This weekly posting includes key news stories and opinion pieces related to foreign assistance reform and the larger development community.
What we’re reading: Development creeps into Afghanistan dialogue; food security ahead of a new study.
- What we can achieve in Afghanistan (Washington Post-Robert Zoellick, October 30)First, we need to “secure development” — that is, create a strong link between security and development. Each reinforces the other, especially when we focus on communities and on resolving local-level conflict. Third, locally led projects are the most effective. The National Solidarity Program, which the World Bank helped launch in 2003, empowers more than 22,000 elected, village-level councils to decide on their development priorities — from building a school to irrigation to electrification. So far, the program has reached more than 19 million Afghans in 34 provinces, with grants averaging $33,000. Development owned by the community can survive amid conflict: When an NSP-funded school was attacked in August 2006, the villagers defended it. The community councils also help build cooperation among villages and with the government.
- More Schools, Not Troops (The New York Times-Nick Kristof, October 29) Dispatching more troops to Afghanistan would be a monumental bet and probably a bad one, most likely a waste of lives and resources that might simply empower the Taliban. In particular, one of the most compelling arguments against more troops rests on this stunning trade-off: For the cost of a single additional soldier stationed in Afghanistan for one year, we could build roughly 20 schools there. The aid organization CARE has 295 schools educating 50,000 girls in Afghanistan, and not a single one has been closed or burned by the Taliban.
- Lew: No surge of civilians in Afghanstan after review (FP Blog-Josh Rogin, October 26) “The idea of getting our foreign assistance as directly to the people who are going to use it as efficiently as possible is central to the way we’re thinking about foreign assistance and development generally,” Lew said, adding that since many of the contracts were up for renewal at the beginning of October, it gave the impression this transfer was more immediate and widespread than it necessarily was. Robin Raphel, the former Ambassador now a part of Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke’s staff, is in Pakistan right now leading a case by case review of all of these projects, Lew said.
- Food, Humanity, Habitat and How We Get to 2050 (The New York Times, October 28) According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, feeding humanity in 2050 — when the world’s population is expected to be 9.1 billion — will require a 70 percent increase in global food production, partly because of population growth but also because of rising incomes. The question isn’t whether we can feed 9.1 billion people in 2050 — they must be fed — or whether we can find the energy they will surely need. The question is whether we can find a way to make food and energy production sustainable in the broadest possible sense — and whether we can act on the principle that our interest includes that of every other species on the planet.