Tag: Politics

The World Bank Needs To Return To Its Mission

The World Bank declares that its mission is to end extreme poverty within a generation and to boost shared prosperity. These goals are universally agreed as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. But the World Bank lacks an SDG strategy, and now it is turning to Wall Street to please its political masters in Washington. The Bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, should find a better way forward, and he can do so by revisiting one of his own great successes.

Kim and I worked closely together from 2000 to 2005, to scale up the world’s response to the AIDS epidemic. Partners in Health, the NGO led by Kim and his colleague, Harvard University’s Paul Farmer, had used antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) to treat around 1,000 impoverished HIV-infected rural residents in Haiti, and had restored them to health and hope.

I pointed out to Kim and Farmer 18 years ago that their success in Haiti could be expanded to reach millions of people at low cost and with very high social benefits. I recommended a new multilateral funding mechanism, a global fund, to fight AIDS, and a new funding effort by the United States.

In early 2001, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and in 2003 US President George W. Bush launched the PEPFAR program. The World Health Organization, led by the Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtlandrecruited Kim to lead the WHO’s scale-up effort. Kim did a fantastic job, and his efforts provided the groundwork for bringing ARVs to millions, saving lives, livelihoods, and families.

There are four lessons of that great success. First, the private sector was an important partner, by offering patent-protected drugs at production cost. Drug companies eschewed profits in the poorest countries out of decency and for the sake of their reputations. They recognized that patent rights, if exercised to excess, would be a death warrant for millions of poor people.

Second, the effort was supported by private philanthropy, led by Bill Gates, who inspired others to contribute as well. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation backed the new Global Fund, the WHO, and the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, which I led for the WHO in 2000-2001 (and which successfully campaigned for increased donor funding to fight AIDS and other killer diseases).

Third, the funding to fight AIDS took the form of outright grants, not Wall Street loans. Fighting AIDS in poor countries was not viewed as a revenue-generating investment needing fancy financial engineering. It was regarded as a vital public good that required philanthropists and high-income countries to fund life-saving treatment for poor and dying people.

Fourth, trained public health specialists led the entire effort, with Kim and Farmer serving as models of professionalism and rectitude. The Global Fund does not stuff the pockets of corrupt ministers, or trade funding for oil concessions or arms deals. The Global Fund applies rigorous, technical standards of public health, and holds recipient countries accountable – including through transparency and co-financing requirements – for delivering services.

The World Bank needs to return to its mission. The SDGs call for, among other things, ending extreme poverty and hunger, instituting universal health coverage, and universal primary and upper secondary education by 2030. But, despite making only slow progress toward these goals, the Bank shows no alarm or strategy to help get the SDGs on track for 2030. On the contrary, rather than embrace the SDGs, the Bank is practically mute, and its officials have even been heard to mutter negatively about them in the corridors of power.

Perhaps US President Donald Trump doesn’t want to hear about his government’s responsibilities vis-à-vis the SDGs. But it is Kim’s job to remind him and the US Congress of those obligations – and that it was a Republican president, George W. Bush who creatively and successfully pursued the battle against AIDS.

Wall Street may help to structure the financing of large-scale renewable energy projects, public transport, highways, and other infrastructure that can pay its way with tolls and user fees. A World Bank-Wall Street partnership could help to ensure that such projects are environmentally sound and fair to the affected communities. That would be all for the good.

Yet such projects, designed for profit or at least direct cost recovery, are not even remotely sufficient to end extreme poverty. Poor countries need grants, not loans, for basic needs like health and education. Kim should draw on his experience as the global health champion who successfully battled against AIDS, rather than embracing an approach that would only bury poor countries in debt. We need the World Bank’s voice and strenuous efforts to mobilize grant financing for the SDGs.

Health care for the poor requires systematic training and deployment of community health workers, diagnostics, medicines, and information systems. Education for the poor requires trained teachers, safe and modern classrooms, and connectivity to other schools and to online curricula. These SDGs can be achieved, but only if there is a clear strategy, grant financing, and clear delivery mechanisms. The World Bank should develop the expertise to help donors and recipient governments make these programs work. Kim knows just how to do this, from his own experience.

Trump and other world leaders are personally accountable for the SDGs. They need to do vastly more. So, too, do the world’s super-rich, whose degree of wealth is historically unprecedented. The super-rich have received round after round of tax cuts and special tax breaks, easy credits from central banks, and exceptional gains from technologies that are boosting profits while lowering unskilled workers’ wages. Even with stock markets’ recent softness, the world’s 2000+ billionaires have around $10 trillion in wealth – enough to fund fully the incremental effort needed to end extreme poverty, if the governments also do their part.

When going to Wall Street, or Davos, or other centers of wealth, the World Bank should inspire the billionaires to put their surging wealth into personal philanthropy to support the SDGs. Bill Gates is doing this, with historic results, for public health. Which billionaires will champion the SDGs for education, renewable energy, fresh water and sanitation, and sustainable agriculture? With a clear SDG plan, the World Bank would find partners to help it fulfill its core, historic, and vital mission.

Fighting Bigotry With The Power Of ‘Aloha’

Nothing is more important to me, and nothing was more important to our founding fathers, than freedom of religion.

The freedom of every individual to follow the spiritual path of our choice or to follow no religion at all. This freedom is enshrined in our constitution, in our Bill of Rights, which every member of Congress takes an oath to protect. And which so many heroes have given their lives to defend.

