Jeffrey Sachs’ Memo to the Next U.S. PresidentApril 22, 2008 By Wilson Center Staff
In his keynote address at the 5th Annual Unite for Sight International Health Conference, held earlier this month, Jeffrey Sachs argued that world leaders must redouble their efforts to alleviate poverty, protect human and environmental health, and balance economic growth and sustainable development. He advocated many of the same solutions that appear in his new book, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, including increasing investment in sustainable technology research and development; hastening the diffusion of sustainable technologies to the poorer regions of the world; and allocating a smaller percentage of the national budget for military spending and instead achieving the international target of 0.7 percent of GNP for foreign aid.
One part of Sachs’ presentation that was not included in his book was a memo to the next U.S. president, consisting of ten objectives to achieve global sustainability. Included in this list were the following recommendations, which illustrate Sachs’ view that human health, the environment, economic growth, and security are all integrally linked:
- “Stop putting food into the gas tank.” Sachs spoke out against the current U.S. subsidies for converting corn into ethanol. He linked the initiative to the recent global increase in food prices and the resulting turmoil in areas such as Haiti and Burkina Faso.
- Create a global forum for the leaders of dry lands. Sachs argued that it is important for leaders of areas such as Senegal, Mali, Chad, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and California to discuss water scarcity, its impact on livelihoods, and strategies to ensure human security.
- Immediately send a U.S. envoy around the world to back climate change negotiations. Sachs emphasized the need for the United States to step up as a leader on curbing climate change and its environmental and social impacts, rather than stalling international cooperation and progress, as he believes the current administration has done.
- Increase U.S. funding for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Sachs disapproved of the U.S. government’s decision to decrease its financial support of the UNFPA, which he argued is instrumental in fueling the voluntary decline of fertility rates in less developed countries. He identified access to contraceptives and reproductive services, the empowerment of girls and women, and the promotion of maternal and child health as crucial strategies for slowing population growth and maintaining resource sustainability.
- Make the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) the heart of international development policy. Sachs noted that he had heard President Bush make reference to the MDGs only once during his two terms in office. He hoped the new administration’s approach to foreign relations and international aid would put a stronger emphasis on achieving the MDGs, which aim to increase health, stability, and prosperity worldwide.