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Posts Tagged ‘foreign assistance reform’

USGLC Report Finds Consensus on U.S. Development Policy

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013
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Partisanship in Washington seems to be at an all-time (and ever escalating) high these days. But when it comes to international development, there is a strong consensus across the ideological spectrum that it is something the U.S. must do and do well. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have taken important steps toward reforming U.S. development policy and practice. The establishment of the Millennium Challenge Corporation by President Bush, with strong bipartisan support from Congress, paved the way for other important reforms by the Obama Administration including the first-ever Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development and the USAID Forward agenda.

In 2011, MFAN released From Policy to Practice—a set of reform principles to help guide U.S. development policy. The principles include modernizing legislation, incorporating local priorities, and strengthening and empowering USAID. In the two years since the release of From Policy to Practice, we have seen the Obama Administration and Congress make strides and the development community rally behind the importance of reform. But there is still more work to be done, and at a time when budgets are shrinking, finding more effective and efficient approaches to solving development challenges is something everyone can get behind.

Today, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition released their second Report on Reports, which analyzes over 30 reports, including MFAN’s From Policy to Practice, from across the political spectrum. Despite analyzing a diverse range of work from groups like the left-leaning Center for American Progress and the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, USGLC finds there’s more of a consensus on U.S. development policy than we might expect. The Report on Reports highlights six key areas of agreement, including ensuring results-driven development, improving coordination, and maintaining sufficient resources, that many groups in the development community are highlighting as priority areas for improving U.S. policy.

The elevation of development alongside diplomacy and defense, the continuing implementation of the USAID Forward agenda, the introduction of legislation like Rep. Gerry Connolly’s (D-VA) Global Partnerships Act and Rep. Ted Poe’s (R-TX) Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, and President Obama’s proposal to reform U.S. food aid are all positive signs that the reform agenda is making headway. However, the Administration and Congress must work together to institutionalize these important reforms so that progress is not lost as political winds shift in Washington.

Click here to see USGLC’s helpful infographic on the road to a “smart power” approach to national security issues.

Harnessing Aid and Trade in a Time of Fiscal Austerity

Thursday, April 14th, 2011
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Today’s post is the fifth and final post in a Feed the Future/Reform blog series that MFAN has been coordinating with key members of the community. To read the first post by Bread for the World, click here. To read the second post by the World Food Program USA, click here.  To read the third post by ActionAid USA, click here. To read the fourth post by the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, click here.

Our guest bloggers from GMF say, “By helping build comprehensive trade corridors that connect crop surplus to deficit regions, Feed the Future is leading the way in ‘aid for trade’ and making U.S. foreign assistance more effective and sustainable.”

A Guest Blog Post by Jonathan M. White and Kathryn Ritterspach

German Marshall Fund of the United States

The Marshall Plan helped facilitate Western Europe’s economic integration and revival through market-oriented policies, leaving behind the protectionism of the 1930s. The European Coal and Steel Community – the precursor to the European Union – further encouraged European integration, pooling these much-needed resources among Western European countries.  The EU expanded membership to countries in the East after the Cold War, offering aid, market access and a common regulatory framework. The Marshall Plan and the European Union, while not perfect by any means, are considered among the most successful development programs.

One lesson from these initiatives has been that to get a bigger bang for your buck, you need the alignment of aid, trade and investment policies toward a unified objective – in this case the rebuilding of Europe. Both the Bush and Obama Administrations have sought to foster vibrant private sectors that complement critical health and education programs in the developing world. In that spirit, the U.S. Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development and the U.S. Feed the Future initiative seek to harness both aid and trade to help lift countries out of poverty and become reliable trading partners.

As democracy slowly emerges in Egypt and Tunisia, with other societies in the region on the move and with high commodity prices pushing millions back into poverty worldwide, we cannot waver in our support for these innovative U.S. development policies. In the face of budget constraints, governments must better coordinate aid and trade policies toward common development objectives. Market access, for example, which the United States is very generous in granting to developing countries, can mean little in the absence of cross-border infrastructure, trade finance, reasonable custom regimes, and a sound business climate. Foreign aid supporting small farmers, enterprises, and jobs will only go so far without access to regional or international markets.

Currently, the United States and Europe have a number of trade preference programs that seek to expand markets at home and abroad. However, many of these programs do not adequately reach industries where the poor work. For instance, over 90 percent of African exports under the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) are petroleum products, an indication of the fact that the trade opportunities it provides are severely under-utilized due to lack of trade capacity. Some of the products in which African producers are competitive and able to export, such as sugar, are effectively excluded from AGOA’s otherwise broad coverage. Although it has wide product coverage, Europe’s Everything But Arms program has overly complicated rules of origin requirements that make it difficult for developing countries to benefit from market access.

