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Archive for January, 2010

Noteworthy News – 1.29

Friday, January 29th, 2010
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This weekly posting includes key news stories and opinion pieces related to foreign assistance reform and the larger development community.

News on Haiti:

  • Agreement on Effort to Help Haiti Rebuild (The New York Times, January 26) Concerned about corruption and wobbly Haitian leadership, international donors agreed Monday during a meeting in Montreal on a 10-year rebuilding effort for earthquake-damaged Haiti, one that would create an even better capital city and that the government said would cost $3 billion.  [Clinton]: “Sometimes people have pledging conferences and pledge money, and they don’t have any idea what they’re going to do with it. We actually think it’s a novel idea to do the needs assessment first and then the planning and then the pledging.”
  • Clinton: Critics of US Haiti Relief Misguided (AP, January 26) ”Some of the international press either misunderstood or deliberately misconstrued what was a civilian and military response, both of them necessary in order to be able to deliver aid to the Haitians who desperately needed it,” Clinton told a gathering of State Department employees.
  • MFAN-related: A Better Week for Haiti – And With These Reforms, a Far Better Future (Huffington Post-Charles MacCormack, January 29) Drawing on Save the Children’s recent study Insights from the Field: Haiti, I believe four key reforms are needed to fulfill the promises of the Montreal commitment to rebuild Haiti:  1) Invest in Haitian institutions. Rebuilding infrastructure matters, but promoting human development matters even more. 2) Encourage the private sector’s role in development. 3) Empower one U.S. agency to oversee all development work in Haiti. 4) Increase accountability through transparency.

Other News:

  • Congress weighs in on foreign-aid reform (FP Blog-Josh Rogin, January 29) Senate Foreign Relations Committee leaders John Kerry, D-MA, and Richard Lugar, R-IN, introduced a State Department policy bill for both fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011 today.  “This is the first time in eight years that the Foreign Relations Committee will pass a State Department authorization bill, and we do so at a critical moment,” Kerry said in a statement. “This is precisely the moment when our investment in diplomacy is most needed and this bill provides our diplomatic corps with essential tools, authorities and resources to succeed in the tough jobs we continually require of them.”
  • Audit deems Pakistan aid program a failure (FP Blog-Colum Lynch, January 28) The two year-old development program for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) was designed to help improve living standards in one of Pakistan’s poorest and most politically unstable territories. So far, only $15.5 million has been spent on the initiative.  “It has not achieved the goal of improving the capacity of FATA governmental institutions to govern,” according to the audit, which was produced by the inspector general’s office in Manila, the Philippines. And it “did not increase the capacities of [local] NGOs to promote good governance, although some progress was made.”

Friday Afternoon Special: Congress Carrying the Flag on Reform

Friday, January 29th, 2010
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From Josh Rogin at

As officials at the State Department and USAID continue to wrangle over what to do with America’s top development agency, lawmakers are pushing their own ideas for reform. Soon, the State Department could have its first authorization bill since 2002, a policy blueprint that could include significant input from Capitol Hill.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee leaders John Kerry, D-MA, and Richard Lugar, R-IN, introduced a State Department policy bill for both fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011 today. The introduction comes just days before the release of the administration’s fiscal 2011 State Department budget request and in the middle of important foreign operations policy reviews both at State and in the White House.

“This is the first time in eight years that the Foreign Relations Committee will pass a State Department authorization bill, and we do so at a critical moment,” Kerry said in a statement. “This is precisely the moment when our investment in diplomacy is most needed and this bill provides our diplomatic corps with essential tools, authorities and resources to succeed in the tough jobs we continually require of them.”

Here is the text of the bill and a fact sheet put out by the committee.

The question remains whether or not this authorization bill will become the vehicle for the Kerry-Lugar foreign aid reform bill that their committee marked up in November. That legislation has very different ideas of how to structure USAID than what’s expected to come out of the two main reviews related to U.S. development policy, State’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review and the NSC’s Presidential Study Directive on Global Development.

Lugar gave a major speech on the Senate’s ideas about foreign aid reform at last night’s gala event hosted by the Society for International Development, where he emphasized the Senate’s view that development and diplomacy should be distinct and separate.

“Differences of opinion exist with regard to who should be performing development functions and how these activities should be integrated into our broader foreign policy efforts. We have not reached a consensus within our government on who should be doing what, where, when and why,” Lugar said.

“As we debate these issues, we should keep in mind that diplomacy and development are two distinct disciplines. Although diplomacy and development often can be mutually reinforcing, at their core, they have different priorities, resource requirements, and time horizons.”

Lugar’s message was basically directed at State Department officials who have been talking about the “integration” of development and diplomacy, an idea that the development community is resisting. Lugar also said USAID must have control over its own budget and policy formations, both functions that were stripped from the agency during the Bush administration.

