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Archive for June, 2011

MFAN Principal Releases Report on Renewed U.S.-EU Development Dialgoue

Thursday, June 30th, 2011
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In the face of trying economic times and upheaval among fragile states, MFAN Principal Bill Anderson has released a policy brief, in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., that touts a strong U.S.-EU foreign assistance partnership as an invaluable instrument against global instability.  Entitled, “The U.S.-EU High Level Development Dialogue: Building on the Legacy of the Marshall Plan,” Anderson puts forth a multi-faceted argument on the future of international development assistance.  The author, offering both retrospective analysis and evaluative projections, asserts that a widespread, integrated foreign assistance strategy between the U.S. and the EU is the appropriate response to instability in the global economy and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.

Stemming from a “Development Dialogue” that re-commenced in 2009, the U.S. and EU have renewed an integrated path towards foreign assistance on a scale that has not been seen since the Marshall Plan.  Though an operational partnership is far from being realized, Anderson is confident that such a linkage, once made, would be integral in “accelerating inclusive growth, reducing poverty, improving people’s lives, providing security and stability, supporting the rule of law, and preventing conflict and crisis.”  Given concerns that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will not be reached by 2015 and with fears that developed nations will respond to market contractions by reducing their commitment to foreign assistance, a robust partnerships between the two greatest contributors of Official Development Assistance (ODA), the U.S. and EU, will help to facilitate long-term maintenance and future expansion of current foreign assistance programs.

In order to spawn an operational partnership, Anderson notes the “Development Dialogue” must address the following three pillars of foreign assistance:

  • Sector focus
  • Improved aid effectiveness
  • Security and development

The most pressing sectors, or priorities, that the partnership must tackle are food security, coping with climate change, and reaching the MDGs.  With such a lofty agenda and limited resources, Anderson sees country-led strategies as the solution to making progress in these sectors and improving aid effectiveness overall.  Lastly, given the inextricable linkage between conflict zones and areas in need of foreign assistance, expanded U.S.-EU cooperation must also provide for conflict prevention and crisis response strategies.

Though a partnership between the U.S. and EU will be critical to combating today’s development challenges, Anderson identifies a host of inhibiting factors that have the potential to slow the process or derail it altogether.  The primary impediments that currently limit the scope and progress of a U.S.-EU partnership on foreign assistance are the “unwieldy, opaque institutions” of the U.S. federal government.  With a general lack of understanding concerning the logistics of foreign assistance initiatives and insufficient awareness about the potential benefits of the partnership in consideration, the U.S. Congress has its sights set on cutting USAID’s budget rather than exploring ways to “maximize results from limited foreign assistance resources.”  Moreover, an absence of interagency cooperation threatens to halt the dialogue indefinitely. As Anderson aptly puts it,Options for moving forward begin with putting the U.S. government’s own house in order.”

Going beyond the “opportunities” and “challenges” inherent to the partnership process, Anderson devotes a significant portion of his brief to what he calls, “moving forward.”  He writes that promoting awareness and providing information will help to overcome major roadblocks to discussions and that think tanks, NGOs, and private sector communities must educate Congress and the Executive Branch about the benefits of pursuing a bilateral foreign assistance strategy with finite resources. As Anderson remarks, “If the EU and the United States demonstrate clear results in mitigating or preventing crises in fragile states, the Congress will take note.”  Anderson adds that a USAID representative should liaise with the European Commission regularly.

Once these challenges are overcome, or at the very least mitigated, the U.S. and EU will jointly realize what Anderson asserts in his brief to know already: when compared to the dangers associated with pursuing a strong U.S.-EU foreign assistance partnership, “Not making the effort entails the greater risk.

To read the full paper, click here.

 

Brookings releases Catalyzing Development: A New Vision for Aid

Thursday, June 30th, 2011
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On Tuesday, Brookings launched their recent publication, Catalyzing Development: A New Vision for Aid. The event featured engaging speakers and a panel of experts who assessed aid as a driver of global progress.  As participants examined the changing landscape of foreign assistance, many of their recommendations for increased effectiveness aligned with MFAN’s priorities.

