blog logo image

Archive for September, 2009

MFAN Principal: President Obama and the Spirit of Global Development Partnership

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
Bookmark and Share

The following blog post by MFAN Principal Noam Unger, fellow and policy director of the Foreign Assistance Reform project at the Brookings Institution, was originally published on the Brookings website and at


In his rousing speech at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative yesterday, President Obama tied together his administration’s recurrent themes of international collaboration, public-private cooperation, and service. By planting these themes in the context of our highly globalized world—the ways in which it presents real opportunities and grave threats, Obama struck chords resonant with his campaign’s global development and democracy policy statement to “strengthen our common security by investing in our common humanity.”

The key feature of his speech was a call for a new spirit of global partnership, emphasizing that real progress in lifting millions out of poverty and countering transnational threats cannot be made by governments alone. The president declared his desire for this spirit to guide his administration and he referred to it as “a defining feature of our foreign policy.”

It is heartening to hear the president say “we’re renewing development as a key element of American foreign policy,” and he is right to place significant importance on the role of public-private partnerships and service. Of course the devil is in the details.

In a piece we wrote this summer, Brookings colleagues Homi Kharas, Johannes Linn and I recommended elevating global development on the administration’s agenda and we commented on key elements of reforming U.S. global development policies and operations: leadership, strategy and legislation.

On the issue of partnerships, there are a number of straightforward steps the U.S. government could take to advance global development efforts. These are presented in Strengthening America’s Global Development Partnerships: A Policy Blueprint for Better Collaboration Between the U.S. Government, Business and Civil Society, a paper I wrote with Jane Nelson, another Brookings colleague who is also the director of the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at Harvard and a Director of the International Business Leaders Forum. Here’s the brief summary:

In the face of compounding global crises threatening development, the outdated U.S. foreign assistance system must catch up to a changed landscape of influential actors including corporations, mega-foundations, faith-based organizations and other non-governmental groups. Within the context of broader foreign assistance reform, the Obama administration and Congress have an opportunity to retool official U.S. efforts to more effectively and efficiently support global development by adapting to this new ecosystem. This paper offers recommendations on how the U.S. government can better position itself by:

  • Strengthening its capabilities to make innovative and strategic investments;
  • Encouraging cross-sector partnerships aligned with core competencies;
  • Promoting international service, professional exchanges and citizen engagement;
  • Supporting development of global norms and guidelines; and
  • Leveraging the bully pulpit to mobilize stakeholders.

To understand the tie-ins to Obama’s service agenda, it is also worth checking out analysis by Brookings’ Initiative on International Volunteering and Service. In his CGI speech, Obama linked domestic and international service. This approach presents real potential for global development efforts. As Jane and I note in our paper, new models at home may also apply overseas. The lessons that will be learned as the White House

Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation fine-tunes its programs—including an innovation and replication fund to invest in proven approaches to poverty alleviation—could also accelerate progress through similar efforts on the global development front.

The effort to fundamentally upgrade U.S. global development policies and operations is still gearing up. With policy reviews underway at the White House and the State Department, and with legislation percolating in both the House and the Senate, momentum is apparent. The degree to which these different efforts move in the same direction—toward more effective development policies and implementation—will determine whether the U.S. can restore its leadership on these issues. The effectiveness of programs in the field are directly linked to Washington efforts to make development  more coherent, better resourced, and suitably oriented toward partnerships with other key actors—including multilateral organizations, other government donors, international business and civil society, and, most notably, the recipients.

Obama’s UN General Assembly Address Hits Important Development Notes

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
Bookmark and Share


In a speech at the UN General Assembly this morning, President Obama  again put development at the center of his foreign policy vision, laying out an agenda for how nations can cooperate to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges, including poverty and disease, nuclear proliferation, climate change, the economic crisis, and conflict:

“At a time of such interdependence, we have a moral and pragmatic interest in broader questions of development. And so we will continue our historic effort to help people feed themselves. We have set aside $63 billion to carry forward the fight against HIV/AIDS; to end deaths from tuberculosis and malaria; to eradicate polio; and to strengthen public health systems. We are joining with other countries to contribute H1N1 vaccines to the World Health Organization. We will integrate more economies into a system of global trade. We will support the Millennium Development Goals, and approach next year’s Summit with a global plan to make them a reality. And we will set our sights on the eradication of extreme poverty in our time.

