We congratulate Ambassador Eric Goosby on his appointment to lead the State Department’s new Office of Global Health Diplomacy. He has proven to be a strong public health advocate for poor and minority populations, and his successful stewardship of the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator prepares him well for the task ahead.
We are concerned, however, that the continued consolidation of power over health and development programs in the State Department threatens to undermine our overall efforts to achieve greater impact in alleviating poverty, eradicating disease, and fostering inclusive economic growth. MFAN’s position has been, and remains, that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) should be the lead agency on global health policy and implementation in the field when the programs being implemented have a significant development impact. This view is echoed in President Obama’s landmark Policy Directive on Development (PPD), which seeks to “Reestablish the United States as the global leader on international development. This entails a long-term commitment to rebuilding USAID as the U.S. Government’s lead development agency—and as the world’s premier development agency.” Ambassador Goosby’s description of the new office’s mandate would appear to contradict the PPD, because he indicates that it will play a broad internal U.S. government coordination role in addition to external coordination and diplomatic support—in essence, it will replace the former Global Health Initiative Secretariat with a new secretariat, also based at the State Department.
We welcome the State Department’s commitment to elevate global health as a diplomatic priority, but we believe it is the wrong approach to embed health and development programs so heavily in a diplomatic power structure. The risk is that decisions about these programs will, in some cases, be driven by the short-term politics, instead of by the long-term focus that is needed to drive sustainable health and development results. We also remain puzzled that the State Department has not done more to recognize and enhance the role of USAID as the U.S. government’s lead policy and implementing agency on all development issues, including global health, as laid out in the PPD. We encourage Ambassador Goosby and his team to fully integrate the expertise of development professionals into their activities as the office begins its work.
On September 13, ONE kicked off a new campaign aimed at reducing chronic childhood malnutrition. The campaign—which will run through World Food Day in 2013—calls on world leaders to agree to a commitment that would reduce malnutrition for 25 million children by 2016. It is estimated that a billion people suffer from chronic malnutrition and more than three and a half million children will die this year as a result.
The star of ONE’s campaign is the sweet potato. Why? As Roxane Philson, ONE’s global creative director, explains, sweet potatoes “have the power (or shall we say “superpower” since we’re talking about heroes, here) to provide much-needed nutrients like vitamins C, A and B6 to undernourished children, helping to avert stunting and ensuring proper growth. On top of that, sweet potatoes are relatively cheap to produce and easy to grow in uncertain conditions, perfect for regions prone to drought and famine.”
See below for a guest post from MFAN partner Sarah Jane Staats, director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Project at the Center for Global Development. This post originally appeared on the CGD blog.
The United States’ strategy towards Africa has shifted from “how much aid” to how to attract trade and investment, said White House Deputy National Security Advisor Michael Froman in a major speech (see video below) at the Center for Global Development this week. The standing-room only crowd seemed to welcome the emphasis on aid-plus, or more than aid approaches in Sub-Saharan Africa. CGD President Nancy Birdsall praised the administration’s “excellent vision” around the tough issues of economic growth and equal opportunity. The strategy does a great job of capturing the Obama administration’s efforts over the last three and a half years. But forecasting whether more of the vision (and which parts) can become reality in the remainder of this US presidential term and beyond will be difficult.
Froman, just back from leading a ten-day trip to Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Nigeria began his CGD remarks with a refresher on the Obama administration’s efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa: President Obama’s 2009 speech in Ghana, food security and child survival commitments, the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, and the White House-led Partnership for Growth effort in Ghana and Tanzania.
In his remarks, Froman focused on economic growth, trade and investment (one of four pillars in the administration’s new strategy towards Africa and the result of a presidential policy directive that presumably replaces National Security Presidential Directive 50 signed in 2006 by President Bush). Froman spoke of the difference in the US government’s approach to the region from when he traveled to Africa as a Treasury official nearly fifteen years ago. “If there is one way to summarize the change, it is that the focus has shifted from how much aid will be provided to how best to create the enabling environment for the trade and investment necessary to drive broad-based economic growth—the only true path toward development,” he argued.
CGD President Nancy Birdsall encouraged event attendees to disseminate the “really good vision” embodied in Froman’s remarks, “that development is about more than assistance, it includes assistance of course, but fundamentally it’s about growth, equal opportunity, governance—the tough issues.” She added her hope that members of the development community will follow the implementation of that vision “independent of what happens in our own elections this fall.” (Birdsall also encouraged Froman to consider two additional development approaches: payments for measured progress against reductions in transit times akin to the Cash on Delivery Aid idea, or direct cash payments–from developing country governments to their citizens–for oil revenues as explained in CGD’s Oil2Cash initiative.)
