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Posts Tagged ‘foreign assistance’

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.

American Foreign Policy and Africa with Senator Johnny Isakson

Friday, April 1st, 2011
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isaksonSenator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) delivered an engaging and broad-ranging speech on U.S. policy in Africa yesterday at John’s Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies.  Senator Isakson is the Senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, and he has traveled to the continent many times over the last several years.  Senator Isakson focused his remarks on three primary areas: 1. U.S. foreign assistance to Africa; 2. U.S. private investment in Africa; and 3. China’s presence in Africa.

Senator Isakson began his remarks by emphasizing that no continent will be more strategically important to the U.S. than Africa in the 21st Century.  Senator Isakson went on to praise Presidents Bush and Obama for their commitment to engaging Africa and to investing in development programs, such as PEPFAR and the MCC.  Senator Isakson focused on the MCC in particular, explaining that the MCC currently has 11 compacts in Africa and that these compacts are not only creating much needed infrastructure, but are also producing the types of political and economic reforms that are critical to long-term success.  Senator Isakson also offered his strong support for the work that U.S. NGOs are performing in Africa, and he cited MFAN Partner CARE USA in particular for the great work that they are doing through microfinance programs in Africa.

Senator Isakson also offered up some broader arguments for how the U.S. should fashion its foreign assistance.  Specifically, Senator Isakson said that U.S. foreign assistance programs must have a clear purpose and that they should do more to tackle corruption, to support democratization, and to introduce recipient countries to the principles of capitalism that will help develop sustainable economic growth over the long-term.  Senator Isakson kept returning to the issue of corruption throughout his remarks, and repeatedly made the point that we must protect our investments in Africa by developing greater accountability and transparency.

Senator Isakson also spoke about the important role that the U.S. private sector is playing in Africa.  He told the story of how Marathon Oil has invested millions in natural gas in Equatorial Guinea, helping the country have one of the fastest growing economies in the world.  The Senator also praised Coca Cola, headquartered in his home state of Georgia, for their $30 million investment in purification projects to become a water neutral company and to develop greater access to clean water in Africa.

The last topic that Senator Isakson covered was China’s growing role in Africa.  Senator Isakson was highly critical of the manner in which China’s engagement in Africa is focused on the extraction of resources and the deployment of Chinese workers for infrastructure projects, without any consideration for sustainable development solutions .  By contrast, Senator Isakson praised the U.S. government for the way that it works with its African partners to plan and execute development programs that serve the needs of the people and that are held accountable.

In the Q&A section that followed the Senator’s speech, he responded to a question on how the current budget environment will impact U.S. foreign assistance programs.  Senator Isakson argued that a cost-benefit analysis will have to be applied to U.S. foreign assistance programs, just like the rest of the Federal budget, but he is optimistic that development programs like PEPFAR and the MCC will continue to be funded, (though perhaps not at existing levels), because of the value they continue to demonstrate.  The Senator also responded to several questions on the current situation in Libya, the Ivory Coast, and Sudan.

In conclusion, Senator Isakon’s participation and his remarks at this morning’s event at SAIS clearly displayed his passion for U.S. policy towards Africa and the depth of knowledge he has developed in this area during his tenure in Congress.  Senator Isakson will undoubtedly be a lead voice in the U.S. Senate on Africa policy issues during the 112th Congress.

Smallholder Farmers Feeding the Future: Opportunities and Challenges

Friday, March 25th, 2011
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Today’s post is the fourth 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.

Read below to learn about the potential of smallholder farmers and how the Feed the Future initiative “aims to increase food security, improve nutrition, and boost incomes of smallholder farmers by bolstering infrastructure and market access, promoting innovative partnerships, and enabling farmers to produce beyond the subsistence level,” all key elements of reform.

A Guest Post by Rachel Voss

Communications and Research Associate, Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa’s hunger problem is in fact a hunger paradox.  As in other regions in the developing world, upwards of 70 percent of the continent’s population—and often the poorest portion of the population—are engaged in farming.  Despite Africa’s inherent potential for food production, hunger and malnutrition remain core obstacles to the continent’s overall development.  The explanation lies in the small-scale, subsistence nature of agricultural production in Africa and many other developing regions.

The U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative aims to increase food security, improve nutrition, and boost incomes of smallholder farmers by bolstering infrastructure and market access, promoting innovative partnerships, and enabling farmers to produce beyond the subsistence level.  The reasoning is clear: It is increasingly accepted that agricultural growth is an effective method to reduce poverty. A 2007 IFPRI study finds that a 1 percent increase in agricultural income per capita reduces the number of people living in extreme poverty by between 0.6 and 1.8 percent.  In a number of places around the world, programs supporting small-scale agricultural production have found wide success in combating hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.Farmers Assoc 2006 Malawi

Feed the Future’s comprehensive approach has the potential to engage smallholders at unprecedented levels.  A range of stakeholders, including local civil society and private-sector interests, participate in the development and implementation of country-led agricultural investment plans.  Individual producers, farmers’ associations, small- and medium-scale enterprises, and large agribusinesses thus have a seat at the negotiating table.  Feed the Future has also pledged to align its programs with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), an Africa-led initiative to boost government spending in agriculture sectors and support smallholder agricultural growth.

