ORIGINALLY WRITTEN LAURA CAMPBELL
Promoting good governance in countries that are developing democracies is central to the U.S. strategy to address global poverty, said recent Tabor College graduate Landon Fulmer to those attending Tabor’s 60+ Learning in Retirement Program on Oct. 3.
“The main problem I think that we have found is that when you go into the developing world, there is just utter and endemic corruption,” said Fulmer, who has worked in Washington, D.C., as a staff member for Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback since graduating from Tabor in 2003.
Fulmer said he currently is working to help Brownback draft a sort of anti-corruption bill to address poverty in Africa that will likely be introduced next year.
“This is one of the things that’s at the root of global poverty, and this is one of the things that we have to begin to root out,” he said of the governmental corruption in developing countries.
“Democracy goes hand-in-hand with civil liberties-that’s generally what we’re promoting.”
Another controversial aspect of U.S. work to address global poverty is offering direct aid, Fulmer said.
“There are a lot of new thoughts in regard to how it is we can better use our direct aid to developing countries,” he said.
While the United States spends an impressive $26 billion per year on international development, Fulmer said, a good portion of it is for food aid programs that have often served instead to “undermine the local food economy” of areas stricken by famine.
One suggested alternative, Fulmer said, is to use the federal funds to purchase food from these local farmers and merchants.
“But that’s met with a lot of resistance in the United States, because $1.3 billion for purchases of ag products in middle America is a pretty nice deal,” he said.
“Sen. Brownback encourages us to be very careful in how we address the problem, because we want to make sure that we maintain a robust Kansas economy.”
Fulmer also shared with his audience pictures and stories from his January trip with Brownback to areas in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India that were affected by the 2004 tsunami.
“It’s hard to say it was a great experience, because there was so much human suffering that you encountered when you were there,” said Fulmer of the trip.
“But it was an opportunity, I think, for the United States to get involved positively in a place around the globe, and I think that we did something of a good job.”
Fulmer, who assists with Brownback’s work on the Senate’s appropriations committee, joined Brownback on the trip to see how U.S. funding could best be used to aid tsunami relief and recovery.
“As soon as the tsunami hit, we proposed our intentions to send some money to help with reconstruction,” he said.
Informed by first-hand accounts from those who had visited the tsunami-affected areas, the appropriations committee then succeeded in attaching 13 amendments to the emergency supplemental appropriations bill, Fulmer said.
“It’s when you go over there and you see what’s happening on the ground that you get the knowledge-and you get the legitimacy-to begin proposing these amendments,” he said.
Fulmer was optimistic but realistic about the work left to do in the tsunami-affected areas.
“There’s a lot of good people on the ground, and they’re hiring a lot of the locals to help out with logistics,” he said. “So I think they’re going to be able to rebuild a strong society.
“There are good things happening there, but it’s still going to take a lot of time for them to recover.”