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Archive for the ‘USAID’ Category

It All Starts with Training: New CAP Report Calls for Better Crisis Prevention Training

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
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Last week the Center for American Progress (CAP) published a report, “It All Starts with Training: Crisis Prevention and U.S. Foreign Affairs Agencies,” that explores the need for improved training courses and professional development opportunities at core U.S. foreign affairs agencies. John Norris, Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at CAP, Abigail Long, associate for policy and government relations at Humanity United, Sarah Margon, Associate Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at CAP and David Abramowitz, vice president for policy and government relations at Humanity United all contributed to the report. The paper states that “without enhanced training, diplomats will continue to lack the broad range of tools they need to deal with the many complicated and challenging global issues they regularly encounter whether on the ground or back in Washington.” The goal is with improved training, diplomats and development experts can advance democracy, stimulate economic growth, and strengthen the rule of law prior to a possible emerging conflict that could end with direct military combat.

The Obama Administration has launched a series of reviews on how U.S. embassies and development offices operate. One such review, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), concluded that the U.S. is not adequate in preventing and managing crises. A few statistics included in the QDDR underscore how important conflict prevention is to the U.S.: close to 60 percent of State and USAID’s foreign assistance goes to 50 countries that are in the midst of, recovering from, or trying to prevent conflict or state failure; more than 25 percent of State and USAID’s personnel serve in the 30 countries classified as highest risk for conflict and instability; and more than 2,000 civilian personnel are currently deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. In part to turn the system around, the QDDR established an Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights and the New Bureau for Conflict and Stabilization Operations (COS) to “lead, coordinate, and institutionalize U.S. government civilian capacity to prevent or prepare for post-conflict situations and to help stabilize and reconstruct societies in transition from conflict or civil strife.”

As the authors note, looking at statistics from similar reports, it seems as though crisis prevention is a priority for the U.S. government. However, the findings from these reports indicate that significant institutional and cultural change is needed in order for the President’s rhetoric to become reality.

CAP’s key recommendations to improve crisis prevention training include:

  • Tying promotions directly to conflict prevention training;
  • Giving post bid preference to those Foreign Service officers who complete a certified core curriculum in conflict prevention training;
  • Requiring all incoming State and USAID officers to take a basic course on conflict prevention;
  • Providing for additional training for Foreign Service officers deploying to a conflict-prone country;
  • Requiring Foreign Service officers to complete a year of advanced training to be eligible for promotion to Senior Foreign Service;
  • Establishing the personnel capacity for civilian international affairs agencies to do better training;
  • Creating a new cone within the Foreign Service dedicated to conflict prevention; and
  • Synchronizing USAID’s operating expenses with its program budget.

To download a PDF of the report, click here.

 

Mark Your Calendars — Week of December 19, 2011

Thursday, December 15th, 2011
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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 MFAN Partner events during the week of December 19, 2011:

 

 

 

Save the Children Releases Report, Afghanistan in Transition

Monday, December 12th, 2011
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MFAN Partner Save the Children has released a report, Afghanistan in Transition, calling for attention to development and governance during the impending withdrawal of U.S. troops, and outlaying recommendations to development and government actors.

As the United States begins to draw down its efforts in Afghanistan – a situation not unlike some 20 years ago – the sustainability of the transition will depend on careful focus and continued development efforts. Afghanistan has received large portions of U.S. aid and made significant development gains over the last decade, but this progress will be at risk if continued diligence is not given.

The report details much of Afghanistan’s progress in sectors such as health, nutrition and food security, education, child protection and child rights, and humanitarian issues. However, achievements in these sectors are only relative, and even these gains are at significant risk of being lost. As an example, Afghanistan has witnessed a 26 percent reduction in its child mortality, yet it still retains one of the world’s worst child mortality rates. Solutions, such as training for Community Health Workers and midwives, have been only marginally addressed. Save argues that greater focus is needed in all sectors where relative achievements show promise but lack necessary emphasis and funds.

Afghanistan in Transition goes further to outline the reasons why development progress has been slow in Afghanistan. First is the issue of poor governance, including cases of corruption and a lack of institutional capacity. This leads to bottlenecking and waste of aid dollars, as well as the misalignment of development projects.  Moreover, a relatively weak civil society and a lack of transparency and accountability in governance add to this deficit.

Afghanistan is a fragile state in the midst of conflict, further complicating its development progress. Under the discretion of national security interests, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) targets areas of strategic importance rather than responding to direct provincial needs. As the report notes, “the aim of ‘winning hearts and minds’ has had the effect of penalizing the ‘peaceful but poor’ provinces.” For example, 77 percent of aid efforts are directed to southern and eastern regions of military interest, drawing resources away from peaceful provinces where the poverty rates are far higher.  Questions of sustainability are also rising, as 97 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP is comprised of aid money.

