Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was featured in a panel discussion at World Food Prize festivities in Des Moines this morning. Blair was here to tout his foundation which works to improve Africa, but he was pressed by the panel’s moderator to comment on American politics.
“I gather things are getting sorted out,” Blair said. “By the way, it is important for the world that America get some stability in its process back so, I mean, how you do it is up to you, but from the perspective of the international community people want America strong and focused and hopefully not going from one crisis to the other.”
According to Blair, a stable U.S. government is a prerequisite for a stable world.
“Even in these countries that we’re talking about out in some of the remote parts of the world, believe it or not they’re quite focused on hoping that you guys find a way through these issues,” Blair said near the end of the event, adding: “I should have a medal for diplomacy on that one.”
During a midday press conference in Des Moines, Blair said it’s “obvious” the U.S. economy is central to a “fragile” global economic recovery, but “confidence” had been rocked by the government shutdown and the showdown over the debt limit.
“For the outside world we hope not simply that it is sorted out now, but that you get to a more stable and predictable situation,” Blair said. “Now how you do that, it’s a matter for Americans, but for those of us from the outside we just want to see the country strong and working well.”
Blair’s “African Governance Initiative” is currently operating in seven countries and he expects it to expand into three more by year’s end.
“It is massively in our interest, our self-interest that they develop in a peaceful way and a prosperous way and with the populations there that are growing all the time with a decent stake in the future,” Blair said. “And the alternative as we can see in some parts of Africa is conflict, extremism and obviously poverty amongst the people.”
Blair’s initiative seeks to improve the stability of governments in Africa, sending teams in each of the seven African countries to work alongside Africans as new government programs are tested and implemented. Blair and another panelist emphasized the importance of improving the lot of women in developing countries. Blair said he cannot think of a successful country that has “an attitude from the past” about women.
“Because people know, I mean they can look around the world and see which countries are successful and which aren’t. I mean you take a country like South Korea — South Korea in the early ’60s had a GDP the same of Liberia or Sierra Leone, right?. Today it’s got a women president, right? Not a bad idea, by the way, but that’s another matter,” Blair said, as the audience began laughing. “I don’t want to get into your stuff around this.”
Blair served 10 years as Britain’s prime minister, starting in 1997 when Bill and Hillary Clinton were in the White House.