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MFAN Statement: Dr. Eric Goosby’s Appointment as Global Health Ambassador

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December 18, 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:

We congratulate Ambassador Eric Goosby on his appointment to lead the State Department’s new Office of Global Health Diplomacy. He has proven to be a strong public health advocate for poor and minority populations, and his successful stewardship of the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator prepares him well for the task ahead.

We are concerned, however, that the continued consolidation of power over health and development programs in the State Department threatens to undermine our overall efforts to achieve greater impact in alleviating poverty, eradicating disease, and fostering inclusive economic growth. MFAN’s position has been, and remains, that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) should be the lead agency on global health policy and implementation in the field when the programs being implemented have a significant development impact.  This view is echoed in President Obama’s landmark Policy Directive on Development (PPD), which seeks to “Reestablish the United States as the global leader on international development.  This entails a long-term commitment to rebuilding USAID as the U.S. Government’s lead development agency—and as the world’s premier development agency.” Ambassador Goosby’s description of the new office’s mandate would appear to contradict the PPD, because he indicates that it will play a broad internal U.S. government coordination role in addition to external coordination and diplomatic support—in essence, it will replace the former Global Health Initiative Secretariat with a new secretariat, also based at the State Department.

We welcome the State Department’s commitment to elevate global health as a diplomatic priority, but we believe it is the wrong approach to embed health and development programs so heavily in a diplomatic power structure. The risk is that decisions about these programs will, in some cases, be driven by the short-term politics, instead of by the long-term focus that is needed to drive sustainable health and development results. We also remain puzzled that the State Department has not done more to recognize and enhance the role of USAID as the U.S. government’s lead policy and implementing agency on all development issues, including global health, as laid out in the PPD. We encourage Ambassador Goosby and his team to fully integrate the expertise of development professionals into their activities as the office begins its work.