Today, U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) gave a speech at the Tacoma Club focusing on meeting the challenges of global poverty. Smith, a Member of the House International Relations Committee, is passionate about global poverty issues and believes the United States has a moral obligation to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people. Smith also announced the introduction of his bipartisan bill, HR 3605, called the Global Poverty Act of 2005.

Smith stated that the bill is an “important piece of legislation [that] requires the President to develop a comprehensive strategy to vastly reduce global poverty and eliminate extreme global poverty and report back to Congress on its progress. This plan should include foreign assistance, foreign and local private investment, technical assistance, public-private partnerships and debt relief. The bill declares that the reduction of global poverty and the elimination of extreme global poverty are a priority of U.S. foreign policy and that the U.S. should work with all the players involved in this fight, including developing and donor countries and multilateral institutions to coordinate policies to address global poverty.”

In his speech, Smith said that “nearly half of the world’s population is struggling in poverty and one-sixth of the world’s population can’t meet even the most basic needs for survival. This is morally unacceptable.” Smith believes that “the United States needs a comprehensive strategy, one that currently does not exist, to help eliminate extreme global poverty.” He went on to state that “we need to leverage development aid, debt relief, technical assistance and public-private partnerships. We need to coordinate with world bodies, including the United Nations, to help impoverished countries devise plans that will work for them. The United States has a moral obligation and a strategic need to help eradicate global poverty.”

Smith outlined four concrete steps that can be taken to deal with the problems associated with extreme global poverty: ensure that developing countries have a decent infrastructure, the ability to reduce the effects of debilitating diseases on their population, access to affordable credit to help build their small businesses that drive their economies and finally access to a free, universal education system.

After outlining these four steps, Smith noted, “that the United States can have an enormous and positive impact on nations in need. However, the formula for success must include close coordination with the recipient nation as well as other donors and multilateral development organizations. The best aid programs are those that have substantial buy-in from the local policy makers and are met with a commensurate commitment to sound economic policies, social services, education, and a strengthening of political institutions.”

In discussing a strategic plan to eliminate global poverty, Smith said, “the plan would incorporate current aid programs, like the Millennium Challenge Account, and would ensure consistency with our foreign policy goals.”

Smith has been deeply focused on the issue of global poverty and in March, 2005 he participated in the Trade and Poverty Forum in Nagoya, Japan.  The forum brought together leaders from the business, political and NGO communities to develop strategies for combating poverty.  Smith understands that our nation must make a greater commitment to poverty alleviation and view these efforts as an investment that can foster global stability and security, build alliances throughout the world and reduce the sense of hopelessness for billions of people.  He is committed to helping marshal the political and social will to address global poverty.

The complete text of the speech can be found at http://www.house.gov/adamsmith/startPage/Globalpoverty.htm