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Archive for the ‘White House’ Category

Action Alert: Reform Within Reach Campaign Launches Today

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
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Obama Reform Within Reach CTA

Today, MFAN is proud to announce the launch of its Reform Within Reach campaign aimed at getting President Obama to show leadership on foreign assistance reform and strengthen America’s commitment to development.

To serve as the rallying cry for the campaign, MFAN created the “Open Letter to President Obama on the U.S. Commitment to Global Development.”  This letter, which has already been signed by 50 organizations, calls for President Obama to create America’s first-ever Global Development Strategy and partner with Congress to rewrite the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

We need your help in getting the message out and letting President Obama know that his leadership on reform is critical to achieving U.S. foreign policy goals.  This issue is even more important with the Millennium Development Goals Summit fast approaching in New York in September, when the eyes of the world will be on the fight against global poverty and the U.S. role in that fight.  As you’ll remember, one year ago, President Obama made a promise at the UN General Assembly to return to the MDGs Summit with a plan for how the U.S. will strengthen its contribution on development.  We must hold him accountable to that pledge.

Action is needed now.  You can take the following steps to join us in this important call to action:

  • Join individuals from across the country and sign the Open Letter
  • Download a badge for your Facebook, MySpace, or other profile page to show you support more effective foreign aid
  • Read about how reform will make even more U.S. aid success stories possible
  • Tweet:  “I signed a letter urging Pres Obama to increase U.S. foreign aid’s impact.  YOUR TURN! http://bit.ly/12FBms #ReformWithinReach” and follow us @ModernizeAid to see how momentum for reform is building

Washington Post Columnist: President Has Hard Choices to Make on Development

Friday, July 9th, 2010
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In today’s “In the Loop,” Washington Post columnist Al Kamen lays out the turf battle over who has authority for U.S. development programs.   Kamen cites House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman’s (D-CA) recently released working draft of a new Foreign Assistance Act — known as the Preambles — and notes a reaction from the State Department.  Read the full piece here and read an excerpt below on the tough choice President Obama faces:

“The Pentagon says it wants out of the development business because that’s not what it does. So the question, which apparently the White House will resolve, is whether development is going to be a distinct, though coordinated, function. That is, who’s going to be in charge of development out in the field.”

MFAN Statement: Praise for President Obama’s Development Leadership at the G8 Summit

Monday, June 28th, 2010
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June 28, 2010 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

MFAN commends President Obama for showing leadership on development with his statement at the G8 Summit in Muskoko.  We continue to strongly support the Administration’s efforts to elevate and institutionalize the idea, most recently articulated in the National Security Strategy, that fighting global poverty is a “moral, strategic, and economic imperative for the United States,” as well as a key component of our “comprehensive, integrated” foreign policy in a world of complex challenges.

We eagerly await the impending release of the development policy directive highlighted in the G8 statement, and we support the general themes of growth, innovation, partnership, and accountability that were affirmed in the document.  We are particularly hopeful that the directive will answer a critical question that has not yet been addressed by the Administration: How will the U.S. foreign assistance system be modernized to institutionalize the importance of development, make U.S. assistance more responsive to local priorities, and deliver transformative results for the poor people we are trying to help?

In conjunction with the release of the directive, we call on the Administration to take three important steps to catalyze and strengthen the reform process:

  • Fill the senior leadership void at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which currently lacks the full complement of Deputy Administrators and Assistant Administrators needed to effectively execute the Administration’s new approach;
  • Prepare America’s first-ever Global Development Strategy ahead of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit in September, in order to set a strategic foundation for U.S. development efforts and deliver on the President’s pledge to announce “a plan” for how the U.S. will contribute to eradicating extreme poverty by the MDG deadline in 2015; and
  • Announce now that the Administration will work with Congress to modernize foreign assistance in a durable way, including by rewriting the antiquated Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and Congress to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective in support of global development and poverty reduction.

MFAN Principal Dissects National Security Strategy, Urges President Obama to Issue Global Development Strategy

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
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Noam UngerMFAN Principal Noam Unger, Global Economy and BrookingsDevelopment Fellow at the Brookings Institution, comments on last week’s release of the Obama Administration’s first National Security Strategy (NSS), and calls for the President to deliver a U.S. Global Development Strategy to expand upon what was laid out in the NSS.

Global Development in the U.S. National Security Strategy

Noam Unger, Fellow, Global Economy and Development

The Brookings Institution

President Obama’s national security strategy sets the stage for his administration to put a premium on global development cooperation. But, will the administration follow through?

The unveiling of the full strategy makes clear that U.S. global development policies will factor into each of the strategy’s four major pillars: security, prosperity, values and international order. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at Brookings yesterday about the strategy and despite talking about development at times during her remarks, the degree to which development is infused in the strategy was not particularly underscored. Given her track record of speaking passionately and extensively on development, I was surprised that she did not explicitly emphasize its importance.

The point in the national security strategy on being strong at home in order to lead globally is understandably a separate but important pillar for U.S. security and global leadership. Nevertheless, aspects from all the other key points in the strategy connect to America’s ability to promote global development and effectively assist people around the world. In the security section, development features primarily through the lens of stabilization, reconstruction and conflict prevention. In the prosperity section, the focus is on global public goods and investments in sustainable and long-term development. The values section references a slew of development principles and actions – as Clinton noted in her speech that “democracy, human rights and development are mutually reinforcing.” Lastly, the section on international order highlights the administration’s intent to renew U.S. multilateral development cooperation.

