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Archive for the ‘USAID’ Category

Save the Children Releases Recommendations on Local Consultation and Engagement

Friday, December 3rd, 2010
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In a new policy brief called “Consultation & Participation for Local Ownership: What? Why? How?,” MFAN Partner Save the Children examines how to make the Obama Administration’s emphasis on “country ownership” a successful model for stakeholder participation in development programs.

Through two major initiatives on global food security and global health (Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative, respectively), as well as his new global development policy, President Obama has established country-led approaches as a core principle of effective development practice, so that U.S. assistance is more responsive to recipient-country priorities.  This brief makes suggestions for how the U.S. government can best strengthen its own models of engagement and consultation, while also providing support to national governments and civil societies “to make their own processes more inclusive, more fully owned, and ongoing rather than one-off.”  As Save points out, “When done well, wide stakeholder consultation and participation in program design and implementation lead to mutually reinforcing benefits, encouraging the local ownership of development resources and activities.”  These benefits include increased sustainability, better targeting of resources, and greater accountability among all stakeholders.

logo_stcSpecifically, Save suggests three overarching strategies to facilitate effective and meaningful engagements with local governments and citizens:

  • Tailor participatory requirements to country-specific contexts;
  • Give equal emphasis to both the quality and quantity of engagement; and
  • Equip U.S. policies and bureaucratic structures with adequate country-level flexibility.

According to the brief, minimum standards for engagement “should not be overly prescriptive.”  Guidelines should instead allow for U.S. government personnel and other in-country experts to identify opportunities for meaningful host country participation according to each country’s institutional capacity and political culture.  To do this, Save offers the following:

  • Establish levels of and approaches to engagement tailored to each country’s circumstances: The processes and approaches used by the U.S. and national governments to conduct their consultations should be selected according to the capacities and willingness of governmental and non-governmental actors.
  • Consider different modalities to institutionalize stakeholder engagement: Depending upon the capacities and willingness of host governments and nongovernmental stakeholders, there are a variety of institutional structures and modalities that can be used to promote the ongoing and quality engagement of stakeholders with each other around development policies.
  • Establish transparent selection procedures for nongovernmental representatives to improve the quality and diversity of participation: Those organizing consultations or other events to engage public stakeholders should publicize their events widely and appropriately, also actively seeking the inclusion of organizations working for the poorest and most marginalized. If the consultation process cannot be open to all, nongovernmental groups should be relied upon to select their own representatives according to a transparent system devised by themselves.

The brief also highlights bureaucratic obstacles in our foreign assistance structure to sustainable, locally-owned development, and applauds the efforts of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for undertaking reforms to address some of them in what they’ve called USAID Forward.  In addition, Save makes the following recommendations:

  • Reduce earmarks and directives on foreign assistance and increase country level flexibility to program resources: In many countries, earmarks are prohibitively high, restricting the ability to reprogram funds if circumstances change and preventing U.S. government personnel from responding to the outcomes of discussions, analysis and consultations with stakeholders.
  • Augment USAID’s staff numbers and supplement mission operating expenses: Throughout its research, Save the Children has heard the frustrations of USAID personnel about their transformation from direct practitioners of development programming to contract managers.  In countries like South Sudan where security concerns and transportation costs are burdensome on budgets, staff often felt they were overly confined to mission compounds and restricted in their interactions with beneficiary communities of U.S. assistance.

Click here to read the report and here to learn about other work by Save the Children on aid effectiveness.

MFAN Principal Calls for Strengthening US Civilian Power

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
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MFAN Principal Bill Anderson, Visiting Professor at Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs and career Foreign Service Officer at USAID, urges the Obama administration to move beyond resources to ensure that efforts to strengthen USAID, the State Department, and other foreign assistance programs are not lost in the new political and economic environment. In an op-ed for The Hill, Anderson writes that many of the current reforms underway, including those led by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, need bipartisan political support to be truly lasting. He also argues for civilian and military leaders to work closer together to keep the momentum for reform going. See key excerpts below:

“While the president has called for sufficient funding for foreign aid programs and diplomatic initiatives, focusing squarely on funding may minimize the daunting task of rebuilding lost human capital (such as engineers and agricultural specialists) and basic operating systems to plan, design, implement and evaluate U.S. foreign assistance. The wide range of reforms launched by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah are an excellent first step, but they will require bipartisan political support to modernize, streamline and strengthen U.S. aid efforts. When effectively delivered, U.S. assistance will accelerate inclusive growth, reduce poverty, improve people’s lives, support stability and build democratic governance in fragile states. Those results support American security and contribute to our prosperity.”


Poll: Top Vacancies at USAID

Monday, November 15th, 2010
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Below is a guest post from MFAN member Alex Denny, Research Assistant of the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Assistance Reform Project, taking a closer look at the remaining vacancies at USAID. To see exactly where things stand with Assistant Administrators, please see the Center for Global Development’s USAID Staff Tracker and be sure to lets us know which vacancy is your top priority based on the tracker below:

Which AA Vacancy Would You Fill Today?

Alex Denny

Almost two years into the administration, USAID still suffers from incomplete staffing in its influential upper ranks.  Of the ten Assistant Administrator positions, only three have been confirmed, and only one other AA has even been nominated. As a matter of coherent and effective leadership, President Obama’s policy intends for USAID to be “the U.S. Government’s lead development agency” and the world’s premier development agency, but these gaps in appointed and Senate-confirmed leadership have real, deleterious effects on the agency’s ability to fulfill that role and to act as a strong pillar of foreign policy.  Can you imagine the reactions if DoD was this understaffed?

