Bill Clinton urges globalism in age of Trump
Posted June 20
Former President Bill Clinton stressed the need for the US and non-government organizations to continue efforts of globalism and interconnectivity despite a push by the Trump administration to withdraw the US from foreign obligations.
"The reality is we are condemned to share a future, whether we like it or not -- we are stuck with one another, and so the job of every thinking person on the earth is to maximize the benefits and minimize the dangers," Clinton said at the InterAction Forum in Washington Tuesday morning.
Speaking to an audience of mostly international non-profit organizers and activists, Clinton cited the growing pace of climate change, mass migration due to wars -- including the Syrian refugee crisis -- and worldwide poverty for the reason why countries, including the US, need to continue to work together for mutual gain.
"We're going to have to do this together," he said.
Despite the major challenges facing the world, Clinton said there are also new opportunities for global partnerships: "Diverse groups make better decisions than homogenous ones."
Internationally, Clinton told the audience that the world often relied on the US for help and that, in turn, the US helped itself. While he shied away from naming the Paris climate accord by name -- an international treaty signed under President Barack Obama from which Trump withdrew this US earlier this month -- Clinton mentioned climate change numerous times as an issue where international cooperation is needed.
"The pace of climate change is growing. Another big chunk of the arctic broke off not that long ago. Low-lying nations in the Pacific are already threatened -- to them, denial of the problem strikes them as unbelievable," he said. "So those of us who believe that we live in the most interdependent age in human history, and who do the work that we do, are clearly justified by the challenges that we face."
Jabbing at the Trump administration's proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency as well as its acknowledged preference for industry-backed science, Clinton said, "Once you rewrite the rules on science and you deny self-evident facts, and you do what they did in Russia, crack down on NGOs to a self evident extent -- but they aren't doing things better, otherwise Russia wouldn't have a male life expectancy to 60, it would be 80 or more."
Clinton went on to critique proposed cuts to foreign aid, which, although accounting for roughly 1% of the federal budget, is expected to be high on the list of areas to cut. The US is by far the biggest donor to humanitarian crises in terms of financial contributions, donating roughly $6.4 billion -- or 29% of the $22.1 billion spent globally -- for emergencies alone in 2016, a spokesman for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs OCHA, which oversees international emergency relief efforts, told CNN.
"I'm glad that Norway and other counties are going to keep their aid budgets, but the big money, just because of the size of the GDP and the distribution, has been in the US and the UK. I'm grateful for what the UAE has done, but to equal what is being proposed as a cutback, they'd have to have all nations in the region follow suit," he said. "This is a big deal: we say we want people to stand on their feet, we say we want to build capacity."
The former president then turned inward on the US, countering "fear-mongering" rhetoric against foreign aid and taking aim at President Donald Trump's proposed travel ban, which restricts entry to the US from several Muslim-majority counties from entering the US.
"Despite all of the fear-mongering, the immigrants in America have a lower crime rate than the home-grown population, the murder rate of Muslims is less than one-third of the general population -- our diversity is helping us," Clinton pushed. "First-generation immigrants are more than twice as likely to start a new business than those who have been here longer."
Clinton offered that the US and its independent organizations should consider the world as a partnership.
"We've seen a resurgence in the oldest of all social reactions -- the tendency to look at people first as the other, to think of life in zero sum terms, it's us versus them," Clinton said, in a nod toward growing tensions between different communities of religion and color. "But throughout history, every successful age in human history has enabled humanity, ever slowly, to expand the definition of us and shrink the definition of them."