The Annan Plan

10/04/2009 11:06 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Today's multilateralism is undergoing a renaissance after the eight diminishing years of George W. Bush. The 43rd American President remained loyal to the Republican tradition of undermining the United Nations from the point of view of a realist that believes in the power struggle of nation states that seek to perpetuate their own and not always legitimate interest.

For so long as the United States remains the sole superpower the world will turn from multilateral to unilateral depending on who inhabits the White House. The ongoing challenges posed by North Korea's nuclear threat invigorate the United Nations' role to mitigate crisis and give Susan Rice the opportunity to return to the international modus operandi in crisis resolution that John Bolton repeatedly trespassed.

The legacy of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman is still alive today. Their vision and conviction that Europe had to be rescued triggered the Marshall Plan and the Glorious Thirty, the period of phenomenal growth and stability in post-war Europe that started in 1945 and ended in 1975. General George Marshall addressed the Harvard commencement on 5 June 1947 and shouted the urgency of the time.

We live times of urgency on both sides of the Atlantic and on both Hemispheres. We live in times that could trigger a phenomenal process of policy making that prioritizes the rescue of the extreme poor. The Marshall Plan was driven by the sole superpower in a context of urgency that addressed two problems: the devastation and poverty of war-torn Europe and the expansion of Soviet communism to Eastern Europe, Greece and Turkey. The Marshall Plan was an instrument of American foreign policy that followed from the successes of the Truman Doctrine. President Truman pointed out the United States was not undertaking the Marshall Plan for credit, but because it was right and necessary.

Perhaps it is right and necessary to think beyond our orthodox thinking, to look beyond our bellies. If there was a Marshall Plan for Africa it should be called the Annan Plan. Since he left the United Nations, Kofi Annan has been supporting agricultural investment in the forgotten continent. In 2007, Annan was appointed Chairman of the Board of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). As Chairman, Annan leads the efforts to revitalize agriculture in Africa in order to replace poverty with prosperity.

Contrary to the Marshall Plan, the Annan Plan lacks a context of urgency and a determined superpower willing to spend tax dollars because it fears Soviet communism will take over Europe. Apparently the urgency of our time does not exist. The reality is different. We lived a beautiful dream that kept the West away from the tough reality faced by the extreme poor. We decided to ignore the priorities of our time and use the charity of our foundations and philanthropists to compensate for our lack of standards in a world where the collateral damage of our actions was never incorporated to the equation. It may be time for the sleeping beauty to wake up to the reality of an unequal world.

The Marshall Plan's priorities were to increase agricultural and industrial output in war-torn Europe to pre-war levels and stop the expansion of Soviet communism. A Marshall Plan for Africa would have two similar priorities: first to fight and stop the expansion of heartless capitalism in Subsaharan Africa, and second to increase agricultural output beyond pre-independence levels.

We bailed out banks and investors. We designed rescue packages that broughtmult trust back into the system. Our Central Banks put liquidity in the markets when securitization was discontinued. Nobody asked Western citizens if banks and investors should have been bailed out. It is perhaps time to bail out the extreme poor. Our policymakers will not move forward. It is perhaps appropriate to ask Western citizens if the extreme poor should be bailed out.