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Archive for September, 2009

WWF US CEO Takes Reform Message to Capitol Hill

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009
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As we noted yesterday, WWF US President and CEO Carter Roberts, one of the world’s leading conservationists, has a unique view on foreign assistance reform.  Today, he brought his message to Capitol Hill for a bi-cameral hearing on the innovative Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP), hosted by Rep. Ed Royce (D-CA), chair of the International Conservation Caucus.  In his testimony at the hearing, Roberts drew important links between conservation and foreign assistance reform:

“More work should also be done, for the benefit of the Congo Basin and other developing countries, by the U.S. government to modernize its foreign assistance.  We are in need of an overarching development strategy that recognizes the critical importance of securing the underlying natural resource base. We need a USAID Administrator and a strengthened development agency to carry out programs like the model CBFP in other regions and scale up efforts to meet pressing natural resource challenges. And we need to help build the capacity of civil society and governments within these regions so that host countries will own these programs and assure their sustainability into the future.”

For more information on the hearing, click here.

For more information on WWF’s foreign assistance reform work, click here.

Leading Conservationist Weighs in on Foreign Assistance Reform — Part 1 of 2

Monday, September 28th, 2009
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Carter RobertsWWF logo

As the only conservation leader among MFAN’s Principals, World Wildlife Fund US CEO Carter Roberts brings a unique point of view to the network’s foreign assistance reform efforts.   Below, for the first time on the ModernizeAid blog, Roberts lays out the first in two parts on his conservationist’s argument for foreign assistance reform, which WWF first unveiled in its “Greenprint” for the Obama Administration in January 2009.

He’ll be taking his conservation and reform message to Capitol Hill tomorrow when he testifies about the Congo Basin Forest Partnership at a bi-cameral briefing for Congress hosted by the International Conservation Caucus (ICC).

A Green Foreign Policy

By Carter Roberts, President and CEO, World Wildlife Fund US

Three billion people face water insecurity. Tropical deforestation causes 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. One-third of arable land is abandoned due to soil erosion and 75% of the world’s marine fisheries are fully exploited. By the end of the century, we may lose 50% of all the plant and animal species on earth, many before we even discover them.  From an environmental perspective, we are coming dangerously close to the point of no return.

Developing countries are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate variability and environmental degradation.  Natural capital comprises about 25% of low income countries’ GDP. Moreover, poor rural communities in these same countries rely directly on natural resources for their livelihoods whereby an eroding natural resource base undermines their chances at escaping poverty. And now, the role the environment plays in global instability and conflict is becoming increasingly evident as witnessed by the imperative expressed by the Pentagon to plan now for international conflict and catastrophe born of climate change. We, too, in the U.S., are directly affected –by climatic extremes, disappearance of genetic plant material used to develop medicine, and a dwindling supply of fish. One way or another we pay.

Foreign aid is vital to reducing poverty, increasing our security, and preserving the future of our planet.  Yet most of our foreign assistance programs are ill-equipped to address these challenges at scale. Under the current foreign assistance structure, no overarching strategy is offered to the multiple, and at times competing, agencies expected to deliver U.S. assistance abroad. In this bureaucratic maze, USAID and other agencies lack the technical experts, funding, and long-term mandates necessary to build capacity within national governments, local institutions and civil society organizations and to ensure that environmental concerns are integrated into strategies and programs in all sectors. In order to affect meaningful and lasting results, both development and the environment should be elevated within foreign assistance and conservation should be fully incorporated into all relevant aid programs.

The Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) provides an example of how a U.S. foreign assistance program, starting with the environment and poverty reduction, can help achieve a broad array of foreign policy objectives. Launched in 2002, the CBFP brings donor agencies, international organizations, NGOs, scientific institutions, private sector, and local governments together to implement the Yaoundé Declaration, an agreement struck by the 10 Congo member states to promote conservation of the region’s forests.  Through this partnership, we are seeing real results in improving the livelihoods of the poor, conserving the environment, and resolving trans-boundary conflicts through structured diplomatic channels.

As a result, not only is 40% of the world’s second largest rainforest sustainably managed, but local livelihoods are enhanced, sustainable economic growth is possible, and global goods and services are protected. At the same time, in a region plagued by turbulent conflict and instability, the CBFP provides a forum for ongoing diplomatic engagement which helps to ease these tensions.

The Congo Basin is not an isolated case – there are many other countries and regions that desperately need this same kind of holistic approach to foreign assistance to reverse growing poverty and depletion of natural resources. Our approach includes country ownership, a strong civil society and harmonized donor funding. Our approach recognizes that through the environment we have an entry point to addressing many of central diplomatic, development, and security concerns.   Finally, our approach recognizes that the environment should stand as a central pillar of our foreign policy.

At CGI, Secretary Clinton Calls Development Essential in a Complex, Interconnected World

Monday, September 28th, 2009
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Clinton speech at CGI

In a speech Friday at the Clinton Global Initiative, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled the framework for the Obama Administration’s Food Security Initiative, which could provide a new model of strategic coordination for U.S. development efforts.   Referencing both the G-8 commitment of $20 billion for food security and the State Department Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), Clinton laid out five principles that will guide the Food Security Initiative including improved coordination, transparency, monitoring and evaluation, and accountability for more effective long-term investments.   Key excerpts of the speech are below:

“The Obama Administration has developed an unprecedented initiative aimed at advancing food security worldwide. The scope and scale of this initiative represents an elevation of development as a key element of our foreign policy. And our approach represents a rethinking of development policies and priorities.”

