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Archive for the ‘White House’ Category

How is USAID Implementing the President’s Global Development Policy?

Thursday, May 31st, 2012
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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.


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:

Is Obama’s Budget Good on Reform Efforts?

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
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See below for a guest post from MFAN Partner Oxfam America’s Greg Adams, director of aid effectiveness, as he analyzes whether President Obama’s FY’12 budget request is consistent with recent reforms.

Malawi Women Farmers

Women farmers work in Malawi, a country affected by the MCC, Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative. Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith, Oxfam GB/International.

Is Obama’s budget brawny or brainy?

This week, President Obama sent his budget blueprint to Congress for Fiscal Year 2012. There are two ways to measure this budget: how brawny is it, and how brainy is it?

On brawn, the budget clearly falls short. Obama proposes spending about $27 billion on development and humanitarian assistance—less than the amount Americans spent on candy in 2009. Right now, more than forty percent of the world’s population – 2.7 billion people – live in poverty, struggling to survive on less than $2 per day. That $27 billion essentially adds up to $10 for every poor person around the world; this clearly falls short of a “game-changing” investment.

But of course the question isn’t just about how much we’re spending. The most important question is about how and where we’re investing that money. And here—on the test of brains—Obama’s budget holds much more promise.

For the first time, US government decisions about how to spend anti-poverty dollars are being driven by an official Presidential Policy on Global Development —in effect, a clear strategy about how the United States intends to fight global poverty. This is important because it means we finally have a definition of what success looks like, and we can hold our aid accountable for what results it actually delivers. And that’s important because poverty is not only a moral outrage, but a clear challenge to the United States. Poverty has a corrosive effect on countries’ stability and prosperity. This, in turn, permits threats to the United States to fester. For example, if health systems in African countries can’t protect their own people’s health, it makes it easier for West Nile virus to get on a plane and infect people in the US.

In keeping with the President’s new policy, the US government is pursuing a series of reforms to the US aid system , meant to support citizens and governments around the world who are taking the lead to end poverty in their own countries. Some of these reforms actually began under President George W. Bush. Obama has continued some of these reforms and added new ones, so that the new budget supports a number of worthy reforms:

  • Investing in country-led plans for more effective and demand-driven aid. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Global Health Initiative, and USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative all take the priorities of citizens and their governments as their starting point.
  • Focusing on the real goal: helping countries move beyond aid. The Millennium Challenge Corporation signs five-year compacts with countries that are demonstrably seeking to provide for their citizens, which allows assistance to tackle structural obstacles to development, not just piecemeal projects. USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative is shifting US assistance from stop-gap food aid to sustainable local agriculture.
  • Being transparent and accountable, to US taxpayers and people in poor countries. USAID’s new evaluation policy commits to finding out what works and what doesn’t, being open about those findings, and ending things that don’t deliver results. And the new foreign assistance website shows how and where US aid dollars are spent, increasing transparency. But for these reforms to succeed, the US needs to conduct rigorous evaluations and gather the kind of detailed information that’s most useful for citizens, in the US and at the local level. These reforms can’t become a force for change without staff or funding.
  • Coordinating with other donors to better meet country development needs. Through the Feed the Future Initiative, the US will keep its promises to the Global Agriculture & Food Security Program (GAFSP), a new country-driven trust fund managed by the World Bank.
  • Starting with people, not bureaucracy. USAID’s Implementation and Procurement Reform commits the US to funding more local partners directly, and helps strengthen national institutions to deal with their own challenges.

As Congress considers the budget, it’s worth keeping an eye on these reforms. Will they stick? Or will politics overwhelm this smarter approach? Reforms that transfer information, capacity and control to recipient countries and citizens are key to making all our global poverty fighting investments most effective. The biggest question is whether this budget has enough brawn to make these brainy reforms work in practice.

This post originally appeared on Politics of Poverty: Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America’s policy experts.

MFAN Partners React to FY’11 and FY’12 Budgets

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
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Below are excerpts from MFAN Partners’ statements in reaction to President Obama’s FY2012 budget request released yesterday and the ongoing debates over the Continuing Resolution for FY 2011 in the House.  You can read MFAN’s statement on the budget here. To learn more about the budget debates, click on the following links: U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s Budget Center; InterAction; and ONE’s blog.

USGLC-300x103In their statement USGLC argued, “For the International Affairs budget, one of the most significant differences is how the Administration and House Appropriators categorize these programs. For the past five budgets, Republican and Democratic Administrations have grouped International Affairs within a cluster of spending categories that collectively make up the U.S. National Security budget.  This bipartisan recognition of the critical role our civilian agencies contribute to our national security mirrors the calls from military voices including Secretary of Defense Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mullen, and General David Petraeus. The Administration’s FY 2012 request continues this practice, exempting the International Affairs budget from its five-year freeze on non-security spending.  The House proposal categorizes these programs as non-security funding, subjecting them to deep – and in some cases devastating — cuts.”

InteractionInterAction President and MFAN Principal Sam Worthington commented, “In a tough fiscal environment, the Obama administration has presented a responsible and sensible FY 2012 international assistance budget; one that will help save lives, create economic prosperity here and abroad, and reduce future deficits by preventing bigger security outlays in the future. The administration is also taking steps to ensure every dollar of international assistance is spent effectively and efficiently, an approach members of Congress have been urging for many years. Now that improvements are actually being made, the Hill has another reason to support President Obama’s budget request.”

ONEMFAN Principal and ONE’s U.S. Executive Director Sheila Nix stated, “The House Appropriations Committee has faced very difficult choices in designing its budget for the remainder of FY 2011. We at ONE understand the need for greater fiscal restraints –- and the need to do more with less. At the same time, we are deeply disappointed by the Appropriators’ choice to step away from America’s long-term humanitarian interests in improving and preserving lives around the world by helping people lift themselves out of poverty. It is also a retreat from those programs that help bring stability to many areas of strategic importance to the United States…We are encouraged by President Obama’s FY 2012 budget released today. It demonstrates the Administration’s commitment to a multifaceted national security policy – one that is built on defense, diplomacy, and development.”

MFAN: Reflecting on the 50th Anniversary of Kennedy’s Inaugural

Thursday, January 20th, 2011
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Today, 50 years ago, President Kennedy delivered an inaugural address that set the tone for US engagement for decades to come. Through the address Kennedy sought to renew US leadership in the world, guided by a moral imperative to oppose those who limit opportunity and freedom. Kennedy said, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” These words then paved the way for the first-ever Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the establishment of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – commemorating its 50th anniversary this year.   The best way to celebrate President Kennedy’s infamous address is to build on his legacy for alleviating poverty worldwide by strengthening USAID, while reforming and refocusing our efforts to meet present day challenges. See below for excerpts from Kennedy’s speech that speak to the national security and moral reasons why America has an obligation to fight poverty:

“To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right.”

“To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge: to convert our good words into good deeds, in a new alliance for progress, to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty.”

“My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”