State’s Policy Planning chief Anne-Marie Slaughter tried to allay the fears in the development community about the upcoming QDDR in remarks at an event Thursday hosted by the U.N. Development Programme.

“Integrating is not the bad word that many people fear it is. It doesn’t at all mean collapsing development and diplomacy into one another or subsuming one to the other,” she said.

But she would not say whether she supported USAID having the authority to made budget or policy decisions on its own.

Senator Dick Lugar Delivers a Compelling Argument for Reform

Friday, January 29th, 2010
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Richard LugarLast night at the Society for International Development’s annual Washington awards dinner, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Minority Member Dick Lugar (R-IN) were honored for their efforts to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective, transparent, and accountable.  USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah honored both Kerry and Lugar with an introductory speech, in which he also noted the importance of foreign assistance reform.

Senator Lugar gave a speech entitled “Foreign Assistance and Development in a New Era,” which touched on important aspects of MFAN’s foreign assistance reform agenda.  Key excerpts are below:

“There is probably not a person in this room who would disagree that development is critical for U.S. national security and that the alleviation of poverty and hunger is a key component. This is a sentiment that is shared in most parts of our government, including the Department of Defense.”

“Although diplomacy and development often can be mutually reinforcing, at their core, they have different priorities, resource requirements, and time horizons… Most obviously, diplomacy is far more concerned with solving immediate problems, usually associated with countries of strategic interest.  Although we hope that our development efforts will sometimes yield short-term strategic benefits, that is not their primary purpose. In a development context, we are willing to take a much longer view of the world and devote resources to countries of less, or even minimal, strategic significance. We are willing to allow the diplomatic and national security benefits of development work to accrue over time. And we are willing to engage in missions for purely altruistic reasons. These differences underscore why development must be an independent partner of diplomacy, not merely its servant.”

“Reforming U.S. foreign assistance – in both substance and architecture – has been a priority for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Secretary Clinton has stated:  “I want USAID to be seen as the premier development agency in the world.” I share that sentiment. One of the basic questions with respect to foreign aid reform is how we can best strengthen the capacity of USAID to run effective assistance programs.”

“USAID must have a central role in development policy decisions. If we are to avoid inefficient experimentation, it must have the capacity to evaluate programs and disseminate information about best practices and methods. That requires policy makers to continue augmenting the agency’s staffing and expertise. These principals are reflected in legislation that Senator Kerry and I introduced last year, S. 1524, the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act.”

“[S.1524] has strong support in the aid community. And it is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 23 Senators, twelve of whom are members of the Foreign Relations Committee. This level of backing for a bill related to foreign assistance is extremely rare…I am hopeful that the Executive Branch will recognize that a bill co-sponsored by a majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and nearly a quarter of the full Senate should be given substantial weight in its review process. A strong development agency that serves under the foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State, as envisioned in our bill, will best empower her to advance U.S. goals.”

President Obama’s State of the Union Address

Thursday, January 28th, 2010
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Obama State of the UnionIn his first State of the Union address last night, President Obama alluded to his campaign pledge to “strengthen our common security by investing in our common humanity.”  See excerpts from his speech below:

“That is the leadership that we are providing — engagement that advances the common security and prosperity of all people. We are working through the G-20 to sustain a lasting global recovery. We are working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science, education and innovation. We have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against climate change. We are helping developing countries to feed themselves and continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS. And we are launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bioterrorism or an infectious disease — a plan that will counter threats at home and strengthen public health abroad.”

“As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores. But we also do it because it is right. That is why, as we meet here tonight, over 10,000 Americans are working with many nations to help the people of Haiti recover and rebuild. That is why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan, we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran, and we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity.”

Read the full text of his speech here.

High-Level Haiti Commentary Touches on Foreign Assistance Reform Themes

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
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Haiti Relief_Michael Appleton_NYTimes

Since almost the moment that a devastating earthquake struck Haiti nearly three weeks ago, high-level world leaders, development experts (including MFAN Principals), and others have published pieces with opinions on what went wrong with development in Haiti and what we can do to make things right.

One common feature of the commentary, with the exception of a few pieces (Atwood and Birdsall come to mind), is the fact that they call for a new development approach in Haiti without mentioning that a transformative debate is happening at all levels of government about how to make overall U.S. development and foreign assistance efforts more effective and accountable.  In spite of this omission, the pieces touch on important themes of foreign assistance reform that MFAN has been aggressively advocating for more than a year, and which are now being discussed as part of the White House’s Presidential Study Directive on Development Policy, the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, and Congress’ anticipated efforts to revise the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.  These themes include:

  • Better development coordination across the U.S. government and between the government and other entities (foreign nations, civil society, multilateral institutions, and the private sector);
  • Increased public-private partnerships on development;
  • Better metrics and accountability for aid recipients and U.S. taxpayers;
  • Support for public and civil society capacity-building;
  • Greater in-country ownership of development; and,
  • Strengthened funding for development.

