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.