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Archive for the ‘USAID’ Category

USAID: Celebrating 50 Years of Progress

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
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50 years after President John F. Kennedy established the U.S. Agency for International Development, the agency has made remarkable strides in the fight against global poverty. Celebrate USAID’s progress with this powerful video, and explore their work at

MFAN Statement: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of USAID

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
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November 3, 2011 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

Today, on the 50th anniversary of the creation of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), we celebrate the work done by thousands of committed and selfless public servants – both U.S. citizens and foreign service nationals – in helping to alleviate poverty, fight diseases, and create economic opportunity for struggling people in the world’s poorest countries. These efforts, which have resulted in tens of millions of lives saved or improved, have been as important to our security and prosperity over the last five decades as any defense or diplomatic program.

USAID has been a central player in some of the most astounding development successes in world history. Agency experts helped design and drive the Green Revolution, which brought modern agricultural practices to poor countries like South Korea in the middle of the 20th century. Today, South Korea is a stalwart U.S. ally and trading partner, as well as a foreign assistance donor itself. More recently, USAID played a key role in programs like President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which delivered unprecedented U.S. assistance to African countries that were bowing under the weight of a spreading AIDS epidemic. Today, many of the countries that received PEPFAR assistance are experiencing unprecedented economic and democratic growth, in no small part because people are simply staying alive. The agency’s development professionals have also served courageously alongside soldiers and diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they will soon bear a heavier burden for future safety and stability in the wake of troop withdrawals.

USAID’s critical role in U.S. foreign policy is clear, as is the agency’s commitment to modernizing itself for the 21st Century. In the midst of growing challenges abroad and budget pressures at home, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah has launched an unprecedented internal reform effort aimed at making sure every taxpayer dollar committed to development goes as far as possible towards helping those in need. Now more than ever, we urge policymakers to support the agency’s efforts to maintain U.S. leadership on global development. As President John F. Kennedy said at the dawn of the U.S. foreign assistance system 50 years ago, America’s development investments provide hope to people who are “under attack from widespread misery and social discontent which are exploited by our adversaries, and this permits us to speak with a much stronger and more effective voice.” The message still rings true today.

CGD Asks, “Is USAID Being Set up to Fail on GHI?”

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
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Nandini Oomman, the Center for Global Development’s director of the HIV/AIDS monitor, co-wrote a blog piece with Rachel Silverman raising several important questions about the Global Health Initiative (GHI). The State Department-led Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) – which next month will be one year into its implementation – stipulates that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) assume leadership of GHI in September 2012, contingent upon fulfilling a set of 10 benchmarks. But what the QDDR does not make clear is exactly what leadership of GHI means. Oomman leaves the administration with three options going forward: move PEPFAR to USAID; keep the GHI at State; or remove PEPFAR from GHI. Read the full piece here and see below for details on the three options:

We know the deadline for the GHI’s transition to USAID is still a year away, but the administration has some difficult decisions to make, and quickly.  The President’s global development legacy is at stake if one of his biggest development initiatives is seen to fail. Here are the options, as we see them, along with their respective trade-offs–constraints, costs, and benefits:

1)  Move PEPFAR to USAID. Perhaps this option makes the most sense programmatically (unified leadership, horizontal integration with reproductive health, etc)., but it’s a non-starter politically. PEPFAR is protected as an independent structure until its authorizing legislation expires in 2013, and there is no political will to challenge that status quo.

2)  Keep the GHI at State. Under this scenario, the State Department would renege on its highly public QDDR plans to move the GHI to USAID, and would maintain control of the initiative under an executive director. State holds some authority over OGAC and could realistically serve as a coordination point between the GHI agencies, as it has done thus far. But there are two good reasons why this scenario doesn’t make sense: 1) global health is not the State Department’s area of technical expertise and the creation of another global health entity in State will be inefficient when plenty of expertise lies elsewhere in the USG. 2) This option could also be a public relations nightmare; the State Department would need to do serious damage control and protect USAID’s reputation. It will need to be clear about its rationale for the decision, emphasizing the structural considerations and why it’s best for the success of the GHI. However, this option will damage the administration’s efforts to build USAID as the premier U.S. development agency.

3)  Remove PEPFAR from the GHI. If USAID is to lead the GHI but not PEPFAR, then PEPFAR, operationally, will cease to be a part of the GHI, especially because it has its own reporting line to Congress. If we continue down this path, the administration should formally remove PEPFAR from the GHI portfolio and eliminate the targets for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention as GHI targets. Under this “efficiency” scenario, USAID would be able to focus its energy on the remaining GHI programs and goals – those which it actually controls – and could be realistically accountable for the corresponding results. However, this course of action would fundamentally alter the original intent and design of the GHI to build on PEPFAR’s “platform” and would demonstrate the unfortunate reality that funds appropriated in a siloed, vertical structure don’t really lend themselves to policy and program level integration . Forfeiting the opportunity to integrate HIV/AIDS programs with reproductive health efforts, for example, will unfortunately turn the GHI in to a more “business as usual” health program approach to global health.


