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Archive for September, 2010

“Do good things and let people know you’re doing them.”

Monday, September 27th, 2010
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By Mark Green, Ambassador and Congressman (ret.)

I recently began posting a series of pieces with some of the reasons why I believe (a) America needs foreign assistance reform and (b) Conservatives should take up the cause.  Done right, foreign assistance can play a crucial role in our foreign policy.  Unfortunately, the status quo isn’t “done right” or, at least, done as well as it could be.

To summarize, here are my first nine reasons:

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

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

Reason 3: Foreign assistance reform is a great opportunity for Conservatives to reaffirm values and initiatives we care about.

Reason 4: Simply put, Conservatives (and Republicans) have a long history of standing up for EFFECTIVE foreign assistance.

Reason 5: The combination of fragmented authorities and overlapping bureaucracies in our current assistance framework is watering down public diplomacy efforts.

Reason 6: Making our foreign assistance operate as effectively as possible is a moral and ethical imperative.

Reason 7: The lack of coordination between our foreign assistance programs and our trade policies is hurting the effectiveness of both.

Reason 8: Conservatives need to ensure that our foreign assistance system recognizes, protects and builds on the enormous contributions to development being made by other-than-government sources – especially faith-based institutions.

Reason 9: Making our foreign assistance system more effective can help bring home our men and women in uniform – and make future deployments less necessary/minimize the need for future deployments.

And now…Reason 10: Since fighting the threat of terrorism is one of this generation’s greatest challenges, we need to sharpen those tools that can help prevent violent extremism from spreading and growing.

Most Conservatives believe that terrorism, and the extremist ideologies that fuel it, represents a challenge of historic proportions for America. But this challenge won’t be met by soldiers and bullets alone.

As the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)  Commission on Smart Power put it in 2007, “Today’s central question is not simply whether we are capturing or killing more terrorists than are being recruited and trained, but whether we are providing more opportunities than our enemies can destroy and whether we are addressing more grievances than they can record.”

George W. Bush

Why should providing opportunities be mentioned in the same breath as fighting terrorism? There are at least two reasons. First, while poverty does not cause terrorism, poverty can lead to despair – a condition extremists know how to exploit. As the Bush Administration’s 2002 National Security Strategy stated,

Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and

murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption

can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and

drug cartels within their borders…The United States will

stand beside any nation determined to build a better future

by seeking the rewards of liberty for its people.

Simply put, it’s in our long-term security interests to help sow seeds of hope in troubled lands.

A second reason to talk about providing opportunities in national security terms is that terrorist recruitment relies on a narrative that portrays the United States, and the American way of life, as “evil.”  Effective foreign assistance can help counter that narrative.  As Defense Secretary Robert Gates has eloquently stated,

For all of those brave men and women struggling for a

better life, there is – and must be – no stronger ally or

advocate than the United States of America.  Let us never

forget that our nation remains a beacon of light for those

in dark places.

As I used to say to my senior team in Dar es Salaam when I served as Ambassador to Tanzania, our diplomatic strategy should be simple in places like Africa: “Do good things and let people know you’re doing them.” We should offer opportunities to our friends and be seen as doing so — as long as it’s done without a heavy hand of self-promotion.

In recent years, the American response to natural disasters has provided clear examples of American compassion in action . . . and the goodwill that it can earn. After the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, there was a surge in those countries of positive attitudes toward the U.S.  People were grateful for the relief, and, in Secretary Gates’ words, saw America as a “beacon of light.”

Skeptics, of course, are quick to point out that such gains in popularity are often temporary. But in many ways, that misses the point. Such a fluctuation calls not so much for a less generous response as it is does for a broader, more effective response to ongoing conditions of poverty and despair. By reforming our foreign assistance system, we can make it clear to the world that we are ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with people in need – and that they can count on us not to leave them in the lurch.

