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Archive for the ‘USAID’ Category

MFAN Partner Takes a Closer Look at the QDDR

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011
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Just before the holidays, MFAN Partner InterAction posted an in-depth analysis of the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) on the organization’s QDDR webpage. The reaction focuses specifically on chapter five of the review, “Working Smarter: Reforming Our Personnel, Procurement, and Planning Capabilities to Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century.” The policy staff argue that the reforms listed in this chapter—namely reworking the planning, budgeting, and management between State and USAID—impact all the other recommendations in the QDDR and could be considered the first step toward an overhaul of these programs. The major reforms listed in this chapter include:

  • Personnel reform
  • A revamp of the procurement system, which entails:
    • Increasing oversight and accountability measures
    • Enhancing competition between implementing partners
    • Broadening the partner base
    • Building local capacity
  • An increase in the use of country systems
  • Further integration of planning and budgeting between the two agencies

    See below for excerpts from the analysis, and click here to read the full piece:

    “While there is much to applaud in the report, its shift towards a national security foundation for diplomacy and development raises significant concerns among development professionals. Over time, how this affects the planning and selection of development solutions at both State and USAID could result in an undercutting of the elevation of development which the QDDR asserts as one of its key goals.  Furthermore, how the reforms outlined in the report are implemented will determine whether humanitarian and development programs in the field are strengthened or weakened.”

    “In the long-term, reliable and accountable local systems should create the conditions for which development assistance is no longer needed.  However, as currently outlined, the training appears to focus on increasing the access that small organizations and local civil society currently have  to official U.S. resources. There must be an accompanying effort to assess and build the capacity of these organizations to achieve development goals.”

    “With new mechanisms such as joint mission planning, pooled funding, and the potential creation of a unified Defense Department, State, and USAID national security budget, the QDDR plans to build on the existing system as well as increase efficiency and resource allocation. Of particular note is a graphic in chapter five (pictured below), which outlines the new strategic planning methodology.  InterAction notes that graphic omits the recent Presidential Policy Directive, which established the U.S. Global Development strategy.”

    QDDR p194

    More QDDR Reactions from MFAN Partners

    Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
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    MFAN Partners continue to respond to the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which Secretary Clinton released last week. If you missed our first recap, click here.

    Save the Children LogoCharles MacCormack, president and CEO of Save the Children and MFAN Principal said, “With the leadership of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the QDDR reflects a serious effort to elevate the role of ‘civilian power’ in U.S. foreign policy. That’s critical for the wellbeing of children in need worldwide.” He continued, “The world’s top military power must also be as powerful a force at preventing conflict and at responding to the devastating and destabilizing conditions that war, natural disaster and poverty create,” MacCormack said. “This first of a kind, high-level review of U.S. civilian capacity lays the groundwork for more effective and efficient U.S. diplomacy and development work.”garrett_1

    MFAN Principal and Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations Laurie Garrett commented, “The State Department’s QDDR seeks to prepare all foreign assistance entities in the U.S. government for likely budget cuts, and move development and global health into what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described as ‘civilian power in the twenty first century.’ Overall, it creates a complicated set of networks and bridges across the entire government, reflecting the need to minimize use of private contractors, and respond to a broader, transnational, set of challenges to U.S. foreign policy interests.”

    Initiative for Global DevelopmentMFAN Partner the Initiative for Global Development (IGD) said in a statement: “IGD commends the Obama administration for the significant steps it has taken – first with the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development announced in September at the United Nations and now with the release of the QDDR – to  improve the effectiveness of U.S. global development efforts and increase economic growth and opportunity around the world…IGD will be monitoring implementation of the reforms introduced by the Obama administration and will continue to provide the input of its business members to improve the effectiveness of U.S. development policies and re-establish the United States as the global leader on international development.”

    Other Partners have started to take a deeper look into the QDDR to understand how it fits into the broader reform agenda of the Obama administration. At ONE, MFAN Principal Larry Nowels co-authored a blog post with MFAN member Sara Messer which praises the QDDR for several long overdue reforms. Still, Nowels and Messer point out three major areas that require “further review, planning and negotiation,” identified as the following:

    • Partnering with Congress: In her speech, Secretary of State Clinton noted that the QDDR took place foremost with fiscal responsibility and efficiency in mind. While the funding landscape ahead is challenging, the reforms for greater efficiency and measurable results should appeal to a Congress looking to reduce the deficit and maximize the impact of government spending. The QDDR offers a blueprint that is ahead of this debate and the State Department and USAID should seize the opportunity to forge a positive association with lawmakers. For two years, the administration has missed several critical opportunities to partner with Congress on global development initiatives. The QDDR offers a new opportunity, although in a difficult context.
    • Making tough decisions: President Obama’s Global Development Policy called for greater focus on where the US had comparative advantage and could make the most impact. The QDDR reinforces this principle and sets out six areas of focus: food security, health, climate change, economic growth, democracy/governance and humanitarian assistance. But what has not been said is where the US will pull back. Gaining consensus around where to cut will be difficult, but the QDDR does not help us understand where that might take place. Let’s hope that the FY2012 budget request will begin to define where the Administration has made these tough choices.
    • Harmonizing foreign assistance: The QDDR represents a solid effort to integrate and bring coherence to foreign aid policy and programs. But there are many other agencies besides State and USAID that provide some form of foreign assistance. The report defines “civilian power” as including all US government agencies, not just State and USAID. But breaking down entrenched bureaucratic priorities and convincing all agencies to work under the leadership of USAID on development assistance will be daunting. If we are to achieve a true “whole-of-government” approach, the heavy lifting lies ahead with the agencies and personnel tasked with implementation, and with other agencies whose cooperation they seek. The QDDR takes a leap towards streamlining and modernizing US foreign assistance. Now the hard work of implementation begins.