USAID Launches FWD Campaign

Thursday, October 27th, 2011
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Yesterday, the U.S. Agency for International Development, in partnership with the Ad Council, launched a national public awareness campaign to help spread the word about the current crisis in the Horn of Africa. The campaign, entitled FWD – Famine, Ware, Drought, encourages people to share facts about the crisis, support the humanitarian organizations conducting the relief operations, and learn more about the solutions through Feed the Future. See below for a spot on the campaign:


To launch the campaign, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah joined Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the National Security Council, for a live webchat to discuss FWD and answer questions. You watch the webchat below:

Sec. Clinton to Attend Busan Forum

Friday, September 23rd, 2011
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See below for a guest post from MFAN Principal Noam Unger, fellow and director of the Foreign Assistance Reform Project, and Homi Kharas, senior fellow and deputy director of the  Development Assistance and Governance Initiative, both of the Brookings Institution. They react to Secretary Clinton’s announcement that she will be attending the High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Korea and consider what the move signals for U.S. leadership in development. This post originally appeared on the Brookings Up Front blog.

Hillary Clinton to Attend Busan Forum: Demonstrating Development Diplomacy?

Noam Unger and Homi Kharas

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just announced that she will attend the upcoming High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea. Although this event will be the fourth such forum – following on Rome (2003), Paris (2005) and Accra (2008) – it will be the first time the U.S. is represented at such a high level.

We view Clinton’s attendance as a positive step, having made the case for it privately in meetings and openly in publications (see our policy paper and this recent brief). But how does her attendance fit into the context of reforms to elevate global development within the U.S. government? And how can her participation lead to a better High-Level Forum? Here are some of our thoughts:

The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), issued at the end of 2010, focused in part on how the State Department can play a role in elevating development within U.S. foreign policy. It explicitly states:

“Elevating development as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy requires not just rebuilding USAID into the world’s premier development institution, but also transforming the Department of State to support development. Secretary Clinton recognizes that while diplomacy and development are each critical in their own right, when they work together they are the basis on unrivaled civilian power to advance U.S. interests. For too long, however, the Department of State has not always been a willing and capable partner for USAID in supporting the development pillar of our foreign policy.”

The review goes on to note that State should systematically use diplomacy to advance development by negotiating and promoting international policy agreements in the context of multilateral forums in a way that complements USAID rather than treading on that agency’s expertise.

The transformation of the State Department to better support development makes many development assistance advocates and close observers nervous about further absorption and instrumentalization of operational assistance programming into the toolkit of diplomacy. The construct of the three “D’s” – development, diplomacy and defense – as distinct pillars of U.S. national security and foreign policy can quickly morph into a two-dimensional frame that blurs diplomacy and development while setting them apart from military efforts. Given USAID’s recent history of eroded independence, this is a legitimate concern especially with regard to increased roles for the State Department in operational aid programs and aid budget management.

But there are many ways the State Department can support development by drawing on its comparative advantages. For example, in conflict-affected states where an international military presence is required, State can use its expertise and influence with other departments, governments and international organizations to shape coherent stabilization efforts that are conducive to development.

A more obvious comparative advantage is the international prominence of the Secretary of State, which should be put to good use in Busan. So while USAID should naturally continue to lead in shaping U.S. positions for Busan— after all it’s a global development conference — Clinton’s participation should enable the U.S. to leverage her unique profile on the global stage. As one of us previously noted in reference to the OECD ministerial meeting in May 2011, “Secretary Clinton must continually use development diplomacy opportunities to empower USAID and its administrator, Rajiv Shah, in the eyes of other U.S. government and international officials. Secretary Clinton is certainly capable of using her star power in this way, but will she?”

With regard to the High-Level Forum itself, Secretary Clinton’s commitment to attend is already serving as a game-changer that could snatch a politically meaningful result from the jaws of an otherwise technocratic aid conference. Six years ago in Paris, at an earlier conference on aid effectiveness, rich countries committed themselves to make changes in the way they delivered aid to improve its impact. They have made some progress on this and the efforts are contributing to better development results, but the pace has been slow. As panelists at a recent Brookings conference argued, this is mostly because the necessary improvements in aid delivery require tough political support. In essence, the reforms would transfer more control over resources to beneficiaries in return for greater accountability on results. Persuading Congress and the public that that is a sensible approach to improving the “bang-for-the-buck” for U.S. taxpayers is essentially a political issue.

Busan will be a political event in other ways as well. There are now many international forums that deal with development in overlapping ways, including the United Nations and the G-20, and many more providers of development cooperation, including China and other emerging economies. Busan must reposition the aid industry to work better in this environment, taking the discussions beyond aid into a more systematic “development effectiveness” agenda. The attendance of Secretary Clinton, and the other foreign ministers who will now be encouraged to attend, can signal that this repositioning is underway. Maybe then new forms of aid partnerships can be built, including with the private sector, so that aid and other instruments of development cooperation can catalyze and accelerate improved living standards in the poorest parts of the world.

Lastly, as one of the world’s strongest voices on greater investment in women and girls, Secretary Clinton’s participation provides a new opportunity to add a focus on gender to the development agenda at Busan.