“We all must check our stereotypes of the other communities at the door…we’re not talking about hugging trees and hugging pandas
,” said Geoff Dabelko, director of the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program, in a panel discussion on Foreign Policy Challenges in the 112th Congress
as part of the Wilson Center on the Hill
series. Dabelko argued for a more multi-dimensional and integrated approach to addressing environmental issues.
“To tackle these problems, these connections between, say, natural resources, development, and security, it really does require that we have an integrated approach to our analysis [and] an integrated approach to our responses,” Dabelko said.
In dealing with climate change, for example, “a more diversified view would be one where we spend more time trying to understand adaptation,” said Dabelko. “How are we going to deal with the expected impacts of these problems?” he asked.
Dabelko called on policymakers to seek “triple bottom lines,” pointing out that “if you’re worried about climate change, or you’re worried about development, or you’re worried about fragile states, some of the same governance interventions and strong institutions in these fragile or weak states are going be the ones that will get you benefits in these multiple sectors.”
The Political Space
Fortunately, the current political environment is one in which “there is political space for integration,” said Dabelko, as demonstrated by, for example, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which Wilson Center Senior Scholar John Sewell addressed in his remarks.
“All of you who are directly or indirectly engaged in Congress are going to be faced with a very important opportunity in the next 12 to 24 months,” Sewell said, “to focus both diplomacy and development on the major challenges that are going to face all of us in the first half of the century.”
Calling the QDDR a “major rethink of both American diplomacy and American development,” Sewell applauded its conceptual alignment, but cautioned that the review leaves many questions unanswered about its implementation.
“The QDDR sets no criteria,” said Sewell. “Are we going to continue to put large sums of money into countries that aren’t developing? Are we going to follow the choice of issues – food, environment, and so on and so forth? It’s a question that is not answered in any of these documents.”
Sewell also pointed to potential clashes over budgeting, USAID/State leadership, and the lack of coordination with other large development agencies, like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
For more on Sewell’s analysis of the QDDR, see his recent blog post “Reading the QDDR: Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?”