Now is the time for all of us to do our part. Growth will not be sustained or shared unless all nations embrace their responsibility. Wealthy nations must open their markets to more goods and extend a hand to those with less, while reforming international institutions to give more nations a greater voice. Developing nations must root out the corruption that is an obstacle to progress – for opportunity cannot thrive where individuals are oppressed and business have to pay bribes. That’s why we will support honest police and independent judges; civil society and a vibrant private sector. Our goal is simple: a global economy in which growth is sustained, and opportunity is available to all.”

Obama Highlights Development in Clinton Global Initiative Speech

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
Bookmark and Share


Last night, President Obama spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting.  During his address, he reiterated the Administration’s commitment to development as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy.  Key excerpt below:

“We’re making substantial increases in foreign assistance. But we still need civil society to help host nations deliver aid without corruption. Because foreign assistance is not an end in itself. The purpose of aid must be to create the conditions where it is no longer needed — where we help build the capacity for transformational change in a society.

We’re pursuing a comprehensive global health strategy — building on successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS and working to end deaths from malaria and TB and to end polio. But these efforts will only be sustained if we improve the capacity of public health systems to deliver care, especially for mothers and children.

We’re making major new investments in food security. But this can’t simply be hand-outs of American food. We need to share new methods and technologies so that countries and communities can become more self-sufficient.

In short, we’re renewing development as a key element of American foreign policy — not by lecturing and imposing our ideas, but by listening and working together; by seeking more exchanges between students and experts; new collaborations among scientists to promote technological development; partnerships between businesses, entrepreneurs to advance prosperity and opportunity for people everywhere.

That’s how we’ll confront the challenges of our time. This is how we will seize the promise of this moment in history. Standing together. Working together. And building together.”

New Oxfam Report Calls Country Ownership the Key to Smart Development

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
Bookmark and Share

OxfamOxfam ownership report

Aid, used in smart ways, can save lives and help people get themselves out of poverty. The best hope for poor people lies in their own capacity to demand accountability and performance from their governments and invest in their own efforts to escape poverty.  That is why Oxfam – an MFAN partner organization – is calling for specific reforms that make U.S. foreign aid support the efforts of governments and people to lead their own development. In particular, reforms should:

  • Let countries know what donors are doing through transparency and predictability – INFORMATION;
  • Help countries lead by supporting local efforts in meeting citizens’ needs – CAPACITY; and
  • Let countries lead by limiting earmarks and Presidential initiatives that are inconsistent with country priorities – CONTROL.

During her first trip to Africa as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton said, “We will focus on country-driven solutions that give responsible governments more information, capacity, and control as they tailor strategies to meet their needs.” Learn more about how the U.S. can strengthen ownership by reading Oxfam’s report, Ownership in Practice: The Key to Smart Development

Oxfam is a partner of MFAN.

MFAN: Yohannes a Capable Leader for MCC, but Development Leadership Still Lacking

Monday, September 21st, 2009
Bookmark and Share

Daniel Y ohannes

On Friday, President Obama nominated Daniel W. Yohannes as CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.  He currently serves as the CEO of M&R Investments, LLC, a private investment firm focusing on real estate, finance, and green energy.  His previous experience includes Vice Chairman of U.S. Bank for the Commercial Banking Group, head of Integration for Community and Public Affairs, and President and CEO of U.S. Bank.  Yohannes’ strong financial services background will ensure he is focused on gaining good returns on U.S. development investments through the MCC.  His wealth of leadership experience positions him to be an effective manager of this critical development institution.

While Yohannes’ nomination is certainly a step forward, it nonetheless highlights the fact that we are still without a USAID Administrator.  Despite pledges to elevate development as a pillar of U.S. foreign policy, made by both the President and Secretary Clinton, there is still no leader in place nine months into the new administration.  And momentum from other branches of government indicates that the time to act is now.  With the QDDR process in State, the recently announced PSD in the White House, and draft legislation in the House (H.R. 2139) and Senate (S. 1524) we are more positioned than ever before to make foreign assistance reform happen.  To facilitate this reform, and prevent more fragmentation of U.S. development, we need a USAID Administrator.