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Archive for May, 2010

Why Conservatives Should Care About Foreign Assistance Reform

Thursday, May 27th, 2010
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By Mark Green, Managing Director of the Malaria Policy Center

Ambassador and Congressman (ret.)

Reason #1 Why Conservatives Should Support Foreign Assistance Reform

Last week I wrote that I would post a series of pieces designed to lay out the Conservative case for foreign assistance reform.  I had a lot positive feedback – and also some negative. Some Conservative writers indicated they thought that we should simply end foreign assistance once and for all. But that’s not a reason to oppose efforts at reform – opposing reform just ensures the continuation of the status quo . . . the continuation of a flawed system. As a Conservative (please check out my lifetime American Conservative Union ratings and you’ll see that I more than qualify), I believe the status quo simply doesn’t work – at least not as it should.

So here go the first couple of my reasons:

Number 1: Our current foreign aid system is organizationally incoherent.

Over the last four decades, our foreign aid programs have become fragmented across more than 20 different agencies and over 50 separate offices.  This has led to an administrative maze where programs are administered by offices with overlapping jurisdictions, conflicting rules, and differing cultures.  More importantly, it has given rise to a system where little comprehensive strategic planning is done . . . which means that our development professionals are often working without a clear sense of how program objectives and measurements.

Conservatives have an opportunity, maybe a once-in-a-generation opportunity, to help scrutinize our foreign assistance policies and programs, and make them more effective and productive.

Just as our military underwent a major organizational overhaul twenty-five years ago with the Goldwater-Nichols legislation and the Quadrennial Defense Reviews that followed, so should our development system.  We should work to make it more transparent and more accountable with a clear chain of command.  We should create a clear national strategy on global development (which the recently leaked Presidential Study Directive calls for) that firmly and clearly lays out foreign assistance objectives, and outlines the roles and responsibilities of various offices.

Sounds like a good job for Conservatives — taking sound principles of business administration and applying them to bureaucracy in need of reform.

Reason #2:  We need to reform the system to make our precious taxpayer dollars go much further.

Some observers have said that it’s a difficult time to take up foreign aid reform when we’re facing such obvious fiscal challenges. But I’d argue that this is the VERY time to take this issue on.  The rising deficit should be a wake up call to all of us – with Conservatives in the lead – that we need to scrub every program and every structure to make sure that it is as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

Foreign aid reform is an opportunity for us to push for strong new tools in monitoring and evaluation.   It’s an opportunity to lock in procedures for periodic review of our assistance programs, and require program advocates to re-justify programs and structures with each review.

Where redundancies exist, they should be eliminated.  Where efficiencies can be found, they should be implemented.  And where programs no longer meet our objectives, they should be ended.

One of the reasons that there are more Conservatives running for office – from Reagan Republicans to Blue Dog Democrats – is that our citizens are angry over government waste.  Foreign aid reform gives us a chance to put that sentiment to work.

Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosts day-long symposium on global hunger & food security

Thursday, May 27th, 2010
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On May 20, 2010, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosted a day-long symposium on Agriculture and Food Security. Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, delivered the keynote address and shared the U.S. Government’s implementation strategy for its global hunger and food security initiative, now called “Feed the Future.” Shah noted that last year the number of people suffering from chronic hunger topped 1 billion as a result of the recent food crisis and global financial crisis, and said that “we must hold each other’s feet to the fire,” emphasizing that this really is a global initiative.

Feed the Future demonstrates adherence to key foreign assistance reform principles in accelerating progress toward the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. Administrator Shah said that agricultural development is a springboard for economic development and stated that “through this Feed the Future initiative, we are investing the talents of experts throughout our government, working closely with the State Department, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the USTR and the Peace Corps in this effort.”  He noted that this initiative will be country-led and that we can expect 15 African country investment plans by the end of 2010 with the potential to help 650 million people.

Shah asked that Congress to fully fund the initiative and said their support was needed now more than ever. He thanked Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN), Bob Casey (D-PA), and John Kerry (D-MA) for their leadership on food security. Shah also pointed to the leadership of Ambassador Bill Garvelink , Deputy Coordinator for Development, who will oversee the execution of Feed the Future within USAID and Ambassador Pat Haslach, Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy, housed at the State Department,  who will “make sure this partnership remains a global priority because we simply won’t eliminate hunger without that.”

Feed the Future has a strong focus on women as they need equal access to services and support. Shah said that “when women control gains in income, they’re far more likely to spend those gains improving their families’ access to health, education and nutrition.” In talking about country-led development, Shah said, “If you’re here representing a partner country, we will follow your lead. Once you commit to a comprehensive plan, we will commit to helping bring the global community together to support you in its execution. We will have a single point of contact in your country to coordinate U.S. government efforts and engage with your leaders.”

On the panel that followed Shah, Cheryl Mills, State Dept. Counselor, said, “We are still determining who the food security coordinator will be, but there will be a single point of contact for the USG.” MFAN believes that in order for Feed the Future to succeed as part of a whole-of-government approach, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – the U.S. government’s lead development agency – needs to be put in charge of the food security initiative and oversee its implementation process.  Feed the Future’s two key objectives for addressing global food insecurity are accelerating agricultural growth and production in developing countries and improving nutritional status, in particular of women and children – both of which are inherently poverty-focused development goals.