Pakistan provides another example. In 2009 the United States committed to provide Pakistan a $7.5 billion aid program. Certainly a country with nuclear weapons and a weak civilian government on the border with Afghanistan should merit friendly U.S. trade policies to help bolster such a massive aid program. However, efforts to provide U.S. duty-free access to Pakistani textile and apparel sectors – critical sources of export earnings and jobs – have floundered. It seems senseless, if not irresponsible, to undercut a multi-billion dollar aid program by maintaining high tariff barriers against a strategic ally.

Ultimately, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Arab world need security, reliable governments, and jobs. When countries ask for foreign assistance it is incumbent on governments – both the donor and the partner country – to think about how their trade policies can accelerate returns on development programs or at a minimum not undermine them. While Egypt has a larger population than South Korea and Taiwan, these Asian nations export more manufacturing goods in two days than Egypt does in an entire year. The Arab Spring provides an opportunity to rethink regional trade and investment opportunities. U.S. and EU trade policies that run counter to transatlantic development objectives in the Arab world should, for starters, be reformed or scrapped.

The good news is that the U.S. has launched a new development policy which opens the way for better development coordination. The Presidential Policy Directive on Development resulted in a U.S. government interagency policy committee, which sets priorities, facilitates decision-making where agency positions diverge, and coordinates development policy across the executive branch. U.S. trade officials are playing an active role in this process. This new policy also recommends, through existing policy mechanisms, “development impact” assessments of other U.S. policies, including trade policy through the U.S. Trade Representative’s Trade Policy Review Group.

The Feed the Future initiative is spearheading a more coherent approach to development, involving a wide range of U.S. agencies. This initiative aims to accelerate inclusive agriculture growth and improve nutrition. To achieve this, it will focus on post-harvest market infrastructure, business development, strengthening and harmonizing regulatory frameworks and tariff reductions, and linking smallholder farmers to regional and international markets. By helping build comprehensive trade corridors that connect crop surplus to deficit regions, Feed the Future is leading the way in “aid for trade” and making U.S. foreign assistance more effective and sustainable.

But more could be done, especially in the face of tighter budgets. In February, the U.S. Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program were allowed to expire. The U.S. International Affairs Budget is under threat at a time when events in North Africa and the Middle East require strong diplomats and development experts on the ground. At risk are meaningful U.S. policy coordination efforts that seek to make the most of development investments to end hunger and foster economic growth. Trade combined with aid is a cost effective means to offering countries a sustainable long-term path out of poverty.

Foreign Assistance is Key to Reinforcing Diplomacy in Sudan

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011
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A Guest Blog Post by Kelly Keenan Aylward

Washington Office Director, Wildlife Conservation Society

While much of the aid that the United States sends abroad directly addresses health, food and security needs, a similarly important portion of U.S. assistance benefits the environmental conservation work in developing countries.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Biodiversity Program, Sustainable Landscapes, and Adaptation Program all seek to protect the natural environment in places that, for mostly economic reasons, are under threat.

During the current debate on foreign assistance priorities, authoritative voices from Secretary Hillary Clinton to General David Petraeus to Senator Lindsay Graham are imparting its benefits to American interests including national security and trade; this is true, and conservation funding contributes to that.  Since President Obama announced in 2010 the three pillars of his Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, identifying priority objectives in the areas of global climate change, global food security, and global health, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has offered conservation-focused policy reform recommendations to U.S. development agencies by drawing on its decades of experience as an implementing partner.

Southern Sudan 03-29-11 012_small

Recently, members of the administration, Congress, non-governmental organizations and international governments came together on Capitol Hill to discuss conservation as development, specifically in the new country of Southern Sudan.  As the only environmental non-profit organization on the ground in Sudan, WCS and program director Dr. Paul Elkan do critical work advising the government on natural resource management, mediating land-use disputes between conflicting tribes and developing infrastructure to turn Southern Sudan’s majestic wildlife into a thriving ecotourism industry.

Dr. Elkan was the featured presenter at the policy briefing event.  The undercurrent of the event was the notion of reforming foreign assistance by aiming to reinforce diplomatic investment with development.  Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), USAID Science and Technology Adviser Dr. Alex Dehgan, and USAID Sudan Deputy Mission Director Susan Fine spoke of the need to bolster diplomacy with an infusion of aid dollars in order to ensure those the initial investments sustain.

One of the clearest examples of success in this approach has been WCS’s work in Southern Sudan. The U.S. committed much energy and resources to ensuring a peaceful and smooth separation of Northern and Southern Sudan before and during the successful referendum on independence.  Now, WCS is helping establish sound land and resource policy within the burgeoning government of Southern Sudan to broaden the economic base and ultimately prevent a regression into violence.