However, Feed the Future’s pledges and broad consultation processes are the first steps down a long road to smallholder empowerment.  With the program’s implementation stage only just beginning, there are many changes needed to ensure that smallholders’ interests come first.  At the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa’s recent U.S.-Africa Forum, discussion groups examined challenges to expanding partnerships while identifying new opportunities in Feed the Future and related initiatives.

Forum participants agreed that the integration of emergency food aid with long-term agricultural development remains a core challenge to U.S. programs.  Feed the Future backs a broad array of approaches to address the supply side of the equation: research on new technologies, the development of regional markets to improve access, better management of natural resources for production, and extension services to smallholder farmers and producers’ organizations.  However, formal mechanisms for linking country priorities and food security programs with U.S. food assistance programs, especially emergency Title II food aid, have yet to be established.  Feed the Future is already supporting innovations such as the UN World Food Programme’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) pilot program and providing conditional cash transfers or vouchers in cases where markets are full but vulnerable populations have no means to buy food.  These innovative food assistance solutions are already producing measurable results and valuable lessons for the development of a wider range of tools and solutions for hunger.  Perhaps most importantly, a new level of monitoring, evaluation, and learning is needed to identify the most appropriate indicators of success and determine what works and what doesn’t, what is most cost-effective, and what complementary efforts yield the highest impacts.  Once best practices are identified, they need to be shared, incorporated into future programs, and scaled up.

The US. government has also expressed support for farmers’ organizations and cooperatives which strengthen the voice, market power, and productive potential of smallholders.  However, Forum participants identified a number of steps that must be taken before the potential of farmer’s associations is realized.  Donor timelines are often too short to develop the organizational capital, partnerships, and human resources within producers’ organizations that are required for success, so multi-year investment plans with longer time horizons are crucial.  Additionally, because improving smallholder access to land and resources can mean changing existing cultural, political, and demographic arrangements, Feed the Future’s implementation plans must be comprehensive and cross-sectoral.  Above all, an explicit mechanism for Grain Storage Malawi 2006supporting farmers’ organizations and trade associations must be established within the Feed the Future framework—one that keeps them independent of government and focuses more on engaging women and youth.

The private sector plays a crucial role in transforming subsistence farming into an income-generating activity for smallholder farmers.  The development of business partnerships, more efficient value chains, and infrastructure for processing and storage has the potential to translate into unparalleled gains for smallholder producers as well as consumers.  However, Forum participants noted that mistrust between the public and private sector, high start-up and operating costs, as well as a lack of information on viable business opportunities in Africa, have long limited U.S. private sector engagement in Africa.  Feed the Future must commit to improving the investment and policy environment for private-sector interests, providing kick-start incentives for business development, building physical and organizational infrastructure, promoting public-private partnerships, and integrating regional markets, all of which will be vital to promoting smallholder farmers and business interests in Feed the Future countries.

Finally, Feed the Future seeks to mobilize higher-education institutions in research for agricultural productivity and human resource development, partly through the Norman Borlaug Commemorative Research Initiative.  However, research institutions, extension agents, and smallholders in Africa are widely known to operate in separate spheres.  Tertiary education institutions are too often “siloed,” failing to impart practical, business-oriented agricultural knowledge to students and producing graduates not fully prepared for the work environment.  Additionally, higher-education institutions have been largely excluded from private-sector partnership agreements and countries’ CAADP Compact strategy development processes.  Feed the Future can help to address this issue by increasing the role of higher-education institutions as partners in agricultural development processes.  The main challenges Forum participants identified will be: connecting universities with agricultural researchers and smallholder farmers; recovering institutional and human resource capacity that has been lost in recent decades; promoting partnerships with the private sector; rebuilding two-way partnerships with U.S. institutions; and ensuring that the contributions of the higher education community are recognized in CAADP investment plan development.

The new opportunities for partnerships presented in Feed the Future have caused ripples throughout the field of agricultural development and food security.  In numerous respects, the leaders of this innovative initiative have expressed commitment to improving the lives of smallholders throughout the developing world.  Experienced practitioners remind us, however, that realization of this commitment will take time.  A degree of flexibility uncharacteristic of U.S. government programs will be required to build up necessary partnerships, measure the real impacts of investments, and apply lessons learned to reform existing programs.  Feed the Future has started off on the right foot, but we are all responsible for holding the U.S. government to its pledge to work alongside partners in sub-Saharan Africa to enable millions of smallholder farmers to build a more food-secure and prosperous future.