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QDDR Blog Series: MFAN Principal Noam Unger on the Relation to the PSD

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MFAN has launched a blog series on the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), the initial findings of which are set to be released any day. The QDDR will provide a piece of the blueprint for making U.S. foreign assistance programs more effective and accountable, supplementing other key actions including the Presidential Study Directive on Global Development Policy and bipartisan reform efforts in the House, where Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) is working on a rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act, and the Senate, where Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Minority Member Dick Lugar (R-IL) have championed empowering USAID and bolstering foreign assistance accountability.

Noam UngerA Note on Process – the QDDR and the PSD

By Noam Unger

The State Department and USAID will soon unveil the interim findings of their inaugural Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).  While the anticipated release is far from the endgame, it represents yet another salvo in an ongoing policy debate.  Given the prominence of global development within the overall focus for the QDDR, it is expected that the actual report – due in the fall of 2010 – will have plenty to say on how to bolster State, USAID and the MCC to engage more effectively in poor and fragile states.  As someone focused on foreign assistance reform, I will be reading the forthcoming QDDR interim report to gauge the extent to which this ongoing review may contribute to a coherent and effective approach to both stabilization and broader development efforts.

Yet the QDDR is only one piece of the puzzle.  It is a State Department-focused effort that also extends to other agencies that have become part of State’s bureaucratic domain.  Development is now frequently touted as a key pillar of U.S. national security, but it is particularly important to recall that global development is impacted by a range of U.S. policies and instruments that extend well beyond assistance and include trade, agriculture, debt and monetary policy.  Even aid itself presently extends beyond the responsibilities of State, USAID, and MCC to Treasury’s multilateral support for development banks, counterinsurgency campaigns by the Department of Defense, global public health efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and so on.

That’s why the most important factor over the next several weeks could be the presidential study focused on global development policy and implementation (PSD-7).  The White House has the opportunity to shape the overall strategy for U.S. global development efforts and the structures that support it.  President Obama’s review is nearly complete.  In the near term, the final version of this first QDDR should be aligned with presidential decisions resulting from the PSD.  Over the long term, I hope the PSD leads to the establishment of a routine and comprehensive development strategy review.  A National Strategy for Global Development could serve as a substantive expansion on the National Security Strategy, while providing departments with coherent and cross-cutting guidance for their more detailed efforts – like the QDDR – to effectively align their resources and capabilities.

Noam Unger is a Fellow and  Policy Director of the Foreign Assistance Reform Project at the Brookings Institution and an MFAN Principal.

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