The development agencies would do well to use such a model for insuring diplomatic outcomes.  In Sudan, ‘development by conservation’ will hopefully encourage the nascent democracy with the strong economic foundation it needs to stand on and continue to grow peacefully.

The Global Agricultural and Food Security Program (GAFSP): An Innovative Fund to Fight Hunger

Friday, March 18th, 2011
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Today’s post is the third in a Feed the Future/Reform blog series that MFAN has been coordinating with key members of the community. To read the first post by Bread for the World, click here. To read the second post by the World Food Program USA, click here.  To see what ActionAid USA’s Director of Policy and Campaigns has to say about GAFSP and its alignment with foreign assistance reform principles, read below. You will see many aspects of country ownership reflected in the post – be sure to comment or share your thoughts!

A Guest Post by Neil Watkins

Director of Policy and Campaigns at ActionAid USA

ActionAid is an international anti-poverty agency working in 50 countries, taking sides with poor people to end poverty and injustice together. Watkins currently serves as the Northern CSO representative on the Steering Committee of the GAFSP.Women farmers

A critical, but less well known component of the USG’s Feed the Future Initiative is the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). Launched in April 2010, the fund embodies many of the principles of aid effectiveness, including country ownership, a strong monitoring and evaluation element, and provisions to ensure transparency and civil society participation.

The GAFSP was established in April 2010 following commitments made by leaders at the G-8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy in 2009 to support global food security. The fund, with a small secretariat at the World Bank, has received nearly $1 billion in pledges from 6 donors including the United States, Spain, Korea, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada and Australia. Unfortunately, the US has only delivered $67 million of its pledge to date; the remainder is currently caught up in the debate around the FY2011 budget.  Congress needs to act with urgency to meet our pledge.

One of the innovations of the GAFSP is its governance structure. It is governed by a Steering Committee that includes 12 voting members (the aforementioned 6 donors, along with 6 developing country governments), as well as 11 non-voting but fully participating members. Non-voting members include three civil society representatives (including a farmers organization leader from Africa and Asia); three representatives from the United Nations system; and representatives from the five development banks which serve as the supervising entities for GAFSP projects. As the fund has evolved, in practice there is little difference between voting and non-voting members: all discussions and decisions are taken with all members present.

In June 2010, the GAFSP Steering Committee approved five grants totaling US$224 million for Bangladesh, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Togo and Rwanda. In November 2010, more than $100 million in grants were approved for Mongolia, Ethiopia, and Niger. The successful country proposals demonstrated a high level of need, an effective agricultural investment plan, and a coherent project proposal.

left_scThe GAFSP has adopted the Rome Principles — agreed to by 193 nations at the World Food Security summit in November 2009 — into its governance structure, planning, and implementation procedures. All GAFSP funds support country-led agricultural development strategies. In Africa, the fund specifically supports countries that have advanced through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program CAADP process. The CAADP process, launched at a summit of African heads of state in Maputo in 2003, commits African governments to spend at least 10% of their budgets on agriculture and includes a peer and technical review process to ensure development effectiveness.

Moreover, official contributions and pledges to the Fund have been able to leverage additional commitments including from non-traditional donors (Korea) and the philanthropic sector (Gates Foundation). The Fund also operates with a high level of transparency, with all Board documents posted to its website within one week of approval, and detailed information and financed projects publicly available.

From the outset, the GAFSP has placed a strong emphasis on civil society participation, recognizing the vital role civil society organizations (CSOs) play in ensuring that its programs have the greatest impact for the most vulnerable. ActionAid has been encouraged by the inclusion of CSOs in the governance structure of the Fund and the responsiveness by the Fund to CSO input provided to date.

The following are some concrete examples of the successes that CSOs have achieved by serving on the GAFSP Board:

  • Instructions are now sent along with grant notices to countries that receive awards from GAFSP directing the countries to ensure meaningful stakeholder participation in the finalization of their proposals;
  • The project financed by GAFSP in Togo involved farmers organizations and civil society organizations in the drafting, finalization, and now implementation of the project;
  • We also successfully pushed the Private Sector Window, a smaller lending window of the GAFSP which specifically supports the private sector, to commit that Environmental and social safeguards apply to financial intermediaries involved in the Private Sector Window; and that the development indicators the IFC uses to evaluate development impact of PSW projects will be shared with the steering committee.

ActionAid is also working with farmer’s organizations and other CSOs to press the GAFSP to further empower civil society and farmers organizations:

  • At the request of the full steering committee, we are developing detailed benchmarks and guidelines for effective civil society participation at the country level to ensure much deeper engagement and participation of producers’ organizations especially;
  • Pushing the GAFSP to clearly identify and support projects that favor innovative models of agricultural development that are likely to have the most beneficial impact on poor smallholders, especially women;
  • Pressing the Private Sector Window to operate transparently, to directly support smallholders and their organizations, and to demonstrate development effectiveness; and
  • Ensure strong linkages and accountability with the Committee on World Food Security.

