By JULIA DAY, STEPS Centre member

A week ago the western world felt like a different place. ‘Change’ and ‘hope’ were still slogans. Now, as the embers of Tuesday’s historic celebrations in Chicago’s Grant Park finally begin to die down, US president-elect Barack Obama is throwing himself into the nitty-gritty of forming a new government. But what will an Obama-led Democratic government in the US mean for international development and environmental sustainabiity?

The world has already begun speculating. Every sector of civil society and industry is attempting to decode what Obama’s election promises will mean for their area of interest and expertise.

As he prepares to visit the White House today to undergo what is being billed as a ‘psychological transfer’ from George W Bush, speculation is rife that the president elect intends to move swiftly to unpick many of the Bush administrations laws. He is expected to use his executive authority to force through rapid change without having to wait for congressional action.

But will Obama’s foreign policy commitments be anywhere near the top of his ‘to do’ list? Fighting poverty in Africa was one of the mainstays of the Obama-Biden plan. The pair promised: “To double our annual investment in foreign assistance from $25 billion in 2008 to $50 billion by the end of his first term and make the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015, America’s goals. They will fully fund debt cancellation for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries in order to provide sustainable debt relief and invest at least $50 billion by 2013 for the global fight against HIV/AIDS, including our fair share of the Global Fund.”

You can listen to Lawrence Haddad, director of the Institute of Development Studies talking about what Obama’s win might mean for international development issues.