Some of America’s global health programs are obvious examples of how effective and sustained assistance can reshape America’s image in the world . . . particularly in areas that have known extremism. As the CSIS Commission on Smart Power pointed out, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), both launched by the Bush Administration with strong bipartisan support, have helped to build a lasting favorable opinion of the United States throughout most of Africa.  In fact, a number of surveys have suggested that since 2006 America is more popular in Africa than in most other parts of the world – including Europe. What makes this is especially important is that of the 20 states that the “Failed States Index” ranks to be at greatest risk of collapse, 12 of them are in Africa.  If a fragile state fails, it creates a void that extremists will seek to fill.

There have been times in our nation’s history when many people have said that America’s standing in places like Africa didn’t matter much . . . that what took place in remote regions and far off lands had no bearing on America or our future.  Those same people probably thought, in the days leading up to September 11, 2001, that Afghanistan was of little consequence to us  . . . and that the offensive policies of an extremist regime would never impact the American people.

Many of our military leaders, retired and active, are among the strongest supporters of making our foreign assistance system more effective. Is it any wonder?

Best of @ModernizeAid Tweets

Monday, September 27th, 2010
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Twitter logoLast week, the Twitterverse witnessed a spike in global development topics thanks to the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit and the Clinton Global Initiative; see #MDGs, #USMDG2010, and #CGI for more.  MFAN live tweeted important speeches—particularly President Obama’s speech outlining a new U.S. Global Development Policy—and worked to keep the conversation going, while highlighting reform-related messages.  See below for a collection of our best tweets and click here to follow us!

  • HFAC Chairman Berman applauds President Obama’s new development policy, calls foreign aid reform top priority for both: 3:58 PM Sep 23rd
  • Shah: “This is not just about defense & diplomacy: this is about taking development seriously as core part of our natl interests”#UNWeekDML
  • Shah: The world is changing in a pretty fundamental way & we need to think about where the opportunities are #MDGs #usaid Thu Sep 23 2010 11:18:42
  • “But the purpose of development, and what’s needed most right now, is creating the conditions where assistance is no longer needed.” #MDGs 1:59 PM Sep 22nd
  • “First, we’re changing how we define development…Development is helping nations to actually develop-moving from poverty to prosperity.”1:57 PM Sep 22nd
  • “Today, I am announcing our new U.S. Global Development Policy–the first of its kind by an American administration.” @BarackObama 1:56 PM Sep 22nd
  • Obama’s new development policy will create a U.S. Global Development Council representing the private sector & civil society #MDGSummit 12:31 PM Sep 22nd
  • President Obama’s new development policy set to call for U.S. Global Development Strategy #UNGA #MDGSummit #aidreformMDG 12:09 PM Sep 22nd

    Women First: The GHI’s Women- and Girl-Centered Approach

    Monday, September 27th, 2010
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    A Guest Post by the International Women’s Health Coalition

    President Obama’s Global Health Initiative is promising for many reasons—the most revolutionary of them being that this Initiative is, by definition, a women- and girl-centered package of services delivered through strong health systems that are accessible to all. The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) and our colleagues and partners around the world have long stood by the belief that better health outcomes for women and girls translate into healthier communities—and having the support of the United States in ensuring that women and girls are the center of global health policy is a step forward. Let’s make it happen.

    Focusing the Global Health Initiative on women and girls will have a multitude of benefits, including improved reproductive and maternal health outcomes. Through an integrated, easily-accessed package of sexual and reproductive health services (comprehensive sexuality education; reliable access to contraception; safe abortion services; quality maternity care; prevention, testing, and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV; and human rights protections) maternal mortality can decrease drastically and a just and healthy life can become a reality for every woman and girl. Although the GHI’s package of services for women and girls does not yet include all of the above elements, it includes many of them and is an important step in the right direction.

