New US president offers hope on global poverty, says Progressio

By staff writers
November 6, 2008

Barack Obama’s election victory is a “momentous day” for the international community and offers renewed hope to millions of people around the world who live in poverty, Catholic development agency Progressio has declared.

Progressio is an international NGO working for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty. It is the new name for the Catholic Institute for International Relations, an independent group with a reputation for radical thinking.

Speaking after the decisive victory for Obama in the USA, Progressio’s Executive Director, Christine Allen, said that 2008 would be remembered as the year when the “tectonic plates of international relations shifted and hope for a new world order was reborn”.

“Obama’s election offers an opportunity to build new relationships and partnerships between countries which will form the basis of a new vision of development,” says Allen. “In the 11 developing countries where we work, from Ecuador and Peru to Yemen and Somaliland, there are strong hopes. Hopes for change.

In Latin America, an Obama-led government will be a chance for “real dialogue between leaders from North and South, where enforced economic models and unfair trade agreements have exacerbated the challenges faced by societies already tackling extreme inequality,” says Allen.

In Muslim countries too, says Allen, people hear America talk of “freedom and democracy” but their experience is of occupying forces and Guantánamo Bay.

“For too long this has smacked of hypocrisy,” comments Allen. “Our hope is that the message and the reality of US actions are integrated in a new, more collaborative approach to foreign policy.”

Progressio – which has been leading on issues of development and international relations for over 40 years – believes the Obama victory could also mark a “sea change” in the US approach to addressing global poverty and injustice.

“On this day we have a greater sense of hope that international development and foreign policy can become increasingly multilateral,” Christine Allen explained. “Improved dialogue with the developing world – which includes healthy collaboration and partnership – is within reach.”

Barack Obama signalled he would build bridges with people “beyond American shores” saying the "true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.”

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