UNITED NATIONS — President Barack Obama on Wednesday defended US aid to impoverished people even during sour economic times at home yet promised a sterner approach, favoring nations that commit to democracy and economic revival.
Addressing world leaders, Obama offered no new commitments of US dollars, but rather a blueprint of the development policy that will drive his government's efforts and determine where the money flows. His message was that the United States wants to help countries help themselves, not offer aid that provides short-term relief without reforming societies.
"That's not development, that's dependence," Obama said. "And it's a cycle we need to break. Instead of just managing poverty, we have to offer nations and people a path out of poverty."
Obama spoke at a major anti-poverty summit convened by the United Nations, one day ahead of his main speech to the UN General Assembly. The president is in the midst of a three-day trip to the UN for its annual meeting.
World leaders on Wednesday were wrapping up an intensive review of the poverty reduction goals adopted 10 years ago, a highly ambitious effort that has yielded mixed results. The mission is to cut extreme poverty, reduce child and maternal mortality and expand primary education, among other objectives, by 2015.
The president, met by applause as he took the grand UN stage, sought to elevate the mission of US development.
Noting the Americans hurting at home, where a recession has eroded millions of jobs, Obama defended the spending of US tax dollars to help others build up their agriculture, transportation and health systems. He called it not just a moral imperative but an investment that can help the global economy and reduce the threats of instability and extremism.
"Let's put to rest the old myth that development is mere charity that does not serve our interests," Obama said.