Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Project Umubano's impact on UK foreign policy

Guest Post written by a friend of mine (and traveling buddy) on a new trend in international policy. Josiah Cantrall It was originally posted in The Washington Times Communities.

Wisconsin, April 3, 2011 — Recent foreign policy reforms by the United Kingdom have left the American right brimming with jealousy. First, the U.K. issued a harsh review of the United Nation's inefficiencies, then they de-funded four UN programs;now Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed a new attitude towards multiculturalism.

Since when have UK Conservatives become, well, so conservative?

Enter Project Umubano. Outside of the U.K., very few are even aware of it's existence. Yet since its implementation in 2007, the project has steadily transformed the Conservative Party's entire approach to foreign relations.

Prime Minister David Cameron touched on this last December during his speech to the Young International Democrat Union. Seated inside the Houses of Parliament, alongside the Thames River, my colleagues and I listened as Cameron described the historical perception of Conservatives as heartless capitalists with no regard for impoverished nations and individuals. Though dutifully offended, Cameron also noted his party was ill-prepared to change these viewpoints. It all began there.

The following day at 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's home and Headquarters of Her Majesty's Government, Andrew Mitchell, UK Secretary of International Development continued the story over tea.

In 2007, as then leaders of a minority party, Mitchell and Cameron began Project Umubano.

During annual two week trips to Rwanda and Sierra Leone, Conservative Party officials and members of parliament participate in civil society projects working directly with underprivileged groups and obtaining an in-depth knowledge of their cultures.

Working with local partners and NGOs, participants use their professional skills to provide medical, business, and educational training and resources. It's not a publicity stunt. Attendees contribute their own money and work alongside common laborers and local ethnic groups.

Lawyers work with justice officials and teach corporate law. Doctors and nurses train local people while providing free clinical work. Businesspeople hold clinics and consult local firms. Athletic individuals and professional coaches teach sports and train coaches. Members of the education field train local teachers, distribute books, and offer English classes for nine hours a day.

Conservative leaders credit the project for their new understanding of human suffering and the opportunities modern countries have to assist the poor and underprivileged.

However, compassion and knowledge haven't changed their stance on fiscal responsibility. If anything it strengthened it. Conservatives are now unashamedly questioning the decorum of wasting British pounds on failing UN programs.

After reviewing their UN contributions, the British government has pulled funding for four programs and issued harsh criticism.

They condemned the UN Industrial Development Organization for not having a significant impact on global poverty and also noted, “UN-HABITAT”-a Nairobi-based agency mandated “to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities. . . is (not) leading the United Nations system to work more coherently to tackle urban challenges faced in developing countries.”

Cameron and Mitchell, unlike their Labor predecessors, are demanding accountability for monetary aid given and placing immense emphasis on results rather than the size of aid packages. Success has become measured not in pounds spent, but in lives impacted.

Undeniably their coalition-rule with Liberal Democrats has forced many policies to represent conflicting ideologies. Yet by focusing the debate on accountability and results Conservatives have turned foreign relations into the UK's second most popular policy.

And although multiculturalism is generally considered a domestic issue, Project Umubano has influenced Conservative thought here as well. While remaining sensitive to cultural differences, Conservatives now see the consequences of allowing failure to go un-corrected. Empowering radical individuals hasn't worked in Africa or the Middle East and finally the United Kingdom realizes it won't work for them either.

Compassionate conservatism is for spineless moderates? Think again. Project Umubano has taught participants liberty is ubiquitous, and a free world upholding the equality of all mankind is a world where free market and pro-democratic principles prosper.

The heartless capitalist image may be gone forever.

Josiah Cantrall, is a nationally recognized political pundit, columnist, Young Republican Midwest Director, and Delegate to the International Young Democratic Union.

He is a Wisconsin farm boy, descendant of a Titanic survivor, second oldest of 13 children, Christian, and homeschool graduate.
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