earlier this year. The meeting was part of our Women and Development Series sponsored by ExxonMobil. Afterward we sat down for a video interview:
One of the main topics of our conversation was the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR, a review of the civilian U.S. foreign policy apparatus undertaken for the first time last year (and of which Professor Slaughter was a central architect). As she put it in the video, “its overall focus was to elevate development in such a way that it really becomes an equal pillar of our foreign policy.” This builds on a point she made during our meeting, where she spoke about the QDDR as a parallel to the Defense Department’s longstanding Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR. The QDR, she said, helps the Pentagon justify its budget requests to Congress because it can argue that its spending is based on strategic goals articulated in the quadrennial reviews. Clearly State Department officials hope that the QDDR will help them in a similar way during the current era of austerity.
One of the central themes of the QDDR—and of the State Department’s development efforts these days—is the use of new technologies to provide vital services and improve people’s lives. Slaughter contended that the State Department has become “a pioneer and an innovator” in bringing new technologies to bear on development, where they can “help people solve their own problems.” I wrote in a previous post about one new initiative, the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), unveiled recently by the State Department in partnership with other public and private actors. The alliance uses mobile phones to provide health information to pregnant women and new mothers.
Another example of a public-private partnership focused on development is the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, announced by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last September. I have written about clean cookstoves as a powerful tool to boost women’s health, since they save women from the harmful smoke produced by traditional stoves. They also spare women from long hours collecting firewood, making them safer and freeing them to earn income or attend school. All of this is in addition to the cookstoves’ environmental benefits.
It is heartening to see the State Department focus on development, for reasons both humanitarian and strategic. After all, as Slaughter pointed out during our CFR meeting, many of the largest economies of the 21st century—led by China and India—will still be developing. This is sure to put development higher on the global agenda.
During our interview, I could not help asking Slaughter about U.S. policy in the Middle East. She has been a vocal advocate of intervention in Libya to bolster those trying to oust Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. As she put it in our interview, “Our goal across the Middle East has to be to stand for peaceful change, the right of citizens to demand basic services from their governments.” However, she added that the U.S. role should be to support citizens who are battling oppressive regimes, not to take on the fight itself. “We have to help people as we can,” she said, “but it’s their fight. It’s the Libyans who have to ultimately change their government.” Turning to Syria, Slaughter called the situation there “heartbreaking” and said, “it looks like this government might get away with the same kind of brutality that we saw 20 years ago.” Nonetheless, she argued that the United States is not in a position to use force.