The Intersection of Politics and International Development

On September 10, Devex published an article on the 2012 U.S. presidential candidates’ positions on foreign assistance. In this day and age, although the U.S. allocates far less than most developed countries in terms of percentage of GDP, foreign assistance is unlikely to not be part of any administration’s budget. We live in a complex, globalized world, and our successes, failures, threats, and opportunities cannot be unlinked from those of all other nations.

The article, therefore, focuses instead on the nuances between the “ways and means” in which each candidate would implement foreign assistance. The Republican platform proposes implementing more foreign assistance through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) as opposed to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The Democratic platform intends to increase U.S. international affairs spending, while the Republicans propose to rein it in, contending that lower taxes will allow Americans to give to charities and private donors of their choice. Democrats propose supporting the agricultural development of host countries to accomplish food security; Republicans support consolidating efforts, which are currently shared between USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, into one agency. Mr. Romney stressed that the U.S. economy, not global climate change, would drive his agenda, whereas President Obama continues to voice his support for climate change mitigation and investment in clean energy technology.

What does this mean for Solimar?

The majority of our funding comes from the United States government, through contracts and subcontracts with USAID and MCC. For USAID Uganda, we are utilizing tourism as a tool for biodiversity conservation and community development. For MCC Morocco, we are bringing local artisans into the tourism value chain, showcasing traditional culture and generating income. For USAID Bolivia, we are assisting a rural municipality and its businesses improve their environmental sustainability.

It is extremely unlikely any administration would completely eliminate foreign assistance, although the “ways and means” could change. The current administration’s focus on global health, food security, and climate change could be diminished, or the agencies through which these efforts are carried out could shift.

As a consulting company that focuses on sustainable tourism, a multifaceted subject, Solimar’s work contributes to numerous aspects of development: environmental conservation, cultural preservation, more inclusive community development, alternative livelihoods and income generation, local capacity building and education, access to finance, national competitiveness; the list goes on and on. Sustainable tourism contributes to the current administration’s three focal areas; for example, by addressing local health efforts through improved water and waste management, through providing an alternative livelihood for fisher people whose stock has been depleted by overfishing, and even improving the ability for people to put food on their tables. In the broadest terms, sustainable tourism helps generate GDP for a country’s citizens, which is necessary to address health, food security, climate change, or any other concerns.

As a small business, Solimar remains nimble enough to respond to political changes. We have enjoyed working with USAID and MCC and hope to continue to do so. Yet we are eager to explore alternative financing mechanisms and methodologies for assisting the world’s citizens, as both President Obama and Mr. Romney suggest. Solimar is confident that tourism will continue to demonstrate its success as a mechanism for sustainable international development, and that no matter the funding mechanism or politics, we will continue to help affect that positive change.

“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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