Please find below a collection of opinion pieces on the Haiti earthquake that touch on these issues.  The paragraphs that accompany each hyper-linked title get at the heart of the argument made in each piece:

  • What we can do to help Haiti, now and beyond (The Washington Post-Bill Clinton, January 14) As we clear the rubble, we will create better tomorrows by building Haiti back better: with stronger buildings, better schools and health care; with more manufacturing and less deforestation; with more sustainable agriculture and clean energy.
  • The Underlying Tragedy (The New York Times-David Brooks, January 15) This is a poverty story. It’s a story about poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services. On Thursday, President Obama told the people of Haiti: “You will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten.” If he is going to remain faithful to that vow then he is going to have to use this tragedy as an occasion to rethink our approach to global poverty.
  • Gordon Brown: We cannot fail the challenge of tackling world poverty (The Independent-Gordon Brown, January 15) But we should not lose sight of our wider responsibilities to address the daily suffering of millions. The first decade of this millennium was striking for the way concern over global poverty finally captured headlines and attracted sustained political and popular attention.
  • Why Haiti Matters (Newsweek-Barack Obama, January 15) In the months and years to come, as the tremors fade and Haiti no longer tops the headlines or leads the evening news, our mission will be to help the people of Haiti to continue on their path to a brighter future.
  • France Proposes Strategies for Building Haiti’s Future after Earthquake (The Washington Post-Bernard Kouchner, January 17) We will base our actions on the damage assessments…carried out in the next few weeks and should be based on an analysis of Haiti’s long-term requirements, if we are to put forward an ambitious reconstruction plan, not just for housing and infrastructure but also with regard to public institutions. Regional cooperation is critical.
  • If Haiti is to `build back better’ (Miami Herald-Paul Farmer, January 17)  Fourth, aid should be coordinated and conceived in a way that shores up Haitian capacity to respond…Schools must be rebuilt, but in the interim, children must be back in school soon, and rebuilding the city’s housing stock will require a different kind of urban planning and a long-term commitment to respect for the Haitian people’s wishes.
  • To Help Haiti, End Foreign Aid (Wall Street Journal-Bret Stephens, January 19) For actual Haitians, however, just about every conceivable aid scheme beyond immediate humanitarian relief will lead to more poverty, more corruption and less institutional capacity. It will benefit the well-connected at the expense of the truly needy, divert resources from where they are needed most, and crowd out local enterprise. And it will foster the very culture of dependence the country so desperately needs to break.
  • How to Help Haiti Rebuild (Foreign Policy-5 experts, January 19) [Michele Wucker]: To avoid other past mistakes, plans for recovery must actively involve Haitians and use the rebuilding as a chance to engage Haitian civil society. The most successful aid organizations combine strong contingents of Haitian staff with training and support provided by a smaller core of international staff.
  • MFAN-related: Haiti’s Tragedy and the Inevitable Controversy (Huffington Post-J. Brian Atwood, January 20) The Haiti operation is an all-government response, but USAID/OFDA is appropriately in the lead. The President has designated Dr. Rajiv Shah, the USAID Administrator to coordinate the USG response and by all accounts he is doing an outstanding job.
  • Some Frank Talk about Haiti (The New York Times-Nicholas Kristof, January 21) So in the coming months as we help Haitians rebuild, let’s dispatch not only aid workers, but also business investors. Haiti desperately needs new schools and hospitals, but also new factories.  And let’s challenge the myth that because Haiti has been poor, it always will be.
  • Helping Haitians (The Washington Post editorial, January 21) Donors and aid organizations cannot neglect the Haitian countryside, whose grinding poverty has encouraged the unsustainable growth of Port-au-Prince. Establishing systems of accountability in the disbursement of aid and nurturing Haitian civil society will also help minimize the corruption for which Haiti has become notorious.
  • MFAN-related: Through the Looking Glass: Haiti and U.S. Development Leadership (Huffington Post-Nancy Birdsall, January 21) Getting immediate relief to the earthquake’s victims is the critical issue right now. But how we do it matters for the long-term stability of Haiti, the U.S. image abroad and our larger foreign policy interests. Unfortunately, the situation today is highlighting the fissures in the U.S. management of development programs that could put our development goals and leadership at risk in Haiti and beyond.
  • We can turn Haiti around (The Guardian-Kofi Annan, January 21) Political instability, wide-spread poverty, and the absence of the rule of law and economic opportunity don’t just increase people’s vulnerability to natural disasters. They create conditions in which terrorism, piracy, corruption and organised crime can thrive and enable these problems to be exported across their borders…Responding to today’s fragile states must go hand in hand with anticipating tomorrow’s.
  • After Reconstruction (Newsweek-Andrew Natsios, January 22) It’s not about reconstruction and humanitarian aid; it’s about institutions. And without them, Haiti will remain a failed state.

To get up to speed on the current discussion on foreign assistance reform, follow the timeline here.