Inclusive partnerships and capacity development were recurring themes in the conversation. Both Kangho Park, consul general for the Republic of Korea, and Keiichiro Nakazawa, chief representative for the Japanese International Cooperation Agency’s US office, emphasized that donor countries can no longer set the agenda unilaterally. They underscored the need for broader, more effective partnerships and comprehensive strategies—including trade and private sector investment—to build capacity in developing countries.

These calls were echoed by Kyle Peters (World Bank) and Steve Pierce (USAID). Peters spoke of the need for donor coordination to harness our advantages and develop risk management strategies, and Pierce agreed that “aid, while necessary, is not sufficient.” He cited USAID Forward—especially the agency’s efforts on procurement reform—as a means of expanding partnerships on the local level.

Homi Kharas, Brookings Senior Fellow and one of the book’s authors, reviewed some challenges of foreign assistance and offered a number of recommendations, including an emphasis on transparency and South-South cooperation. Panelists expanded on these points: Hyunjoo Rhee discussed South-South knowledge exchange, the topic of her chapter in the book, saying that countries with a more equal relationship can share “the whole package of experiences.” Lindsay Coates, InterAction’s Executive Vice-President, stressed that country ownership must span the whole of society, noting that transparency is undercut without individuals and civil society organizations to hold governments accountable.

Kharas closed the conversation by looking toward the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan. As foreign assistance faces emerging challenges and opportunities—bringing in new donors, active partnerships with NGOs and the private sector, and increased transparency and accountability—his biggest fear is that the Busan proceedings will be “business as usual.” MFAN knows—and the thoughtful analysis in Catalyzing Development shows—that the changing development landscape requires a new approach.

CGD: President Sirleaf’s Ambition for Liberia: Aid-Free in a Decade

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
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A recent post on the Center for Global Development’s blog offers a recap of last week’s event with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Todd Moss, CGD’s vice president for corporate affairs, discusses the President’s speech and her laudable goals for Liberia. The full post is available here.

CGD had the honor and privilege of hosting Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—the first elected female head of state in Africa—on June 23.  At the event, President Sirleaf set a hugely ambitious goal of being aid-free within ten years. Given that aid currently accounts for more than half of GDP, this would imply serious increases in other sources of revenues, but it’s a well-calibrated message both to Congress and to audiences back home.

The Center has long had a special relationship with Liberia, including work on debt relief, the Scott Family Liberia Fellows program, and frequent events with Liberian officials like the recent visit by the health minister.

For me, the highlights of last week’s event, aside from Sirleaf announcing the goal of being aid-free in a decade and a middle-income country by 2030, was seeing the president in her element. She continues to be a crowd favorite and an engaging, inspirational speaker.  Having watched her for many years, she seems on top of her political game, enrapturing a packed room, speaking without notes, and weaving together Liberia’s dramatic story, the innards of policy wonkdom, and her own humor.

I was also impressed by the speech topic which, at President Sirleaf’s request, was not about not aid or U.S. security assistance, but the private sector and generating more investment in Liberia. Her main point was that jobs and economic growth can only happen sustainably through the private sector.  For Liberia, this means not only reaping the gains from better-run traditional extractive sectors of timber and mining, but also exploiting new extractives (oil!) and, hopefully, services.

Watch Sirleaf’s speech below. The full video of the event is available here.

CGD: New GAO Report on U.S. Food Aid and Monetization: Reforms Needed

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
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Connie Veillette, MFAN principal and Director of CGD’s Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance initiative, reviewed the GAO’s report on international food assistance in a recent blog post. She finds, as MFAN did, significant opportunities for improvement and cost savings in food aid monetization reform. Read the full post and others on CGD’s blog.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) just issued a new report critical of how the United States manages some aspects of its international food assistance.  That U.S. food aid is not managed as efficiently as it could be will come as no surprise to anyone who has braved the world of U.S. agriculture and Farm Bill politics.  But the GAO has produced a well-researched and convincing report that should help to clarify the tradeoffs involved when policy makers subjugate an international humanitarian program to serve domestic politics purposes.