    This integrated package of services is also an entry point to make significant progress in other areas, including the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and preventable and easily treatable illnesses such as diarrhea.  We know that HIV/AIDS devastates the lives of people of all backgrounds, identities, and ages—but the numbers show that to make serious progress against the epidemic, we must start with rights-based programming focused on women and girls, who are often at increased risk of infection. In 1985, just 35 percent of adults living with HIV/AIDS were women–today, they are 48 percent of this group. The figures are even starker when it comes to young women who comprise 60 percent of 15-24 year-olds living with HIV/AIDS and are 1.6 times more likely to be living with HIV/AIDS than their male peers. Accessible and affordable prevention, care, treatment, and support services including comprehensive sexuality education, contraception, screenings for STIs including HIV, and providing HIV-positive IHIHIV women the information and services needed to prevent an unintended pregnancy or have a safe pregnancy and delivery would have a dramatic impact on the global pandemic.

    When a woman is healthy and able to make informed choices about if, when, and how often she has children, it’s more likely that her children will be born at a healthy weight, and that she will have the ability to provide proper food and care for her family. Furthermore, if able to access comprehensive sexuality education, she is more likely to instill the principles of sexual health and gender equality in her children. These are just a few of the many examples of how commitments to women and girls are also commitments to healthy and prosperous families, communities, and nations.

    We are excited about the Global Health Initiative’s women- and girl-focused approach because we know that U.S. leadership has the potential to set off a ripple effect across the world that will drastically improve women and girls’ reproductive and maternal health; the health and nutrition of newborns, infants, and children; and slow the spread of infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS. We know this because our partners in Asia, Africa, and Latin America transform communities in this way every day. Take for instance Girls Power Initiative (GPI), which was born from two mothers who were frustrated with the abuse and neglect of young girls and women in conservative Nigeria. As a result, they created a program to change sexual and reproductive health outcomes and provide women and girls with the information they need to make healthy and informed decisions about their own lives. From what started in the 1990s as a series of empowerment meetings in their living rooms, their organization now reaches a huge audience through their TV and radio programs; and has directly empowered over 300,000 girls with information about their bodies and rights. In addition, the leaders of this organization have convinced the Nigerian government to adopt life skills education in public schools, and are now working on implementing the curriculum in the Nigeria’s 36 states. Their work is transforming not just Nigerian girls’ lives—but all of Nigeria.

    As the United States undergoes a much needed overhaul of the way it thinks of and practices development, the health and wellbeing of women and girls is and should continue to be at the center of President Obama’s and Congress’s vision of a healthier, prosperous, and more secure world. Implementing the principles of the GHI, including a women- and girl-centered approach, throughout all U.S. foreign assistance policies and programs will translate into better development outcomes in other areas—the environment and poverty alleviation just to name two. For decades, we have urged policy makers and funders to focus development efforts on women and girls, and President Obama and Secretary Clinton are answering that call.

    We applaud the Administration’s recognition of the critical role that women and girls play in the success of U.S. foreign policy efforts and we urge Congress to work with the Administration to make this vision a reality for women and girls worldwide.

    A Week in Review: America’s First-ever Global Development Policy

    Friday, September 24th, 2010
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    This was an incredible week for MFAN, the broader development community, and those struggling for a better life worldwide.  With the world turned toward Turtle Bay for the Millennium Development Goals Summit and the UN General Assembly, as well as thought leaders from all over just across town at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), development issues became the center of discussion.

    No announcement has the ability to impact all the small victories – like the new Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves – more than the new U.S. Global Development Policy, which President Obama announced in his speech to the UN on Wednesday.  President Obama used his speech as an opportunity to usher in a new era for development saying, “So let’s put to rest the old myth that development is mere charity that does not serve our interests.  And let’s reject the cynicism that says certain countries are condemned to perpetual poverty.  For the past half century has witnessed more gains in human development than at any time in history.”

    The President specifically listed four pillars illuminating how the U.S. is “changing the way we do business” on development.  Of significant importance to MFAN, he said the United States is changing how it defines development to mean “moving countries from poverty to prosperity.”  To do this, the U.S. will use all the tools at its disposal – “from our diplomacy to our trade and investment policies” – to help move countries along this continuum.

    Click to read the fact sheet outlining the new Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development and watch the full speech below:


    More Perspectives on Obama’s Global Development Policy

    Friday, September 24th, 2010
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    Below is a variety of commentary and analysis from MFAN partners and the broader development community regarding President Obama’s new development policy.