In recent months, the administration has publicly said favorable things on a broad range of development topics, such as the linking of climate change adaptation and development aid, of health threats and health systems, of sustainable results and a reasonable time horizon for investment, of programming decisions and evidence-based research, of capacity building and local ownership of development projects. Obama and his team have also demonstrated a high level of commitment to development issues on the international stage. However, the problem is not in the administration’s rhetoric.

The problem is that the U.S. needs to fundamentally reform its internal systems for managing and implementing its global development policies. This includes foreign assistance, but it also includes areas such as trade, agriculture, international finance and migration. As USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah has expressed, development is a discipline, but it is presently a discipline that is marred by U.S. policy incoherence largely because it is organizationally fragmented and structurally weak in lacking its own distinct clout in policy deliberations. The U.S. needs to put itself in a better position to support the broad range of development imperatives, including post-conflict reconstruction, the alleviation of poverty and human suffering, and the promotion of good governance and equitable economic growth. Only by doing this can the U.S. government effectively promote its values and security interests.

It is quite possible that the 2010 national security strategy will help open the door for the systemic elevation and reform of U.S. global development policies and operations. If Obama chooses to seriously head in that direction, the path is already somewhat illuminated:

At a strategic level, the development policy review ordered by the president last summer is rumored to be finished and its conclusions captured in a document. A draft of the document was leaked and then published earlier this month. Let’s hope the final version retains an approach to development that includes a deliberate policy, a more effective and partnership-oriented operation, and a new architecture that truly elevates development and coalesces development resources around a more focused set of objectives. The leaked draft called for a routine U.S. Global Development Strategy. As others and I have noted in the past, such a strategy could substantively expand on the national security strategy. It could do so in much the same way as the national military strategy. Having just completed consultative government-wide reviews of national security and development, the White House should aim to deliver the first U.S. Global Development Strategy in time for Obama’s much-anticipated speech on development at September’s United Nations summit.

At the operational level, many more changes are already underway, including a broader global health initiative, a forward-looking global hunger and food security initiative, the re-establishment and revitalization of USAID’s policy planning bureau and further reforms to improve the agency’s procurement, human resources and transparency.

Since day one, this administration has needed to redefine America’s global development cooperation. While its efforts in 2009 were detrimentally sluggish, the new national security strategy could breathe new life into the effort.

MFAN Principal Jim Kunder on Development and National Security

Thursday, May 27th, 2010
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Below is a great blog post from MFAN Principal Jim Kunder, senior resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund, that explores the role of development in a national security framework.  Kunder looks to the newly created UK National Security Council — which includes a Secretary of State for International Development in its leadership — as a model for what development can and should be in the U.S.

Development and National Security:  Clarity in London, but a Foggy Bottom in Washington

Jim_KunderIn a recent German Marshall Fund blog (In the United State: A Breakthrough in the Tortured Foreign Aid Debate?), I summarized an early draft of the White House’s Presidential Study Directive 7 – the Obama Administration’s first cut at a comprehensive policy on international development.  I argued that “PSD-7,” while proposing modest enhancements in the status of the U.S. Agency for International Development, mostly reflects “continued uncertainty about whether the United States government really wants a center of excellence, strong and vocal, in international development.”

Most serious national security analysts, on both sides of the Atlantic, recognize that there is a clear correlation between poverty and hopelessness, on the one hand, and threats to national security, and instability, on the other.  Although the correlation is complex – and may include intervening variables of culture, belief systems, efficiency of security forces, and mobilization dynamics – few policymakers fail to appreciate that individuals and groups with little hope for their, or their children’s, advancement can be relatively easy recruits for violent movements and ideologies.

Certainly, the new government in London recognizes this link.  In announcing the formation of the UK “National Security Council,” the Prime Minister’s Office noted that “The Council will coordinate responses to the dangers we face, integrating at the highest level the work of the foreign, defence, home, energy and international development [my emphasis] departments, and all other arms of government contributing to national security.”  The National Security Council, to be chaired by the Prime Minister, includes, as permanent members, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence, and the Security Minister.  And, of course, the National Security Council permanent membership includes the Secretary of State for International Development – a clear recognition by the British government that international development is intrinsic to national security.

In the United States, regrettably, a clear understanding of the strong linkage between international development and national security remains elusive; USAID’s status in national security deliberations remains “foggy;” and, despite soaring rhetoric in PSD-7, international development remains at the bottom in the theoretically equilateral defense-diplomacy-development triangle.  Based on the draft Presidential Study Directive, instead of USAID being invited as a full-time member of the United States version of the National Security Council, the USAID Administrator “will be included in NSC meetings when appropriate.”  Since the same document states unequivocally that the USAID Administrator will report to the Secretary of State, those familiar with policy dynamics within the Obama Administration question whether USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah will ever sit regularly at the NSC table.

When evaluating the national security of the Atlantic nations, a strong defense clearly counts; an active diplomacy counts; and, equally clearly, reducing poverty, enhancing democratic participation, and providing hope for the future – which go by the name “international development” – also counts.  London’s newly created National Security Council reflects all foreign policy elements of national security.  It’s time for similar clarity in Washington.