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Archive for May, 2012

How is USAID Implementing the President’s Global Development Policy?

Thursday, May 31st, 2012
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See below for a guest post from MFAN Principal, Senior Resident Fellow at the German Marshall Fund U.S., and former Acting Deputy Administrator for USAID Jim Kunder. To learn more about this blog series, click here.

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I have been poring over USAID’s responses to questions about how PPD-6 has changed the Agency’s business model since President Obama issued the Directive in 2010.  I find much about which to be encouraged in USAID’s update:  USAID’s new five-year country plans, the Country Development Cooperation Strategies, restore much-needed rigor to analysis of development dynamics; the creation of the Office of Science and Technology opens up the possibility of “game changing” partnerships with research and technology institutions; establishing a Global Development Interagency Policy Committee within the U.S. Government could lead to better coordinated aid and trade, multilateral and bilateral development policies; and the rejuvenated Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning is cranking out high-order guidance, as in the USAID Policy Framework 2011-2015.

USAID’s response to MFAN’s inquiries also raises some questions, and it would useful to hear further elaboration on these items.  First and foremost:  what happened to what many would see as the centerpiece of PPD-6:  President Obama’s extraordinary emphasis on “elevating” broad-based economic growth “as a top priority?”  According to PPD-6, or at least to the White House Fact Sheet accompanying it, “Economic growth is the only sustainable way to accelerate development and eradicate poverty.”  The same day the PPD was released, the President, during his speech to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit, hammered home the importance of emphasizing economic growth, calling it “the most powerful force the world has ever known for eradicating poverty and creating opportunity….”  As USAID’s response to MFAN displays, it appears that the process of converting the President’s priority into the USAID business model remains a work in progress.  Four “Partnership for Growth” countries have been designated; a new economic growth strategy paper has been promised; and the USAID Policy Framework mentions economic growth as the fourth of its seven “Core Development Objectives.”   Given PPD-6’s powerful endorsement of economic growth, these steps seem modest at best.

My second PPD-6 question for USAID is:  What happened to the U.S. Global Development Strategy promised in the Directive?  It is listed right there in the same paragraph of the Fact Sheet that mentions the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review as one of the core “mechanisms for ensuring coherence in U.S. development policy….”  Establishing such a Strategy – to be approved by the President every four years, according to PPD-6 – seems a concrete way to ensure, in the words of the Directive, the “elevation of development as a core pillar of American power….”

Placing PPD-6 and the President’s MDG Summit speech side by side with USAID’s 2012 MFAN response raises a third question, one related to selectivity.  PPD-6 made powerful statements about how “The United States cannot do all things, do them well, and do them everywhere,” while committing the U.S. Government to “make hard choices about how to allocate attention and resources across countries, regions, and sectors.”  This hard-edged emphasis on rigorous selectivity is not mentioned in USAID’s response to MFAN.  And a cursory review of USAID country programs and budget allocations by sector does not immediately suggest any radical refocusing of resources on a slimmed down portfolio.  Perhaps there are more subtle changes underway that do not jump off the pages of USAID’s website and budget documents, but it would be interesting to hear USAID’s take on how the Agency is implementing the rigorous selectivity statements in PPD-6.

In summary, USAID’s report to MFAN makes a useful contribution to the development community’s understanding of PPD-6 implementation.  But, more information on the topics raised above would be welcome.

 

MFAN Statement: Senate Budget Bill Strong on Foreign Assistance and Reform

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012
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May 30, 2012 (WASHINGTON) This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a strong FY13 State and Foreign Operations budget to support U.S. leadership in the fight against global poverty and disease. Acknowledging the challenging fiscal climate, we urge Congress to adopt the Senate bill and advance it to President Obama to sign into law.

The funding in the Senate Committee’s bill will help us reach two important goals. First, it will allow the U.S. to maintain a strong foreign assistance presence in the developing world, where our support is critical to bolstering nascent democracies, helping developing countries and citizens achieve self-sufficiency, and building constructive economic and security relationships. Second, it will maintain the momentum of a decade-long foreign assistance reform process, supported by both parties, that has made our approach more effective and accountable.

The language in the Senate Committee report highlights one particularly important step: Reforming the procurement policies and practices of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in order to “protect taxpayer dollars from waste and fraud”; reduce “our reliance on large, inflexible contracts”; and “work more directly with local governments and civil society to build capacity and develop sustainable programs.” We look forward to working with Congress, aid implementing organizations and USAID Administrator Raj Shah, who is leading the procurement reform effort, to see that further changes are enacted sensibly and carefully in support of greater ownership of the development process by developing countries and citizens.