    Stimson Center Launches QDDR Scorecard

    Friday, December 17th, 2010
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    The Stimson Center has put together a helpful scorecard on their assessment of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). Focusing on authorities, structures, and capacity this QDDR scorecard is a useful tool to keep in mind as you make your way through the 200+ page document. Categories include:

    • Define State and USAID missions and set organizational priorities
    • Create a meaningful, integrated strategic planning and budgeting process
    • Address fundamental, lingering organizational problems
    • Justify the needed personnel capacity for 21st century challenges

    See a snapshot of the scorecard below:

    Stimson Center QDDR Scorecard

    MFAN Partner Oxfam on the New US Foreign Assistance Dashboard

    Thursday, December 16th, 2010
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    See below for a guest post from MFAN member Archana Palaniappan of the Aid Effectiveness Team at Oxfam America as she highlights features of the new US Foreign Assistance Dashboard, which launched today. The dashboard is just one of the changes brought on by the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) and internal reforms at USAID–USAID Forward.

    This is actually useful:  The new US Foreign Assistance Dashboard

    Have you checked out yet?  I know, another government data website might not seem like your idea of a gift from Santa.  But actually, this has the capacity to save development nerds a lot of time and has the potential to help poor people solve a lot of headaches.

    The new website is commonly referred to as the “Aid Dashboard.”  It’s the follow-through on a promise made in July when the Obama Administration unveiled its plan to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  The Aid Dashboard aims to give the public a window into how and where US development dollars are spent.  And it’s not just a mash of numbers; the Dashboard uses dynamic graphics to allow stakeholders to picture US foreign assistance investments easily by geography, sector, or time period.

    So is this a big deal to poor people?  The more people in poor countries know what donors are up to in their own backyards, the more they can hold their governments responsible for how they use the aid money that comes in. Citizen watchdog groups, journalists, and local businesses alike can use this comprehensive information to blow the whistle on aid dollars that they now know disappeared or weren’t used to meet their needs.  The more citizens know, the more they can fight corruption themselves.

    I’m really excited that the United States is finally taking aid transparency seriously. It’s no small task trying to get all 26 US agencies that deliver foreign aid on the same page (note that’s the end goal ─ the beta version today only includes spending by USAID and the State Department).  But this is just a first step. I’m still left wondering about the people this would matter to the most.  How user-friendly is this data to aid recipients and does it answer “what they’re asking for?”

    Magalie L’Abbé under a Creative Commons licenseIn a country like Cambodia, where foreign aid accounts for half the national budget, will this online tool help their citizens?  Consider that less than 2 percent of the population can access the internet and read English. Outside of the government, there are probably only ten people who can access the database and analyze it.  To the average Cambodian, that’s not transparency yet.  But they’ve taken the first step.  Now it’s up to the US embassies and USAID mission staff in-country to disseminate the information in a more accessible form.  But do they have the mandate and capacity to translate the information into local languages? Will they do extensive outreach with local civil society organizations, budget monitoring groups, legislatures, and supreme auditing bodies?  Most importantly, what’s their incentive to report to the country and even give data to the country’s own aid information management system?  The information is only as good as it is useable.  Just a few more steps to take and we can magnify anti-corruption efforts by citizens around the world.

    Monks head online in Phnom Penh.Photo courtesy of Flickr user Magalie L’Abbé under a Creative Commons license.

    The Aid Dashboard is a good start and I hope to see its longevity cemented by Congress.  They have the power to make it stick, and in fact, various bipartisan bills with broad support have already called for more transparency of US aid dollars.  Seems like a no-brainer.  Over the next year, USAID and State are road testing the Aid Dashboard in three highly aid dependent countries to learn what information is the most valuable to those countries.  In the meantime, the creators are eager to get feedback on this work-in-progress.  Be sure to click on the site’s Contact Us tab and let them know how to improve the data they provide so it can help citizens control their own development.

    To learn more about what the lack of transparency means on the ground, check out Oxfam’s report, Information:  Let Countries Know What Donors Are Doing.  And remember kids, the more you know, the more you can do.

    QDDR Executive Summary

    Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
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    The first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) is now ready for your comments, courtesy of MFAN Partner InterAction’s QDDR Page. Before diving into the full 200-page report (awaiting release), we recommend taking a look at the Executive Summary which states:

    “These civilians ask one question again and again: How can we do a better job of advancing the interests of the American people? The answer should be the same for every agency and department: We can work smarter and better by setting clear priorities, managing for results, holding ourselves accountable, and unifying our efforts. The first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) aims to meet these goals by setting forth a sweeping reform agenda for the State Department and USAID, the lead agencies for foreign relations and development respectively. It follows in the footsteps of the quadrennial reviews by the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security in taking a comprehensive look at how we can spend our resources most efficiently, how we can achieve our priorities most effectively, what we should be doing differently, and how we should prepare ourselves for the world ahead.”

    Stay tuned for more as we take a deeper dive into the development elements of the QDDR.