At moment when American politics seem to be in a meltdown at least as bad as the financial meltdown, it’s reassuring to know that leaders in other parts of the world are doing their job, and doing it well. All through the day today at the UN, governments put forward important and novel strategies to fight disease, poverty, and human-induced climate change. This morning, the governments of Switzerland and Norway, and the European Commission came forward with specific proposals to put a levy on carbon in order to finance development and climate adaptation in poor countries. The Government of Norway has also described its recent partnership with Brazil, in which Norway has committed $1bn to slow deforestation in the Amazon – with the money paid to Brazil upon performance.
The afternoon was no less exciting. Superstars Shakira and Alejandro Sanz brought several Latin American Presidents together to discuss ways to protect and promote early childhood development (children under six years) in Latin America. This was no mere photo op. President after President, including Felipe Calderon of Mexico, Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, Martin Torrijos of Panama, Antonio Saca of El Salvador and newly elected President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, all spoke movingly about the plight of the poor, and knowledgably and with considerable technical detail about innovative programs to reach the poor young children with health care, nutrition, and early schooling.
The world is not the US, seeing enemies everywhere (hence, the 31 mentions of “terror” in President Bush’s UN speech on Tuesday), or parroting some ludicrous laissez faire ideology, or simply looking away from the real global challenges of climate, poverty, environment, and population. The world is rallying to the need to solve dire problems, and the US financial crisis, rather than paralysing the UN meetings, is strangely adding a measure of grit and determination to the global problem solving underway in session after session.