    InterAction’s analysis applauds many elements of the PPD and suggests the following to ensure its success:Print

    • Recognition that true country ownership goes beyond governments to include consultation and engagement of civil society down to the community level.

    • Capacity building of local institutions and civil society.

    • Not losing sight of the importance of bottom-up interventions that address basic human needs such as adequate food, clean water, shelter, access to health care, literacy and improved opportunities for women and girls.

    jkunder93pxMFAN Principal James Kunder, Senior Resident Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States writes about Foreign Aid Reform in the United States: Trying to Have it Both Ways. Read key excerpts below and click here to view the post in full.

    “The reason the U.S. government does not operate its current foreign aid programs in the rational paradigm President Obama described at the United Nations has to do with bureaucratic political power, plain and simple.  As control of U.S. development policy has gravitated over the past several decades — slowly, inevitably, under both parties’ leadership — from USAID to the Department of State, U.S. foreign aid has increasing been colored by the interests of priority nations, a shorter-term perspective, more American flag-waving, more program priorities that will please domestic audiences in the U.S., and a predilection for broadening the categories of foreign aid.”

    “This tendency does not suggest that U.S. State Department officials are malign or misguided.  They, in their oversight of U.S. foreign assistance, simply behave as diplomats and foreign ministries have always behaved:  Their priorities are queued up in terms of attaining foreign policy ends, and foreign aid is just one — albeit an important one — of the tools in their toolkit.  In this logic, a long-term, rational, broad-based economic development plan in a well-governed, but obscure, nation will always get cut before the foreign aid program in a strategically placed ally in the counterinsurgency realm.”

    “Now, if President Obama intended to change this reality with his UN remarks and Presidential Policy Directive, then the inspirational rhetoric about USAID being a “premier” development agency would have been matched by some real political power, so that rationalized U.S. foreign aid programs could hold their own in the inevitable bureaucratic and budgetary tussles.”

    USGLC-300x103The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s analysis of the new development policy highlights the establishment of an Interagency Policy Committee, the role of Congress, and the administration’s three signature initiatives. USGLC’s analysis says, “The policy established an Interagency Policy Committee led by the National Security Staff and responsible to NSC Deputies and Principals. This represents a serious commitment of White House time and attention to development issues, as opposed to monitoring only crisis situations.”

    “The new policy acknowledges the role Congress plays in setting development policy, and pledges to work cooperatively with Congress in making funding for development more flexible and effective. It specifically seeks to ‘forge a new and lasting bipartisan consensus on development policy within the broader context of our National Security Strategy.’”

    KolbeJim177pxJim Kolbe, a Senior Transatlantic Fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and a Principal of MFAN authored a blog titled, Millennium Development Goals: Reality or Illusion?

    Kolbe says, “But even if donor fatigue is not evident, if foreign aid flows continue at a steady or even an increased rate, will measurable changes in the development outcomes result in sustainable changes in the lives of people in the less-developed countries?  Are the goals, clustered as they are around functional and measurable indices, really a good measure of economic growth and prosperity?”

    rsz_sherine_for_blogSherine Jayawickrama at The Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University discusses a few elements of the policy (as we know it) that give her pause:

    • “the placement of development within the framework of the U.S. national security strategy (but I realize that wishing for development to be pursued for its own sake might be politically naive)
    • the intent to be more selective about where it works, focusing on countries that are well governed, etc. (isn’t the need for development more acute in the opposite case?)
    • the focus on game-changing innovation is welcome but it seems to refer mainly to new technologies (innovations in social mobilization, policy formulation or behavior change – just to name a few – can be as important)”

    Jayawickrama says, “With this policy directive signed, the focus now shifts to the really hard part: operationalizing it.  A significant factor in the policy’s success will be the extent to which USAID can be strengthened and elevated into a premier development agency.  That will depend importantly on the Quadrennial Diplomacy & Development Review (QDDR) that is now several months delayed.  Stay tuned!”