April 24, 2015 – Former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Tony Blair spoke at Georgetown yesterday on the importance of high-quality governance in fostering development in Africa.
“The quality of governance is as important as any other single issue in determining whether developing countries succeed or fail,” said Blair, in conversation with Steven Radelet, director of the School of Foreign Service’s Global Human Development Program.
In "A Conversation on Governance, Development, and Africa," Blair said such African countries need infrastructure, natural resource management and rule of law more than anything else, and that implementing these depends on a high-functioning government.
Blair’s remarks concluded a semester-long conversation on “The Global Future of Development” convened by the university’s Global Futures Initiative.
Partnering with African Governments
During his 10 years as prime minister, Blair said he worked with world leaders to develop “a plan for how the West could get away from the concept of donor-recipient in Africa and get to the concept of a partner for development.”
He established the African Governance Initiative (AGI) when he left office to continue his partnership with African political leaders and help them increase their capacity to implement change.
“I often come across governments who say to me, ‘We’ve got to develop this on our own – we don’t want outside help,’ ” said Blair said. “A more sensible attitude is to say, ‘Wherever there is expertise in the world and they’re offering to help, I’m willing to take it.’ ”
Blair’s organization currently works alongside six African governments – Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Ethiopia – to help them prioritize goals, translate ideas into policy and manage performance to ensure on-the-ground impact.
Lessons From Ebola
Having such partnerships in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia before the Ebola outbreak made a big difference, Blair said.
The teams stayed in the countries during the pandemic crisis, advising national leaders on how to organize response systems and process international aid as it flowed in.
“When we had to deal with [Ebola], government had to organize itself and respond differently,” Blair said. “It had to make sure it operated in a far more effective way. It had to use outside help and use it in a more intelligent, purposeful way.”
Now, Blair said, the key is to learn from and maintain this increased “functionality” during less critical moments.
Georgetown’s Global Engagement
“As global citizens, we must ask ourselves – how do we live?” President John J. DeGioia said in his opening remarks. “How do we embrace the new opportunities [of globalization] and respond to the complexity of this moment in time? It is within the context of the university that I believe we can find unique resources for addressing these questions.”
He called Blair “one of our generation’s most renowned public servants.”
DeGioia launched the campuswide Global Futures Initiative this past January to explore pressing global issues through concerted teaching, research and dialogue.
The initiative invites world leaders in the public sector, business and civil society to engage with the university community around a critical issue each semester.
Conversation focused on development this semester and featured lectures by World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Kim and Chief Economist and Senior Vice President Kaushik Basu.
Raj Shah, former administrator for U.S. Agency for International Development, and Peace Corps head Carrie Hessler Radelet also delivered Global Futures lectures this spring.