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Archive for the ‘White House’ Category

From day one: Transparency at the heart

Monday, April 8th, 2013
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See below for a guest post from Ben Leo, ONE’s global policy director, and Lauren Pfeifer, ONE’s policy associate on the Transparency and Accountability Team.

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On President Obama’s first day in office, he signed an executive order that called for open, transparent government.

The order is based on the principles that openness should be the default position of the US Government, citizens should be given more opportunities to participate in and collaborate with the US Government, and the data the US government collects is a national asset that should be accessible to its citizens.

Photo credit: The White House

Photo credit: The White House

That the order was signed on Day 1 was a symbolic gesture, of course, but its impetus was, I believe, the President’s belief that openness and access can generate a level of trust through accountability that no amount of rhetoric and reassurance can replicate. It is a testament to his desire to change the view that our government is a secretive bureaucratic system, one difficult to hold to account.

The President’s commitment to open and accountable government isn’t limited to our own borders. The Obama administration has also taken concrete action to increase the transparency of our foreign assistance, a potentially game-changing step. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton gave a keynote speech at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, late 2011, in which she announced that the US would sign the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), the global standard of aid transparency. As the largest donor of development assistance, transparent US programs have the potential to be transformative, giving developing nations a more complete picture of their revenue streams.

But plans released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that outline how the US will implement IATI’s aid transparency requirements – which include reporting project data to an open machine-readable database – show the government may be standing in its own way. The plans show a “whole of government” approach which – while beneficial at the political level – doesn’t take into account the factors that affect the ease of implementation. Certain agencies are ready (and more relevant) to begin reporting to IATI, and each of the 10 plus US agencies that currently disburse development assistance have their own systems, and as such, different capacity for converting the data into IATI’s format. Agencies, such as USAID and the MCC, should each have their own plans for how best to report to IATI. This would allow them to be tailored to their various systems and ensure that information is as specific as possible. Useful aid transparency information illuminates projects and transactions at the local level. This project-level information’s specificity is critical. OMB’s plans are lacking in other areas. Geo-coding of data and reporting results are called “supplemental” and left optional. Lastly, the most obvious information is perhaps the least likely to be available. US agencies are only required to publish 1-year forward-looking budget information, rather than the suggested 3 to 5-year forward-looking information that would enable recipient governments to plan ahead.

In order to maintain the momentum that was so inspiring at the start of the President’s first term, his administration should encourage agencies to accelerate the timeline outlined by OMB’s implementation schedule – empowering those who lead our development agencies to publish their agency’s data in IATI format on their websites as soon as they can. This would encourage agencies to be ambitious and speed up implementation, while providing useful data to developing countries.

The principles the President championed the first day of his Presidency are reflected in the reform and evaluation processes undertaken by key US development agencies – new and better data enables citizens to hold their governments to account, and transparency helps to make programs more efficient. But the commitments the US has made to aid transparency are stifled by the approach it has chosen to meet them. US development agencies need to be encouraged to publish what they can, as soon as they can. Perhaps they can take the President’s advice, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” This IATI data is transformative, and will provide a fuller picture to countries who receive sometimes unpredictable assistance from many different countries. The administration should provide clear and strong encouragement to make transparent, as soon we can, the data that has the potential to accelerate progress in the fight against poverty.

Want to know more? Read the US Aid Transparency Report Card.

 

USAID Administrator Should be Given Seat on NSC

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
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Last week, Foreign Policy’s “Best Defense” blog had a guest post from Major Jaron Wharton, U.S. Army. In the piece, Maj. Wharton makes a compelling case for the USAID Administrator to be granted a seat on the National Security Council given the increased role development plays in our national security. MFAN has long held the position that the USAID Administrator should hold a seat on the National Security Council, especially with the emphasis on smart power seen during the Obama Administration. Read the full piece here and see key excerpts below:

“Because we are living in times that require a fully integrated national security approach, the USAID administrator should become the president’s principal advisor for development and assistance (akin to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff role and associated linkage to the secretary of defense, but concomitant to the secretary of state) and a permanent member on the National Security Council. This elevated position will provide the president with unfettered development advice, while codifying the position that development is on par with defense and diplomacy. Maintaining USAID’s intimate relationship with State recognizes the inherent ties of development assistance to foreign policy.”

[ ... ]

“USAID should take internal steps to reinforce its relevance and further professionalize its engagement in the national security apparatus. However, as in Goldwater-Nichols, where the ramifications for the professionalization of the Joint Staff were extreme, USAID is already fully-capable of the increased level of responsibility. There is no longer a dichotomy within USAID between those focused on altruistic development and assistance and those who understand the necessity, practicality, and Hill-emphasized need for more targeted work to support national security objectives.

Indeed, the development portfolio is now facing critical challenges and is at significantly increased risk given growing fiscal constraints. Despite being elevated by the Global Development Policy to be on par with defense and diplomacy, elements of any effort by the agency to demonstrate true relevancy in national security must include improved and sustained engagement in the NSS. This inherently makes the case USAID’s activities are considered in the national interest. Elevation of the administrator as a permanent member on the NSC provides an additional forcing function on the broader USG to recognize this point. At a minimum, the USAID administrator should be elevated and maintain his presence at the principals’ committee level beyond an “informal member as appropriate.”

Who Do YOU Think Should Serve on the Global Development Council?

Monday, January 7th, 2013
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Just before the holidays, the White House announced nominations for nine of the twelve seats on the President’s Global Development Council. As you recall, the Council—established by executive order last February—was originally called for in the 2010 Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD-6).

Click here to see the nine individuals appointed to the Council so far.

As MFAN Principal Sarah Jane Staats, director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Project at the Center for Global Development, writes, “The line-up so far pulls in research, private sector and philanthropic expertise and does not include operational or advocacy organizations (which may be a smart move to avoid conflict of interest with organizations who receive federal dollars for aid programs).”

Though the President is not obligated to fill all twelve slots, we’re interested to hear who you think should fill the remaining three seats.

Who else should be on the Global Development Council? Let us know by:

Send us your suggestions by January 14.

Once we’ve gotten enough suggestions, we will ask you to take our poll and vote on who you think should be on the Council. The names of the three individuals with the most votes will then be shared with the White House.

We look forward to collecting your nominations!

 

MFAN Statement: Dr. Eric Goosby’s Appointment as Global Health Ambassador

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012
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December 18, 2012 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram, and Jim Kolbe:

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.

 

New ONE Campaign Takes on Malnutrition

Monday, September 17th, 2012
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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.”

Here is how you can get involved:

The first major day of action is World Food Day, October 16, 2012. Stay tuned as the campaign unfolds!