Even with all the money that has been spent on underdeveloped nations, the lack of affordable energy, hunger, the shortage of drinking water, disease and the destruction of the environment remain the rule rather than being the exception in much of the Third World. Why? Because the United Nations has failed to aggressively and expeditiously address the myriad problems that are condemning millions of people around the world to a life of despair and hopelessness.
Bureaucracy is the enemy of progress, and there isn't a more bureaucratic organization than the U.N. The world body is good at organizing international summit conferences, but fails miserably at carrying out the action plans that emanate from such heady gatherings.
That is why the United States is opposed to setting targets and timetables for development efforts. They are nothing more than wishful thinking.
Instead, the administration of President George Bush is talking in terms of "concrete action" and a "new approach to development."
Bush administration officials unveiled this strategy Thursday at the World Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, and received a cool reception. That's not surprising, given the fact that at the heart of the strategy is the administration's rejection of "world body" oversight. The United States does not want to be shackled by the action plans developed during the conference.
As Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky, leader of the U.S. delegation, put it, "Words are good, but only concrete action can address these problems."
Despite the criticism from some developed nations -- Britain was the only country that defended the Bush administration's approach -- the series of partnerships with industry and private foundations to address the world's most pressing problems offer the best hope for the underdeveloped nations.
The partnerships, initially valued at $2.4 billion, will supplement the $15 billion overseas development budget the Bush administration is proposing. By any calculation that is a significant financial commitment on the part of the United States and is certainly deserving of recognition by the world community.
No other country has made a greater contribution to sustainable development in the Third World, and that alone should persuade the critics to withhold judgment.
There is growing resentment on the part of the American taxpayers toward the recipients of foreign aid because it seems that the United States has become the whipping dog at gatherings such as the World Summit. Many Americans believe that the underdeveloped nations have only themselves to blame for their persistent poverty. Corrupt governments have stolen or squandered huge amounts of foreign aid, yet the United Nations turns a blind eye to such corruption.
Given that record, it is no wonder that the U.S. has decided to pursue a different course of action.