ActionAid believes the GAFSP is a promising vehicle through which donors should deliver agricultural development assistance. We are urging Congress to provide full funding for the United States’ pledge to the fund. The current shortfall from the US is a risk to the fund’s sustainability. We are also urging other G-20 countries that have not yet contributed to GAFSP to make pledges to the Fund, which is an important model of aid effectiveness in practice.

Feeding Hungry People While Feeding the Future

Friday, March 11th, 2011
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Below is the second installment of MFAN’s blog series highlighting the reform aspects of Feed the Future, the United States Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Feed the Future incorporates many key reform principles such as components of country ownership, strong monitoring and evaluation, and leveraging partnerships for enhanced results. To read the first blog in the series, Feed the Future: A Promising New Model of Development, click here. In this week’s post, Rick Leach, President and CEO of World Food Program USA focuses on both the short and long-term goals for food security as well as the importance of a comprehensive approach.

As Mr. Leach says, “This comprehensive approach makes foreign assistance more effective and leads to increased economic growth, which can open new markets for U.S. products and create new jobs at home.”

A Guest Blog Post by Rick Leach, President and CEO

World Food Program USA

The United States has been a long-standing leader in providing emergency food assistance to people in need around the world. From the food assistance provided under the Marshall Plan, which helped ensure prosperity for a generation of Europeans, to the lifesaving food provided in the wake of last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, U.S. food assistance has enjoyed decades of bipartisan support.

In recent years, support for food assistance has been unprecedented, as its efficiency and effectiveness continues to improve. Food is now reaching hungry people in need more quickly and more efficiently than ever before. The United States has increased the flexibility of food assistance by expanding prepositioning, so food is nearby when emergencies strike. And with U.S. cash-based assistance food also can be purchased locally, helping to revive and support local economies.

Now, with the administration’s new Feed the Future Initiative, the United States has matched its longstanding commitment to saving and rebuilding lives during emergencies with robust support for efforts to tackle an underlying cause of hunger.

AFG_200306_WFP-Alejandro_Chicheri_0014WFP/Alejandro Chicheri

During the 2008 food price crisis, the world witnessed the destabilizing effects that food insecurity had on the world’s poorest people, causing riots in 40 countries. In response the United States and G8 leaders issued a call to action: improved global food security would require a comprehensive approach, one which combined short-term food assistance with long-term development initiatives. This call to action has resulted in an unprecedented consensus on how to effectively address global hunger, from government leaders to recipient countries and international development organizations. The U.S. response to this call to action is Feed the Future, which complements U.S. food assistance with investments in nutrition and agricultural development to comprehensively address the short and long-term impacts of hunger.

The United States and its partners are now employing this multifaceted approach to solve hunger in countries around the world, including Afghanistan where the United States is tailoring its assistance to meet diverse needs on the ground. In cities, such as Kabul, where markets continue to function, the most food insecure families receive vouchers, which enable them to purchase food from local retailers, thereby bolstering local markets. In order to maintain food security and rebuild lives and communities after emergencies, vulnerable populations are provided with food in exchange for their participation in training programs or infrastructure projects, which helps strengthen the capacity of the Afghan people and build the Afghan economy.

U.S. anti-hunger initiatives also provide children in Afghanistan with food assistance specific to their needs. If children do not receive proper nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life (from conception to two years of age) they can suffer permanent mental and physical damage. Therefore, young children and mothers receive nutrient-rich food and nutritional products to ensure proper early development. In support of national efforts to strengthen the education system, school-age children are also encouraged to attend school with the promise of a meal. This not only increases enrollment, especially for girls, but also improves cognition so children are able to learn and retain information.

Finally, the United States and its partners are now embarking on a global effort to expand agricultural and rural development. One example of an innovative program is the World Food Program’s (WFP) Purchase for Progress initiative, supported by the United States and other donors, which has begun purchasing wheat directly from small-scale Afghan farmers. This initiative is increasing the productivity and income of small-scale farmers, improving their long-term food security. In turn, the wheat purchased by WFP has been used to provide assistance to Afghan families affected by flooding and to produce fortified biscuits for school meals programs.

This comprehensive approach makes foreign assistance more effective and leads to increased economic growth, which can open new markets for U.S. products and create new jobs at home. And by more effectively addressing emergency needs and transitioning countries to stable, productive societies, the United States is also building peace around the world. This means improved national security and as Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said, “development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.” These investments are small but the reward is great. Providing food for hungry people today while growing food to feed future generations is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.