It’s great to hear more about the Obama administration’s aid-plus efforts towards Africa from a senior White House official, especially given the expectations that a President Obama would do much in the region. And while the move beyond just aid has been a long time coming, it’s good to see it still going in that direction. I agree with Nancy Birdsall that the focus now shifts to implementation. But I am perhaps a bit more worried about how much time is left in this presidential term to make the good vision a reality, and what happens next.
Here are a few bright spots:
The FY13 budget reflects the strategy’s food security and child survival priorities.
The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, led by USAID, brokers regulatory and policy reforms to attract private investment.
The House and Senate passed versions of a bill (HR 5986 and S 3326) yesterday that extend some African trade preferences under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (and adds South Sudan to the list of countries eligible for AGOA).
But there are some clouds:
The House and Senate have already passed a six-month continuing resolution, acknowledging that they won’t make any real progress on the FY13 budget before the fiscal year begins on October 1st. (For more on the budget, check out USGLC’s excellent new Budget Watch.)
We’re still waiting for evidence that the policy and regulatory reforms in the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition take place and that the private sector investments follow. (I’m hoping if I’ve missed something, readers will point me to evidence this is underway!)
The good vision isn’t codified or supported by a bipartisan Congress in contrast, for example, to the Millennium Challenge Corporation and President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief created during the Bush administration. (And while it’s a good thing this administration hasn’t set up new agencies–like the MCC and PEPFAR–that would add to the fragmentation and proliferation of aid agencies, the good vision without a clear home can more easily be washed away.)
My hope is that the bright spots and work underway will keep moving the good vision to reality, and that the reality of US politics won’t get in the way. Ideally, the good vision is strong enough to outlive a change in personnel (which will happen even in a second Obama administration) or a total change in administration.
See below for a guest post from MFAN Principal, Senior Resident Fellow at the German Marshall Fund U.S., and former Acting Deputy Administrator for USAID Jim Kunder. To learn more about this blog series, click here.
I have been poring over USAID’s responses to questions about how PPD-6 has changed the Agency’s business model since President Obama issued the Directive in 2010. I find much about which to be encouraged in USAID’s update: USAID’s new five-year country plans, the Country Development Cooperation Strategies, restore much-needed rigor to analysis of development dynamics; the creation of the Office of Science and Technology opens up the possibility of “game changing” partnerships with research and technology institutions; establishing a Global Development Interagency Policy Committee within the U.S. Government could lead to better coordinated aid and trade, multilateral and bilateral development policies; and the rejuvenated Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning is cranking out high-order guidance, as in the USAID Policy Framework 2011-2015.
USAID’s response to MFAN’s inquiries also raises some questions, and it would useful to hear further elaboration on these items. First and foremost: what happened to what many would see as the centerpiece of PPD-6: President Obama’s extraordinary emphasis on “elevating” broad-based economic growth “as a top priority?” According to PPD-6, or at least to the White House Fact Sheet accompanying it, “Economic growth is the only sustainable way to accelerate development and eradicate poverty.” The same day the PPD was released, the President, during his speech to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit, hammered home the importance of emphasizing economic growth, calling it “the most powerful force the world has ever known for eradicating poverty and creating opportunity….” As USAID’s response to MFAN displays, it appears that the process of converting the President’s priority into the USAID business model remains a work in progress. Four “Partnership for Growth” countries have been designated; a new economic growth strategy paper has been promised; and the USAID Policy Framework mentions economic growth as the fourth of its seven “Core Development Objectives.” Given PPD-6’s powerful endorsement of economic growth, these steps seem modest at best.
My second PPD-6 question for USAID is: What happened to the U.S. Global Development Strategy promised in the Directive? It is listed right there in the same paragraph of the Fact Sheet that mentions the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review as one of the core “mechanisms for ensuring coherence in U.S. development policy….” Establishing such a Strategy – to be approved by the President every four years, according to PPD-6 – seems a concrete way to ensure, in the words of the Directive, the “elevation of development as a core pillar of American power….”
Placing PPD-6 and the President’s MDG Summit speech side by side with USAID’s 2012 MFAN response raises a third question, one related to selectivity. PPD-6 made powerful statements about how “The United States cannot do all things, do them well, and do them everywhere,” while committing the U.S. Government to “make hard choices about how to allocate attention and resources across countries, regions, and sectors.” This hard-edged emphasis on rigorous selectivity is not mentioned in USAID’s response to MFAN. And a cursory review of USAID country programs and budget allocations by sector does not immediately suggest any radical refocusing of resources on a slimmed down portfolio. Perhaps there are more subtle changes underway that do not jump off the pages of USAID’s website and budget documents, but it would be interesting to hear USAID’s take on how the Agency is implementing the rigorous selectivity statements in PPD-6.
In summary, USAID’s report to MFAN makes a useful contribution to the development community’s understanding of PPD-6 implementation. But, more information on the topics raised above would be welcome.
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.