In the end, Afghanistan in Transition’s recommendations include:

  • Long-term investments to ensure sustainability and effectiveness of aid programs;
  • Strengthened mutual accountability, by increasing transparency and improving results measurement;
  • Investment in improved data and statistical capacity through concerted efforts;
  • A focus on children; over half of Afghanistan’s population is comprised of children, and issues such as health, education, and protection will require donor involvement; and
  • Prioritization of funding for needs-based areas. Military, political, or security interests cannot divert efforts for sustainable development.

 

Wilson Center Releases ‘Aiding Without Abetting’ Report on Effective Aid in Pakistan

Friday, December 9th, 2011
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A working group within the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars conducted an extensive policy re-evaluation of civilian aid provision to Pakistan in their report Aiding Without Abetting: Making U.S. Civilian Assistance to Pakistan Work for Both Sides. The group “concludes that a robust program of U.S. civilian assistance to Pakistan serves important interests of both countries” and recommends “substantial mid-course changes” as a key step to that end.  Improving civilian aid effectiveness in Pakistan would in turn improve American-Pakistan diplomacy by attaining mutually beneficial goals of economic development and security.

The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, better known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act (KLB), commits the United States to a multiyear program of expanded non-security assistance to Pakistan. This act authorizes assistance to Pakistan with the expressed goals of supporting democratic institutions, building capacity of governance and civil society, promoting economic freedoms and sustainable development, investing in people, and strengthening diplomacy. However, the report states that “nearly two years later, the United States is still struggling to fashion and implement an effective program of civilian aid for Pakistan.”

The KLB’s lack of impact has unsurprisingly resulted in political pressure to discontinue aid to Pakistan. Criticisms emanate for a number of reasons: a lack of results, ungratefulness and icy relations, limited institutional capacity and good governance, and the failure of aid to win hearts and minds in Pakistan. However, the working group finds that these criticisms forget the demonstrable achievements of aid efforts over the years, misunderstand the objectives of aid programs, and do not accurately account for the opportunity costs of discontinuing Pakistani aid.

The report states that stronger diplomacy with Pakistan is in the strategic interests of the U.S. for many reasons, including Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability, proximity to Afghanistan, military power, and ties to China and Saudi Arabia. Discontinuing aid would only jeopardize the integrity of a working partnership, instrumental in both avoiding hostilities and attaining mutual goals. However, while the continuation of KLB is strongly advised, the working group concludes that mid-course corrections to KLB implementation “are vital to avoid lost opportunities and disappointed expectations on both sides.”
The report finds that many obstacles in providing aid for Pakistan are beyond the responsibilities of USAID, the principle executor of KLB.  The complex and opaque mechanisms of U.S. aid-funding is a great source of confusion. Programs with overlapping objectives allow for legislators to reprogram funds under different flags for often political reasons. What results are a labyrinth of funding and a myriad of complicit programs falling under the umbrella of KLB, including the Economic Support Funds (ESF), Global Health Child Survival (GHCS), International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE), Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining, and Related (NADR) and others. To make matters worse, different USG departments- including State, USDA, DOE, and DHS- manage different programs. This not only confuses responsibilities and authority but makes spending reports and data very inaccessible and confusing.

The report outlays a series of recommendations for mid-course corrections in the implementation of KLB civilian aid. Included in these are recommendations for “improving effectiveness, transparency, and donor coordination mechanism for U.S. aid.” To this end, the report calls for enhanced USAID effectiveness through:

published information regarding KLB and other U.S. civilian aid programs and aid flows

-“seeking congressional support to streamline USAID application and administrative procedures”

-“using in-country senior personnel” to encourage “moving programs toward autonomy from aid”

-“extending Pakistan tours for USAID personnel” and “recruiting personnel experienced in international aid, not necessarily with USAID”

-evaluate whether or not USAID should switch “from cooperative agreements to (procurement ) contracts as the main implementing mechanism for U.S. aid in Pakistan.”

 

MCC Added to the Foreign Assistance Dashboard

Monday, November 28th, 2011
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Last week, budget and appropriations information from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) was added to the Foreign Assistance Dashboard. This is a positive step toward the expansion of this user-friendly tool that allows for policymakers and the American public to track and analyze investments in foreign assistance while holding the Administration accountable for returns on these investments. Still, as Will McKitterick of the Center for Global Development points out in a new blog post, the MCC data was already available on the agency’s website. McKitterick writes:

“Based on what it sets out to provide, the website is an impressively ambitious tool, and the government should be applauded for moving quickly to get in line with international standards on aid transparency (see IATI). Nevertheless, the tool is only as useful as the information it stores, and currently, it stores very little. Sure it includes both State and USAID foreign assistance request and appropriations data, but this information was made available at the original release of the Dashboard nearly a year ago, and both agencies have yet to publish data for obligations and spent resources. The recent release of MCC information is certainly a plus, but since that information was already readily available on the MCC’s website, it hardly counts as progress.”

The “What’s Coming” section on the Dashboard, complete with a matrix (below), shows the slow progress that has been made in updating and expanding the content since the Dashboard launched in December 2010. Yet with momentum for transparency through the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and this week’s High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, as well as the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act from Rep. Ted Poe, there is a great opportunity for the government to fulfill this critical element of reform.