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Archive for October, 2010

CGD Takes on Aid to Pakistan

Monday, October 25th, 2010
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In two recent posts on MFAN Partner the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) blog, Rethinking US Foreign Assistance, CGD experts take on US aid in flood-raged Pakistan.  Molly Kinder, senior policy analyst, takes a closer look at a recent study from Jishnu Das (World Bank) and Tahir Andrabi (Pomona College) that finds “trust in foreigners is malleable,” especially in response to a humanitarian crisis.  This report specifically analyzed a four-year period following the northern Pakistan earthquake in 2005. It’s interesting to note that the authors acknowledge that winning hearts and minds is a priority of US foreign policy, and that aid is “a vehicle towards this end.”

Kinder disagrees with the findings of the report for two major reasons: 1) Conditions in Pakistan are worse presently than they were five years ago and 2) trust in foreigners does not necessarily translate to trust in US policy. See below for key excerpts:

“While these findings are powerful, the weakness in the authors’ conclusion is that trusting Western people is not the same as trusting U.S. policy and motives. A villager closest to the earthquake fault line may trust an American or Western relief worker who comes to his or her village, for instance, but may still vehemently object to U.S. drone strikes and oppose military action in the FATA region. Yet the survey questions did not ask whether the villagers trusted American policy – an omission that significantly limits the policy implications of the study. Das and Andrabi’s primary policy implication is that exposure to people matter more for attitudes toward people than does broader policy.”

“Today, Pakistanis are far more mistrustful of U.S. motives for giving aid.  Consider, for instance, these quite typical newspaper headlines in Pakistan: “U.S. pilots fly Pakistan flood aid to win hearts and minds,” reported the Dawn newspaper on August 10th.  “$224 million pledged to win ‘hearts, minds” said the Nation’s headline on August 24th.   Rarely is U.S. aid mentioned in a newspaper article without the term “hearts and minds” right alongside it.  On this point, I wholeheartedly agree with the study’s authors: the more the United States seeks out a public relations boost from its aid, the less likely it is that this will materialize In this context, the “first with the most” posturing of U.S. officials may in fact be counterproductive: the more the United States tries to take credit for their aid and aims to improve its image, the less genuine their motivation will be perceived.”

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NYT: Dr. Rajiv Shah Seeks to Cure the Ills of USAID

Monday, October 25th, 2010
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RajivShahThis week’s Saturday profile in The New York Times featured Dr. Rajiv Shah, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. As one of the Obama administration’s most visible foreign policy players since the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Shah has spearheaded an “ambitious campaign to rebuild Usaid that will ultimately determine his success or failure in Washington.”

“Interviews with several Usaid employees suggest that Dr. Shah has begun to re-energize the agency in the last 10 months. His efforts recently got a major lift from the White House, which issued a new development policy that pledges to restore Usaid as the premier American aid agency.”

Next month the State Department is expected to release the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) which, according to the NYT piece, “will reinforce Usaid’s expanded role but lash it even more firmly to the State Department.”

“To the extent that State maintains firm control over Usaid, it can make it difficult for any agency to revitalize itself,” said Connie Veillette, director of the program for rethinking foreign assistance at the Center for Global Development and MFAN Principal. “Usaid needs to have a stronger voice.”

“As a government, we have a coherent strategy for the first time since J.F.K.,” said David Beckmann, co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network and president of Bread for the World. “The only good thing that came out of the Haiti earthquake,” he added, “is that it raised Raj Shah to be a partner of the president.”

To read the full article, click here.

Open Budget Survey 2010

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
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On October 19, MFAN partner Oxfam and the International Budget Partnership (IBP) co-hosted an event on the release of the Open Budget Survey 2010, an independent measure of budget transparency and accountability around the world.  IBP administered a survey to 94 countries that evaluates public access to national budget information.  Public access, or availability, is defined in the study as “information as that which any and all members of the public might be able to obtain through a request to the public authority issuing the document.”  Each country was assigned a score based on the average of the responses to the 92 questions relating to public availability of budget information.  Three key findings of the Open Budget Survey:

1.       Of the 94 countries assessed, 74 do not meet basic standards of transparency and accountability in their national budgets;

2.       There has been a 20% improvement in the average performance of the 40 countries that have been measured over the three consecutive Open Budget Surveys in 2006, 2008, and 2010; and

3.       Governments can improve transparency and accountability quickly by publishing online the budget information they produce and by inviting public participation in the budget process.

Additionally, the survey found a strong correlation between a country’s lack of budget transparency and heavy reliance on oil and gas revenue, dependence on foreign aid, and authoritarian governments.  Exceptions to this correlation, such as South Africa and India, illustrate that it is possible for any country to achieve transparency and accountability if its government makes it a priority.

Based on these key findings, IBP has developed a set of four recommendations, two short-term and two medium-term, to help improve transparency and public engagement in the budget process:

o   Two Short-term Recommendations:

1.       Governments should make public all the documents they produce on the national budget; and

2.       Legislators should conduct public hearings on the budget and mechanisms should be established for public input.ibp

o   Two Medium-term Recommendations:

1.       Establish global norms on budget transparency; and

2.       All aid donors should demand budget transparency in countries to which they provide aid.

Gregory Adams, the Director of the Aid Effectiveness Team at Oxfam America, emphasized the importance of developing tools to hold governments accountable so that a “compact” between citizens and their governments can be established as a foundation for sustainable, country-owed development.  Budget transparency can help reduce corruption and increase aid effectiveness.  Read more about grass-roots efforts to further anti-corruption measures in Afghanistan here.

In UK, Development Key to Promoting National Security

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
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Devex reported today that “the U.K. government’s new national security strategy goes beyond military efforts to counter threats of instability. It also recognizes the contribution of British development projects in promoting national security.”

Click here to read A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The National Security Strategy.

According to Britain’s NSS, they plan to  “use all the instruments of national power to prevent conflict and avert threats beyond our shores: our Embassies and High Commissions worldwide, our international development programme, our intelligence services, our defence diplomacy and our cultural assets,” which was unveiled today by Prime Minister Cameron.

“[W]e will build alliances that make hostile acts against us more risky to their perpetrators … we will promote development and combat poverty to reduce the causes of potential hostility. In many cases, we aim to tackle problems at root overseas, to reduce the likelihood of risks turning into actual attacks on us at home.”

In addition to the unveiling of the new national security strategy, Cameron will be announcing that the U.K. intends to double its development aid for conflict-afflicted countries.

“The announcement will put aid at the heart of the U.K.’s efforts to tackle national security threats, the Financial Times has noted.

Meanwhile, a leading non-governmental organization in the the U.K. has warned that such move would put more humanitarian aid workers at risk.”

To read the full article, click here.

Getting balance right is key to U.S. development policy

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
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In a guest post on the Stimson Center’s new blog, The Will and The Wallet, MFAN Principal and President of InterAction, Sam Worthington discusses the inherent tension between short-term and long-term development objectives.

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“There is always tension between short- and long-term objectives. We face it every day in the decisions we make, both as individuals and collectively as a country. Do we buy a flashy new laptop now, or stick with our slow old desktop and save to send our children to college? Should government forego additional taxes to stimulate the economy, or would it be better to raise them and avert a potential long-term fiscal crisis?”

“The same tension exists for U.S. government investments in international development.  Short-term projects based primarily on immediate national security needs and objectives often compete for resources that would otherwise be dedicated to effective development work aimed at poverty alleviation and institutional capacity-building. At the heart of this tension is the need to address both short- and long-term objectives well, rather than having an ad hoc approach that fails on both fronts.”

To read the full blog post, click here.