The world's wonder woman of relief projects swept into town this week, and she has a lot to say. The Norwegian minister of international development, Hilde F. Johnson, is trying to push international donors and multilateral institutions to recognize the urgency of bringing peace to Sudan, one of her longtime pet projects, and of meeting a goal to reduce poverty by half by 2015.
Johnson's blitz began Wednesday with discussions with U.S. officials heading the Millennium Challenge Account, a developmental aid program, and continued with a briefing on Sudan at the National Press Club. Her itinerary also includes a session with the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, forums at the annual World Bank meetings this weekend and visits with key representatives at the U.S. Treasury Department, as well as meetings with Andrew Natsios, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Tommy G. Thompson, secretary for health and human services.
Some advances have been made since the leaders of nearly 200 countries promised at a U.N.-sponsored summit in 2000 to halve the number of people around the world living on less than $1 a day. The countries also vowed to slash infant mortality rates and boost primary education programs, Johnson said.
Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, for example, have made steady progress toward providing schools and teachers for all children. Through vaccination campaigns, Tanzania and Mozambique have drastically cut infant mortality rates.
"The international community is doing its job. It is possible to change things," Johnson said. "If you can make it happen in these poorest countries, then you can make it happen everywhere."
She said there was still a need for policies designed to give poor countries a greater share in world trade, as well as efforts to relieve their foreign debt.
Johnson said she was disappointed with the funding Congress approved after President Bush pledged in 2002 at a summit in Monterrey, Mexico, to increase U.S. aid by 50 percent through the Millennium Challenge Account. "The allocation from Congress is much lower than the pledges and promises made," she said.
Opinion polls suggest a misperception among the American public, she said, citing reports that many Americans believe 17 percent of the federal budget goes to international aid, when the actual amount is less than 1 percent.
Johnson stressed the importance of coordinating efforts to provide assistance and warned of the potential for disaster in fragile post-conflict situations, including in Sudan.
"If one hand does not know what the other is doing, this is a waste in funding," she said. "If one works with the idea that flags are more important than results, we will fail."
Harvard Honors Anna Lindh
Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government this week launched a professorship in global leadership and public policy in the memory of Anna Lindh, the Swedish foreign minister who was fatally stabbed last year in Stockholm.
The professorship has been generously endowed by the Swedish prime minister, Goran Persson, Lindh's family, the Anna Lindh Foundation and gifts from private companies.
"We are not only doing this out of solidarity but also for our own process of healing," the Swedish ambassador, Jan Eliasson, said by telephone from Boston.
David Ellwood, dean of the school, said the professorship in Lindh's name would not only "memorialize her contributions to European politics, international diplomacy and global human rights advocacy . . . but also highlight the importance of her courageous and straightforward approach to problem-solving."