The different gaps in USAID’s leadership have different consequences for the Agency’s clout in Washington and for offices in the field. Within our own conversations, we’ve heard reasons for why certain AA positions are more critical to fill than others; the health community, for example, has a valid point when it says that the missing AA for Global Health means that the Agency lacks the ability to coordinate strategy with the President’s new Global Health Initiative. But does that make it the most important AA position to fill? Or should the priority be on a particular regional bureau, on Legislative and Public Affairs or on something else?

While we look forward to all of the positions being filled, we’re curious to know what you think.  If you could pick just one of these vacant positions to be filled today, which would you pick and why?

USAID Staff Tracker 11_15

Clinton Gives Preview of QDDR

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
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Clinton-CGDIn an article titled “Leading Through Civilian Power—Redefining American Diplomacy and Development” that will be published in the Nov/Dec edition of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lays out the contours of the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which was launched by the State Department in the summer of 2009 and is set to be finalized and made public by the end of the year.

Clinton has been a strong proponent of a “smart power” approach for U.S. foreign policy, which leverages the “three Ds” of defense, diplomacy, and development.  Since becoming secretary of state, she has sought to elevate and bolster the civilian components of diplomacy and development within that framework, and the QDDR is a tool to operationalize and hopefully optimize the relationship between the two, using the Defense Department’s existing Quadrennial Defense Review as a model. “During my years on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I saw how the Department of Defense used its Quadrennial Defense Review to align its resources, policies, and strategies for the present — and the future,” Clinton writes. “No similar mechanism existed for modernizing the State Department or USAID.”

In making the case for the value of this exercise, Clinton states, “The QDDR is not simply a review. It defines how to make diplomacy and development coordinated, complementary, and mutually reinforcing. It assesses what has worked in the past and what has not. And it forecasts future strategic choices and resource needs.”

Clinton goes on to highlight Congress’ continued support for the hiring of additional Foreign Service Officers at State and USAID, including the doubling of development staff  “with the specific skills and experience required for evolving development challenges.” This in turn will help make USAID “the world’s premier development organization, one that fosters long-term growth and democratic governance, includes its own research arm, shapes policy and innovation, and uses metrics to ensure that our investments are cost-effective and sound.”

But she asserts very clearly that diplomacy and development must work in close concert.  “Although the State Department and USAID have distinct roles and missions, diplomacy and development often overlap and must work in tandem,” she writes. “Increasingly, global challenges call for a mix of both, requiring a more holistic approach to civilian power… While USAID leads U.S. development work overseas, State Department employees today — from ambassadors to Civil Service experts — must be better versed and more engaged in development issues… The QDDR also focuses on the diplomatic side of effective development policy, arguing for building much stronger and more systematic links between the State Department and USAID both in Washington and in the field.”

The inaugural QDDR will focus on three areas:

  • modernizing and coordinating diplomacy across U.S. government agencies;
  • ensuring that U.S. development efforts produce a lasting and sustainable impact; and
  • creating a stronger nexus between diplomacy and development, as well as better coordination with partners in the military, in conflict zones and fragile states.

As part of the Obama Administration’s broader focus on development, Clinton references President Obama’s new development policy that was released last month, which “emphasizes the importance of targeting countries with responsible governments and favorable conditions for development and working in a smaller number of targeted sectors in each country for maximum impact.”

She also points to ongoing reforms at USAID led by Administrator Raj Shah, which are designed to make the agency “more effective, accountable, and transparent.” The reforms, called “USAID Forward,” include: changes in procurement reform that will build local capacity; evidence-based development spearheaded by USAID’s new Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning; and a greater emphasis on science and technology to help fuel innovation.

Clinton underscores the importance of countries leading their own development, saying that the QDDR “embraces development as a process of assisted self-help in the furtherance of American interests and values.” “A developing country must be in charge and set its own goals for meeting the needs of its people,” she continues. “The U.S. government comes to the table as a partner, not a patron, lending resources and expertise and, eventually, putting itself out of business when a host country is self-sustaining.”

She goes on to talk about how development – and foreign aid dollars needed to help catalyze development – are critical to U.S. foreign policy, saying, “As counterintuitive as it may seem, the answer is that development, when done effectively, is one of the best tools to enhance the United States’ stability and prosperity.”

“It is time to move beyond the past and to recognize diplomacy and development as national security priorities and smart investments in the United States’ future stability and security… The two Ds in the QDDR reflect the world as the State Department sees it today and as it envisions it in the future.”

NYT: Dr. Rajiv Shah Seeks to Cure the Ills of USAID

Monday, October 25th, 2010
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RajivShahThis week’s Saturday profile in The New York Times featured Dr. Rajiv Shah, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. As one of the Obama administration’s most visible foreign policy players since the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Shah has spearheaded an “ambitious campaign to rebuild Usaid that will ultimately determine his success or failure in Washington.”

“Interviews with several Usaid employees suggest that Dr. Shah has begun to re-energize the agency in the last 10 months. His efforts recently got a major lift from the White House, which issued a new development policy that pledges to restore Usaid as the premier American aid agency.”

Next month the State Department is expected to release the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) which, according to the NYT piece, “will reinforce Usaid’s expanded role but lash it even more firmly to the State Department.”

“To the extent that State maintains firm control over Usaid, it can make it difficult for any agency to revitalize itself,” said Connie Veillette, director of the program for rethinking foreign assistance at the Center for Global Development and MFAN Principal. “Usaid needs to have a stronger voice.”

“As a government, we have a coherent strategy for the first time since J.F.K.,” said David Beckmann, co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network and president of Bread for the World. “The only good thing that came out of the Haiti earthquake,” he added, “is that it raised Raj Shah to be a partner of the president.”

To read the full article, click here.