 

New CAP-CGD Report on Reorienting the International Affairs Budget

Thursday, May 24th, 2012
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Last week, MFAN hosted an event recognizing the launch of a new report titled “Engagement Amid Austerity: A Bipartisan Approach to Reorienting the International Affairs Budget” and co-authored by MFAN Principals John Norris and Connie Veillette. The event was moderated by George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair and Chairman of USGLC, and featured John Norris, Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress, and Connie Veillette, then Director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program at the Center for Global Development. Responding to the report launch were Gordon Adams, Professor in the School of International Service at American University and Distinguished Fellow at The Stimson Center, and Andrew Preston, Counselor for Development in the Foreign and Security Policy Group at the British Embassy.

Click on the links to read an executive summary of the report and see an interactive map. To read a blog piece from Norris and Veillette, click here.

Ingram opened the discussion by arguing the report is incredibly thought provoking and it underscores the importance of improving the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance. Veillette explained the reasoning behind producing the report and the principles used to guide it. During this time of budget austerity, she explained they wanted to think about how and where to cut in smart ways that would not hurt the U.S. aid infrastructure and, wherever possible, minimize the impact cuts would have in developing countries.

To create the report, Veillette and Norris put together a working group of 15 bipartisan individuals who provided input on ways to frame and approach the topic. The goal was to provide a framework to accommodate cuts to the International Affairs budget—frequently referred to as the 150 account—while maintaining U.S. global leadership in the field. Four big ideas came out of the framework discussions: be more selective and focused on what types of economic and security assistance are provided and to which countries; put PEPFAR programs in upper-middle income countries on an increased cost-sharing trajectory; reform U.S. food assistance programs by eliminating monetization, cargo preferences, and allowing more local and regional purchase of emergency food aid; and create an International Affairs Realignment Commission to examine and redesign programs and architecture.

Norris provided more insight into the process for formulating the report. He said the working group began by recognizing the robust dialogue and debate around aid effectiveness and the lack of discussion about where the U.S. would have the most impact in delivering aid. The working group went through 146 countries who receive U.S. aid and evaluated forces that conspire around selectivity. The findings showed that the U.S. is wildly over-deployed and not as effective as it could be. The report concludes that the U.S. can move the development needle by putting more resources into fewer places.

The first respondent to speak was Adams who was also a member of the report’s working group. He commented on the importance of the report, where it makes real progress, and a few areas where it stimulated his thinking. According to Adams, the importance of the report is in the way the U.S. engages with the world and where it puts resources behind that engagement. He said the report recognizes certain realities, including the notion that the U.S. has a limited ability to create systematic change in the developing world and most of the economic activity occurring in developing countries has little to do with the bilateral and multilateral assistance of major donors. The three components of the report he found stimulating included the U.S.’ ability to help countries create stable governments and fight corruption; the need for sufficient human resources and operating expenses at USAID to ensure effectiveness of our aid dollars; and the role of the Defense Department in development work, adding “with the money comes the mission.”

Preston rounded out the panel by discussing his experience at DFID and austerity in the UK. The UK is also facing major budget cuts, but Preston noted that austerity measures have not affected DFID’s operating model.  DFID’s duty is to spend every penny of aid money well and focus on transparency, evaluation, showing results, and communicating successes and the value of aid. As a DFID representative he believes any changes made in the structural makeup of U.S. foreign aid will be beneficial for all donors. He also believes that the international focus on country ownership will improve effectiveness while making an effort to underpin political decision making and enforcing the importance of graduation.

Overall, it was a lively discussion to kick off a new dialogue around how to make U.S. foreign assistance flexible and effective amid a time of tight budgets and true leadership from developing countries.

 

Mark Your Calendars — Week of May 21, 2012

Friday, May 18th, 2012
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Every Thursday, MFAN will post a list of upcoming events for the following week. For more information about each event and to RSVP, click on the links below. If your organization is hosting an event next week and you don’t see yourself on the list, please email info@modernizeaid.net.

See below for a list of additional MFAN partner events:

 

MFAN Co-Chairs New Op-ed: More Sunlight on US Foreign Assistance

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
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In a new op-ed in Devex, MFAN’s Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram, and Jim Kolbe argue that increased transparency in US foreign assistance will make these programs more effective and, ultimately, bolster their support. The co-chairs urge policymakers to enhance aid transparency measures to not only allow citizens of countries who receive US assistance to hold their governments accountable, but to share success stories of programs that are working and where efficiencies are being found as part of the larger foreign assistance reform effort. They write:

“Few decisions will have as large a global impact as the ones policymakers will soon make about the fate of the international affairs budget and the programs it funds, like the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and Feed the Future, which have helped improve countless lives over the last decade. Increased transparency, particularly on the part of the Obama administration, will go a long way toward ensuring that we come out of this budget round with the resources and momentum it will take to capitalize on progress toward development outcomes and reform.”

To hold the Obama Administration accountable for critical development reforms, MFAN launched a microsite, Policy to Action, which tracks how transparently key development agencies are implementing the reforms in DC and in the field. Click here to read more about MFAN’s push for aid transparency.