As a soldier I served in the Middle East, where I experienced first hand not only the cost of war, but I came to understand the cause of the endless conflicts that persist today.

The cause of these endless conflicts lies in the ambitions of various religious sects to control the levers of government, and to dominate those who adhere to other religious beliefs.

Shia and Sunni Muslims are vying against each other to establish theocracies or caliphates led by their religious leaders.

The Shia theocratic dictatorship of Iran is supporting the cause of Shias, while the Sunni theocracies like Saudi Arabia and others in the Gulf States are backing the Sunni fighters and terrorists like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

In the meantime, Christians, Yazidis, Sufis, and other Muslim and non-Muslim minority religious groups face genocide.

People in the middle east, people everywhere, want peace. But unfortunately too many fail to recognize that that lasting peace can only be found with pluralistic secular government.

What is lacking in the world is “Aloha.” Now, Aloha is not just a word that means hello and goodbye. It’s a word with a deeper and far more powerful meaning. It’s a word that really means that you have a deep respect and love for others regardless of the color of our skin, where we come from, or the spiritual path that we may follow.

Whether we’re hindus, christians, atheists, buddhists, agnostic, or anything else, that we respect and love each other as brothers and sisters. This is the essence of Aloha.

When we have aloha for others, we will naturally come to respect that every individual has free will. And thus, the freedom to follow the spiritual path of our choice or no spiritual path at all. This recognition of our individual free will and our commitment to individual freedom is the essence of what it means to be an American. We must remember that this nation was founded by people fleeing religious persecution. Risking everything to find a place to be free to worship as they chose or not to worship at all. In the original articles of our constitution drafted by our founding fathers, Article 6 clearly states that quote no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or any public trust under the United States.

Each of us wants to be free. But if we want to be free we also need to appreciate that others also desire the same thing. If we don’t want others to trample on our individual free will, than we must be careful not to trample on the free will of others. The great Chinese sage Confucius once said “don’t do to others what you don’t want done to yourself.” Jesus Christ made the same point. “Do Unto others as you would have done unto you.” So if I don’t want someone else to force me to follow their spiritual path or non-spiritual path, then I too must not force them to follow the path I have chosen for myself. It is when a society fails to respect an individual’s freedom of choice that this society inevitably ends up in great darkness and suffering. And it’s unfortunate that there are billions of people around the world who live in such darkness. Who live in worlds where individual freedom of conscious and religion do not exist. Where people who are followers of the so called wrong religion or have no religion at all are treated as lesser human beings. Are discriminated against, oppressed, forced to pay extra taxes, forced from their homes or their lands, or, worse yet, raped or killed.

A pluralist secular government is the only way to ensure that all individuals have the freedom to follow the religious or non-religious path of our choice.

Recently in Bangladesh, a secular blogger named Nazimuddin Samad posted an article criticising organized religion. He was hacked to death by a crowd of men wielding machetes and yelling Allah Akbar. A Hindu temple in Northern Bangladesh was attacked with grenades and small arms fire. And the priest, Jogeshwar Roy had his throat slit. Police arrested three suspects tied to Islamist Jihadists. Just last month, Khurram Zaki, a prominent Pakistani journalist and human rights activists was gunned down by the Taliban while dining at a Karachi restaurant. Why? Because he was one of many Muslims courageously advocating for a pluralistic, tolerant secular, Pakistan. We must stand with such freedom loving Muslims and followers of all other religious and atheists who are committed to pluralism and individual free choice. These brave souls are calling for a pluralistic society built on religious freedom and are fighting a desperate battle against extremists who are financially supported by theocracies like Saudi Arabia and Iran. We must stand with those in Bangladesh and other parts of the world who are building coalitions of Christians and Buddhists and Hindus, atheists, secularists, risking their lives to advocate for pluralism and secularism. Furthermore, we must recognize that here at home our own nation is not immune to religious bigotry. As we stand here at the foot of the lincoln memorial, we can remember how Abraham Lincoln was attacked with accusations that he was not a christian. When John F. Kennedy ran for president his political opponents tried to foment religious bigotry based on his catholicism. When Barack Obama ran for President in 2007 people accused him of being muslim as though that might somehow disqualify him from being president. When Mitt Romney ran for president, there were direct attacks against his Mormon religion. When I first ran for Congress in 2012 my Republican opponent said in a CNN interview that I should not be allowed to serve in Congress because my religion quote does not align with the Constitutional foundation of the U.S. government. Just last year, Missouri State auditor Tom Schweich committed suicide after political opponents launched a malicious anti-semitic whisper campaign against him saying he was jewish.



The message that we see in each of these situation is simple. That you will be punished politically for being of the so called wrong religion. There is nothing more un-American than this.

We have a great challenge that lies before us. Let us stand proudly as Americans. As defenders of our constitution. As defenders of freedom. Let us be inspired by the vision put forward by our nation’s founders, and challenge those fomenting religious bigotry to do the same. Rather than pour fuel on the fire of darkness, divisiveness, and hatred, let us bring the light found in the aloha spirit. Respect and love for everyone, irrespective of religion, race, gender, any of the external differences, to our lives, our families, our country, and the world. Let us be inspired by the likes of Muhammed Ali, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, as we join hands working toward the day when every young American, whether they are Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Humanist or Atheist, can live without fear. With the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that our forefathers envisioned for all of us. Let us confront hatred with love. Confront bigotry with Aloha. Confront fear with truth. Let us truly live Aloha in our actions, in our words, and in our hearts.

Thank you very much. Aloha.