Addressing world leaders, Obama offered no new commitments of U.S. dollars, but rather a blueprint of the development policy that will drive his government’s efforts and determine where the money flows. His message was that the United States wants to help countries help themselves, not offer aid that provides short-term relief without reforming societies.
“That’s not development, that’s dependence,” Obama said. “And it’s a cycle we need to break. Instead of just managing poverty, we have to offer nations and people a path out of poverty.” Obama spoke at a major anti-poverty summit convened by the United Nations, one day ahead of his main speech to the U.N. General Assembly. The president is in the midst of a three-day trip to the U.N. for its annual meeting. The president, met by applause as he took the grand U.N. stage, sought to elevate the mission of U.S. development. “Let’s put to rest the old myth that development is mere charity that does not serve our interests,” Obama said. Obama said development should no longer be measured by how much money or medicine is delivered, but by the extent to which the U.S. helps countries build up themselves. He aimed to show toughness in setting demands of recipient nations. “The purpose of development — and what’s needed most right now — is creating the conditions where assistance is no longer needed,” he said. “So we will seek partners who want to build their own capacity to provide for their people.” He said the U.S. will not abandon countries that need lifesaving help. But he made a plea to developing countries to show responsibility: “We want to help you realize your aspirations. But there is no substitute for your leadership.” Obama then shifted quickly from the plight of the developing world to domestic politics. He was raising money in New York City on Wednesday night for Democratic congressional candidates ahead of the midterm elections in six weeks.