Former President Bill Clinton, speaking to the InterAction Forum on Tuesday, criticized the current administration’s proposed cuts to the United States foreign aid budget but also sought to bring context to the political moment. He encouraged global development professionals to continue working to increase the positive forces of global interdependence, while decreasing the negative impacts.
“We have never had more potential to spread hope through real learning, through real doing, through the alleviation of pain and the provision of opportunity,” he said. “But we are passing through a perfectly predictable period of reaction to the rapid rate of change economically and socially all over the world, which leaves a lot people feeling left out and left behind economically, socially and even psychologically,” Clinton said.
Clinton described today’s environment and politics as a “resurgence of the oldest of all social reactions” — a zero-sum game between “us” and “them.”
But, he said, while the moment may be challenging, it also presents opportunities “which can best be seized by diverse groups working together, breaking down barriers that had previously separated them,” he said. “Diverse groups make better decisions than lone geniuses.”
He urged NGOs to build coalitions, engage with the public and clearly define roles and strategies. He described U.S. aid spending as “a little bit of money doing an outsize amount of good.”
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