“After years of effort and billions of dollars, we have not achieved the lasting results we desire. But we have learned some very valuable lessons. We know that the most effective strategies emanate from those closest to the problems, not governments or institutions hundreds or thousands of miles away. We know that too often our efforts have been undermined by a lack of coordination, too little transparency, haphazard monitoring and evaluation, an over-reliance on contractors who work with too little oversight, and by relationships with recipient countries based more on patronage than partnership. And we know that development works best when it is based not in aid, but in investment. Indeed, many of these lessons are reflected in the work you do here at CGI.”

“We will work with countries prepared to make substantial commitments themselves—not only to agricultural development, but also to strong institutions, good governance, fighting corruption, and maintaining transparency.”

“This is difficult work. And to do it right, we need a State Department and a United States Agency for International Development up to the challenge, ready and willing to work closely together, with the right structures, resources, and policies in place. That’s why, earlier this year, I launched the first ever review of both agencies called the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the QDDR.  Now, we’re looking carefully at how we can best elevate and integrate development and diplomacy, and we are going to have a government-wide review of our strategies and policies. We will ask the hard questions and we will make the tough decisions.”

Cheryl MillsMaria Otero

Also on Friday, Cheryl Mills—Secretary Clinton’s Chief of Staff and the point-person on the Food Security Initiative—spoke about the effort, calling specific attention to the cross-government coordination that has driven the initiative forward:

“In that process, it’s a whole-of-government approach, and so yes, it has been a completely collaborative process in terms of the actual interagency process … It does mean that in its implementation, there will be different agencies that are actually participating in the implementation. There are certain trade and regional barriers that likely will be at USTR’s participation. There are obviously the country-level implementations that happen, and USAID, obviously, is going to play a very strong role in this overarching initiative…USDA, given their obvious technical experience and their overarching understanding of agriculture in a very fundamental way, will also be providing a meaningful role in this process. So it really will be a collaboration of all the various government agencies to do this effectively.”

Mario Otero, Undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, also spoke about the ways in which issues such as democracy, human rights, the environment, migration, and labor have been elevated and integrated into U.S. foreign policy by the President and Secretary Clinton:

“I think we also know that these broader issues that cut across national boundaries are ones that require real partnerships and a real multilateral approach. I think you heard the President speak about many of these, not only in his Administration, but in the way that he’s relating to other people in the world.”

State Dept. Releases Food Security Framework, Key Reform Elements Included

Friday, September 25th, 2009
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The State Department has released a fact sheet on its Global Food Security Initiative, the structure of which has long been anticipated as a harbinger of how the Administration will make U.S. foreign assistance programs more efficient and effective.  The face sheet’s “Principles for Advancing Global Food Security” include:

  • Comprehensively address the underlying causes of hunger and under-nutrition
  • Invest in country-led plans
  • Strengthen strategic coordination
  • Leverage the benefits of multilateral institutions
  • Make sustained and accountable commitments

The principles hit on important themes of foreign assistance reform, including country ownership and strategic coordination.  Other key elements of the fact sheet that are related to reform include:

  • Supporting Country Leadership: Country-led plans enable countries to identify their own solutions, increase the sustainability of investments, and strengthen local, regional and global coordination.
  • Benefiting from Multilateral Institutions: Multilateral institutions leverage greater global resources and complement bilateral assistance. The U.S. will invest in and encourage contributions to multilateral institutions.
  • Holding Ourselves Accountable: To increase transparency, we will establish public systems that inform the global community about our investments and their impact. Donors and other stakeholders must ensure their investments reach the poor and increase their efforts to eradicate the debilitating virus of corruption.

ClintonSecretary of State Clinton is expected to speak about the initiative in more detail in an address to the Clinton Global Initiative today.

For more information about the State Department’s Global Food Security efforts, click here.

*Photo courtesy of the Department of State.

Kerry & Lugar Deliver Message to Obama: Time is of the Essence for a USAID Administrator

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
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As part of the Center for Global Development’s newly launched blog – Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance – MFAN Principal and CGD Senior Policy Analyst Sheila Herrling highlights a recent letter from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Member Dick Lugar (R-IN) urging President Obama to name a nominee to the vacant Administrator post at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

MFAN Principal and former USAID Administrator Brian Atwood also comments extensively about the current state of USAID in Foreign Policy’s The Cable.atwood

In the letter, Kerry and Lugar state they “firmly believe that development is integral to our national security and must be elevated to an equal role alongside defense and diplomacy.”  However, their “efforts to support a bold foreign assistance reform and development agenda are hampered by a leadership vacuum” at USAID.

The Senators further caution the President “that the longer we wait for a new leader for the Agency, the more serious the problems become.”

In her blog post, Herrling writes, “…the letter also communicates a broader concern that development voices are being shut out of major policy decisions and interagency processes at a time when U.S. leadership on development is more needed than ever.  Referencing the greatest foreign policy challenges facing America today — wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and instability in Pakistan — the Senators argue it is ‘essential to empower a single development agency with the appropriate tools, resources and policy voice so that it can undertake its responsibilities in an effective and capable manner.’”

She goes on to say, “The letter’s call for a ‘single development agency’ with a ‘policy voice’ harkens back to a portion of the Senators’ legislation that would restore development policy and planning capacity to USAID, distinct from that of the State Department.  I fear that without that capacity restored and without a healthy degree of budget authority delegated, filling the Administrator and senior management posts with the caliber of experience necessary to present long-term development options into what are typically short-term decisionmaking processes (let alone implement them) will be difficult.”