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Archive for the ‘USAID’ Category

USGLC Annual Conference Round-Up-Part 1

Monday, July 18th, 2011
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MFAN Partner the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition hosted its annual Washington conference last week with a day-long forum that focused on the economic link between development and U.S. leadership and growth. “Investing in the Future: A Smart Power Approach to Global Leadership” brought together high-ranking government officials like Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, General James Cartwright, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and World Bank President Robert Zoellick, among others to discuss how employing our smart power tools—diplomacy and development—can enhance our economic prosperity at home while bolstering our image abroad.

Secretary Clinton kicked things off with a keynote that focused on what she referred to as State and USAID’s “commercial diplomacy.” Clinton began by recommending that the U.S. take stock of what we can do to renew America’s economic strength, create jobs, and invest for the future, adding that our prescriptions must be evidence-based and not ideological. She remarked, “To compete overseas we must out innovate, out educate, and out build the rest of the world,” doubling down on what we do well and adding new tools and techniques to compete effectively in the 21st century. Clinton then cited five examples of efforts across the U.S. government to foster economic growth at home. Here, she made a forceful case for passing the pending free trade agreements with Korea, Panama, and Colombia, noting that while trade is a polarizing issue, done right it creates American jobs. She argued passing these deals is critical to economic recovery especially because these nations are in strategically vital areas.

As her last point, Clinton argued that supporting foreign aid and development work to build up tomorrow’s trading partners and create opportunities for countless U.S. businesses. USAID, MCC, and State address problems that U.S. businesses face by fighting corruption, strengthening the rule of law, overcoming commercial codes and cutting red tape, and helping to build infrastructure. Clinton then took a moment to announce she will be appointing State’s first-ever chief economist. She ended with a call to action, saying the community should share its success stories and reminded everyone that leadership is an achievement not a birthright. Watch Clinton’s full remarks below.

In another event entitled “Investing in the Future: A Town Hall on International Development,” former Rep. Mark Green, USGLC Senior Director, moderated a panel which included: Raj Shah, USAID Administrator; Daniel Yohannes, MCC CEO; Leocadia Zak, Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; and Elizabeth Littlefield, President and CEO of Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Generally, all four panelists highlighted the ways in which the development work of each agency is contributing to American growth through new business opportunities and especially by creating improved investment conditions in developing countries. In response to Green’s question about how development positively impacts the domestic economy, Zak highlighted the dual mission of USTDA and noted the strong return on investment: $47 in exports to every $1 of investment. She also noted the growth of the technology sector in the developing world and the opportunity this presents to U.S. companies. Along that vein, Shah pointed to the famine gripping East Africa and argued it is in U.S. business interests to bring technology to the region that can prevent famine and promote stability. Shah noted that USAID specifically is making significant headway in partnering with private entities to create market incentives for local farmers to produce and sell their crops and to help families move out of poverty.

During audience QA, the panel addressed questions regarding smart power in Sub-Saharan Africa, the role of women in development, how to ensure U.S. companies don’t damage local economies, and the outlook for the Partnership for Growth initiative. Shah touched on the President’s Sub-Saharan Africa policy which prioritizes good governance as well as the role of science, technology, and innovation in helping spur growth. Yohannes noted the importance of treating host countries as partners while Littlefield commented that diplomatic relations with North Africa have been enhanced through business-to-business interactions. Together, Shah and Yohannes reiterated their core focus of empowering women in the development process, demonstrating how Feed the Future targets women farmers. Finally, regarding the Partnership for Growth, Zak and Yohannes emphasized the importance of listening to needs as articulated by host countries and in evaluating feedback in real time. Watch the town hall below and stay tuned for more coverage of USGLC’s conference.

Raj Shah Hosts Session on Youth and International Development at the White House

Friday, July 8th, 2011
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USAID Administrator Raj Shah answered questions from young Americans at the White House on Thursday afternoon. In a discussion moderated by Kalpen Modi, Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement, Administrator Shah highlighted a number of USAID’s priorities. He spoke about accountability under USAID Forward, Feed the Future as a driver of self-sufficiency, and the importance of investing in women and girls.

In a session aimed at engaging youth, Administrator Shah touted the enthusiasm and creativity of American students as crucial elements in future development efforts.  He focused on innovation and technical expertise as means to overcome funding constraints, emphasizing the agency’s eagerness to work with new partners.

Watch the full video below, and visit USAID’s Youth Impact site to share your thoughts:

This week, USAID takes on the blurry line between development and democracy

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
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This blog post from Porter McConnell, policy and advocacy manager for aid effectiveness, first appeared on Oxfam America’s Politics of Poverty blog.

Once in a while, the development and democracy communities have a “Eureka” moment:

  • Development types are realizing that poverty + stuff does not = development. Development is a relationship that we can support; it’s not a set of items that poor countries are lacking.
  • Democracy types are realizing there’s no way to build country systems short of actually using them. Developing country governments are like muscles:  if the U.S. and other donors leave them to atrophy because we can’t “trust” them, they will never become strong.

In part because of the Arab Spring, the democracy and development communities are seeing anew that their fates are inextricably linked. This week, USAID is holding a conference called Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance 2.0. Speakers from USAID Administrator Raj Shah to Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment are calling for better integration of U.S. development and democracy efforts.