In addition to Shah, Thomas Vilsack, U.S. secretary of agriculture; Namanga Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa; and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of the Republic of Liberia, delivered remarks at the event. Catherine Bertini and Dan Glickman, cochairs of The Chicago Council’s Global Agricultural Development Initiative, moderated panels.

MFAN Principal Jim Kunder on Development and National Security

Thursday, May 27th, 2010
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Below is a great blog post from MFAN Principal Jim Kunder, senior resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund, that explores the role of development in a national security framework.  Kunder looks to the newly created UK National Security Council — which includes a Secretary of State for International Development in its leadership — as a model for what development can and should be in the U.S.

Development and National Security:  Clarity in London, but a Foggy Bottom in Washington

Jim_KunderIn a recent German Marshall Fund blog (In the United State: A Breakthrough in the Tortured Foreign Aid Debate?), I summarized an early draft of the White House’s Presidential Study Directive 7 – the Obama Administration’s first cut at a comprehensive policy on international development.  I argued that “PSD-7,” while proposing modest enhancements in the status of the U.S. Agency for International Development, mostly reflects “continued uncertainty about whether the United States government really wants a center of excellence, strong and vocal, in international development.”

Most serious national security analysts, on both sides of the Atlantic, recognize that there is a clear correlation between poverty and hopelessness, on the one hand, and threats to national security, and instability, on the other.  Although the correlation is complex – and may include intervening variables of culture, belief systems, efficiency of security forces, and mobilization dynamics – few policymakers fail to appreciate that individuals and groups with little hope for their, or their children’s, advancement can be relatively easy recruits for violent movements and ideologies.

Certainly, the new government in London recognizes this link.  In announcing the formation of the UK “National Security Council,” the Prime Minister’s Office noted that “The Council will coordinate responses to the dangers we face, integrating at the highest level the work of the foreign, defence, home, energy and international development [my emphasis] departments, and all other arms of government contributing to national security.”  The National Security Council, to be chaired by the Prime Minister, includes, as permanent members, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence, and the Security Minister.  And, of course, the National Security Council permanent membership includes the Secretary of State for International Development – a clear recognition by the British government that international development is intrinsic to national security.

In the United States, regrettably, a clear understanding of the strong linkage between international development and national security remains elusive; USAID’s status in national security deliberations remains “foggy;” and, despite soaring rhetoric in PSD-7, international development remains at the bottom in the theoretically equilateral defense-diplomacy-development triangle.  Based on the draft Presidential Study Directive, instead of USAID being invited as a full-time member of the United States version of the National Security Council, the USAID Administrator “will be included in NSC meetings when appropriate.”  Since the same document states unequivocally that the USAID Administrator will report to the Secretary of State, those familiar with policy dynamics within the Obama Administration question whether USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah will ever sit regularly at the NSC table.

When evaluating the national security of the Atlantic nations, a strong defense clearly counts; an active diplomacy counts; and, equally clearly, reducing poverty, enhancing democratic participation, and providing hope for the future – which go by the name “international development” – also counts.  London’s newly created National Security Council reflects all foreign policy elements of national security.  It’s time for similar clarity in Washington.

MFAN Principal Hosts Hernando de Soto

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
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Hernando de SotoMFAN Principal, former USAID Administrator, and current dean of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs J. Brian Atwood hosted renowned Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto as part of the University of Minnesota’s “Great Conversations” series last week.  You can listen to the conversation here.  De Soto’s perspective on the global economic crisis and the importance of democratic governance to global prosperity are relevant messages for aid advocates everywhere.  Though no major media covered the event, the Growth & Justice Blog — a local blog based in Minnesota — has a nice write-up of the event.  Be sure to check it out!

MFAN Partner Comments on Upcoming Release of National Security Strategy

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
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Sarah Jane Staats, director of policy outreach at the Center for Global Development and MFAN member, has a new post on CGD’s Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance blog about the Obama Administration’s forthcoming National Security Strategy.  It was announced earlier this week that Secretary Clinton will be outlining the new strategy at the Brookings Institution tomorrow.  We expect development to be a key focus of the National Security Strategy, which — as Sarah Jane notes — President Obama cited when he previewed the strategy at West Point, saying “combating a changing climate and sustaining global growth” and “helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick” are major challenges the U.S. faces today.  Read the full blog post here and see excerpts below:

“The new strategy will cover prevention of nuclear proliferation and terrorism as well as the use of defense, development and diplomacy in the U.S. national security interest.”

“I’m eager to see the full National Security Strategy and articulation of how the Obama administration will elevate development alongside diplomacy and defense in our national security interest. The release of the new strategy should also tee up long-awaited announcements about the outcome of the Presidential Study Directive on U.S. Global Development Policy (PSD) and the findings of the State-USAID Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). Let’s hope the 2010 National Security Strategy gets the development policy ball rolling.”