The GAO report highlights the inefficiencies of monetization in which some Food for Peace commodities are allowed to be sold on local markets by private aid organizations to support their development work.  The process (converting cash to commodities and then back again to cash) results in transaction costs that removed $219 million over a three year period from funds that could have been used for development purposes.

Some aid organizations, such as CARE, have turned away from monetization.  The problem is that for many aid groups, monetization is a critical source of funding for their important activities.  Unless the system is reformed, giving groups access to other development funding, most will be unable to walk away from this less-than-cost-effective practice.

The GAO is modest in its recommendations – to reform the Cargo Preference Act of 1954 to eliminate a waiting period before foreign vessels could acquire U.S.-flag registry, and do more rigorous market analysis where commodities are sold, for example.  (Regarding the effects of selling food aid on local markets, see an earlier CGD analysis.)

Other critics have called for the repeal of food aid cargo preference, the phasing out of monetization, and the relaxing of rules that require all U.S. food aid to be in the form of commodities purchased in the United States.  John Norris at the Center for American Progress and I recently urged budget cutters to seriously review these programs for significant cost savings.

What will be interesting is whether Congress will avail itself of the opportunity to make U.S. programs more effective and efficient when it considers reauthorizing the Farm Bill in 2012. Stay tuned.

CCEFA Profile: Rep. Laura Richardson

Monday, June 27th, 2011
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See below for our latest Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance (CCEFA) profile of the Congresswoman from California, Laura Richardson. To read about other CCEFA Members we’ve profiled, click here.

Laura Richardson (D)

District: California’s 37th

Committees:

  • Committee on Homeland Security
    • Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies
    • Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications (Ranking Member)
  • Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
    • Highways and Transit
    • Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials
    • Water Resources and Environment

Congresswoman Richardson’s past experience with development has focused on cosponsoring legislation that targets women’s empowerment and health. She cosponsored the Global Resources and Opportunities for Women to Thrive Act of 2007 or GROWTH Act, which targets assistance for women in developing countries with respect to microenterprises, small and medium enterprises, private property rights and land tenure security, employment access, trade benefits, exchanges with U.S. entrepreneurs, Millennium Challenge Account assistance, and indigenous women’s organizations. This act would direct the Secretary of State to establish the Global Resources and Opportunities for Women to Thrive (GROWTH) Fund to enhance economic opportunities for very poor, poor, and low-income women in developing countries with a focus on increasing women-owned enterprise development, property rights, access to financial services,  leadership in implementing organizations—such as indigenous nongovernmental organizations, community-based organizations, and regulated financial intermediaries—improving women’s employment benefits and conditions, and increasing women’s ability to benefit from global trade. This act is very much in line with the mission of the State Department’s Global Office of Women’s Issues, headed by Ambassador-at-Large Melanne Verveer, and USAID’s new Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, led by Carla Koppell.

She also cosponsored H. Res. 1022 which affirms the House of Representatives’ commitment to promoting maternal health and child survival at home and abroad through greater international investment and participation. It recognizes maternal health and child survival as fundamental to the well-being of families and societies and its impact on global development and prosperity.

Additionally, Rep. Richardson embraced the principle of country ownership by cosponsoring  H. Res. 1230, which not only condemns the campaign of violence and harassment in Zimbabwe, but calls on the political parties to commit to forming a government that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people and promotes national unity. H. Res. 1230 also leverages multilateral channels by urging the international community—under the leadership of the United Nations, the African Union (AU), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC)—to deploy monitors to ensure that the presidential runoff election reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people.