It’s about time:  in the last 10 years, the pendulum of donor opinion has swung from excluding governments entirely and funding civil society to focusing entirely on supporting governments and downplaying the importance of civil society. Heading into the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan this fall, the development community needs to avoid the temptation to engage in these wild pendulum swings. Both government and civil society have to be engaged in order to see any lasting development impact.

Development at its core is about the compact between people and their governments. U.S. programming, whether it’s development or democracy, needs to keep that compact front and center. I’ll give you a recent example from Ecuador:  the EC announced it was funding the Ministry of Education directly to implement its ten-year national education plan. Local civil society had to convince the EC to fund civil society oversight too, to hold the government accountable to the plan. If the EC had had the compact in mind, they would have sought from the start to support Ecuador’s education plan in a way that strengthened that critical relationship between people and their governments.

That’s not always easy to do. For civil society to play a “watchdog” role, they need the space to operate without government crackdowns. Cambodia is a test case of this right now. If the Cambodia NGO law that’s being discussed right now becomes law, exercising healthy oversight over the Cambodian government will effectively become illegal. Human Rights Watch and Freedom House are speaking out, but many of the development groups are staying silent. Development groups have historically stayed out of the fray when civil society space is threatened. They reason that they can be more useful addressing economic and social rights by maintaining relationships with the government. The problem is, under the proposed NGO law, small community-based organizations may find it difficult to continue current operations, and flagship U.S. programs like Feed the Future won’t have any implementers. Development NGOs simply cannot afford to shy away from talking about civil society space. That’s why Oxfam, and now Save the Children and CARE, are speaking out.

But why should democracy groups care if their development colleagues speak out? It turns out that one of the best ways to make progress on governance is through development programs, where “democracy” is not the central goal of the program. One oft-cited example of this is adaptation to climate change, where some governments have given their blessing to multi-stakeholder bodies because the frame is climate, not governance. Democracy, human rights, and governance groups would do well to engage development colleagues, and their resources, in the broader effort to increase accountability.

For more about what the future holds, check out video coverage of the Tuesday panel on “Integrating Democracy, Human Rights & Governance across All Development Goals”, featuring Oxfam America Vice President Paul O’Brien.

 

MFAN & Management Sciences for Health on Performance-Based Financing

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
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On Wednesday morning, MFAN co-hosted an event with Partner Management Sciences for Health (MSH) examining the impacts and implementation of performance-based financing (PBF) for global health services. A panel of experts, moderated by MSH performance-based finance Advisor Kathy Kantengwa, discussed the thinking behind PBF and shared some success stories. More efficient HIV/AIDS programming in Rwanda (described in the video below) is a prime example:

 

Oscar Picazo, a health economist who has worked with USAID and the World Bank in the Philippines and elsewhere, described performance-based financing as an “approach to financing that focuses on the achievement of measurable outcomes.” Offering flexible strategies and implementing programs at macro, institutional, and individual levels, PBF incorporates global health supplies and demands to maximize returns.

The panel’s overview of results-oriented funding aligns nicely with the discussion of innovative financing at a February event co-hosted by MFAN. Performance-based financing also drives many of the principles laid out in MFAN’s new policy agenda, From Policy to Practice: Pamela Rao, Senior Health Systems Strengthening Officer at USAID’s Office of HIV/AIDS, linked “payment for performance” (P4P) initiatives to efficiency, accountability, and local ownership.

Gyorgy Fritsche, Senior Health Specialist with the World Bank, highlighted the importance of monitoring and evaluation, saying that PBF demands verification, not a “business-as-usual strategy.” Daniel Kraushaar, MSH’s Principal Technical Advisor for Health Systems, agreed on the need for evidence to evaluate performance-based financing and offered some data as examples. Liberia, for one, has seen improvements in its maternal health indicators thanks to performance-based contracting.

Performance-based financing has the potential to increase funds and autonomy for healthcare providers throughout the developing world. Today’s event underscored the need for country-wide, multi-level solutions led by local actors that offer long-term visions with increased accountability. Performance-based financing will rely on consistent evaluation as it assesses past programs and develops strategies for the path forward.

USAID Releases 2011 Annual Letter

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
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Last week the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, released its first-ever annual letter. In the introduction, USAID Administration Rajiv Shah looks back on the Marshall Plan and President Kennedy’s argument that advancing opportunity and freedom is central to America’s security, prosperity and national conscience. Shah frames the letter as an opportunity to show Americans that “by doing good, we do well,” and to demonstrate how he is leading an effort to revitalize and reform the agency to make U.S. development assistance more effective and sustainable.

The letter then runs through three sections that make the case for reform and explain how USAID fits into the broad range of U.S. development efforts. The first section, “The Modern Development Enterprise”, begins with Shah writing about his experience in Haiti. He notes, “Crises often bring clarity—a sense of urgency that leaves no room for hesitation or red tape…As USAID staff launched the largest humanitarian relief and search-and-rescue efforts in history, the speed, skill and dedication they showed was awe-inspiring. They responded quickly, overcame bureaucratic hurdles, worked inclusively with a broad range of partners and made smart, calculated choices to get better outcomes.”

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