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Posts Tagged ‘global development policy’

Seoul Development Consensus: Break from Washington Consensus or Same Song, New Singers?

Thursday, November 18th, 2010
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A Guest Post by Porter McConnell, policy advisor for aid effectiveness, Oxfam America

The US and other G20 nations meeting in Seoul, South Korea last week announced a Seoul Consensus on Development intended to replace the failed “one-size fits all” Washington Consensus. But will the Seoul Consensus prove itself to be different?

As the first non-G8 member to host a G20 summit, South Korea has made development a central part of the agenda, with a focus on boosting the growth of poor countries. And in September, President Obama released a Global Development Policy at the MDG Summit that hit similar notes, like going beyond aid and harmonizing policies on trade, food security, and climate change that affect millions of poor people. But did these two policies meet in Seoul?

This G20 meeting was an opportunity for the US to learn from the experience of G20 nations like South Korea. Half a century ago, South Korea’s annual per capita income was just $82, less than half that of Ghana at the time. Today it stands at $19,000 – an astonishing 200-fold increase. South Korea’s success is a story of self-determination. The South Korean government demanded full ownership over their development agenda, including foreign assistance. Often at odds with donors, the South Korean government diverted funding towards programs they felt could assist them, highlighting how poor countries can and need to create their own solutions, and rich countries need to concede the policy space for them to do that.

Ironically, many of the strategies South Korea and other Asian tigers used to become roaring economies are now unavailable to other developing countries, due to rules under the World Trade Organization, and enforcement by the International Monetary Fund.  One promising idea on the table at the G20 was for developed countries to provide duty-free, quota-free market access to all least-developed countries, essentially opening their markets to the poorest countries.  But the proposal did not survive intense negotiations.  President Obama focused instead on the unrealistic goal of finishing the stagnant WTO Doha Round trade negotiations, without committing to reconsider the US negotiating position. By not committing to “duty free, quota free”, President Obama missed the opportunity to deliver a concrete outcome of the new global development policy and bring other developed nations along.  Sadly, the G20 taking duty-free, quota free access for poor countries off the table sends the unfortunate message to poor countries that developed countries aren’t willing to take the immediate steps that matter.

Focusing solely on pro-growth policies won’t be enough to tackle poverty. When the Washington Consensus was at its height, the world economy grew by $19 trillion from 1981-2001, but people living in extreme poverty received only 1.5% of that wealth. In these difficult economic times, the G20 must pay special attention to the needs of low-income countries and poor people. The triple shocks of economic, climate and food price crises have pushed millions into extreme poverty. And many developing country governments now face yawning budget gaps that could force brutal cuts to healthcare, education and social support. While continued aid to poor countries may not be sufficient, it is necessary.

The US and other rich countries should not use the economic crisis or the G20’s focus on growth to wriggle out of their commitments to the world’s poorest at a time when they need help more than ever.

Activists of Oxfam International don masks of the world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, far left, and pose in Tae Kwon Do costumes during a demonstration to draw attention to global poverty issues one day before the G-20 summit in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010.

Activists of Oxfam International don masks of the world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, far left, and pose in Tae Kwon Do costumes during a demonstration to draw attention to global poverty issues one day before the G-20 summit in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010.

The lack of progress in the global fight against climate change is one such instance. Poor people are on the frontlines of climate change and will shoulder the biggest burden, despite doing little to cause the crisis. Much of the advances we have made in the fight against poverty risks to be quickly wiped out by the devastating impacts of climate change. But with less than a month to go before the Cancun summit, the G20’s lack of progress – or even a commitment to progress – on climate change is very disappointing. Business leaders meeting at their “B20” business summit did what the G20 governments couldn’t do, demonstrating that they at least understand the urgency of climate change and put concrete proposals on the table. The US and other G20 members need to support the creation of a new, fair and accessible global climate fund, including provisions for country ownership and a participatory, inclusive and accountable process so climate finance is fully integrated into a country’s broader development strategies.

For the Seoul Development Consensus to stick, the G20 must resist the temptation to sing the same old song of failed economic policies and narrow self-interest. They must sing a new song by making the world economy work for poor people, and allowing countries the space to make their own destiny.

Getting balance right is key to U.S. development policy

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
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In a guest post on the Stimson Center’s new blog, The Will and The Wallet, MFAN Principal and President of InterAction, Sam Worthington discusses the inherent tension between short-term and long-term development objectives.

“There is always tension between short- and long-term objectives. We face it every day in the decisions we make, both as individuals and collectively as a country. Do we buy a flashy new laptop now, or stick with our slow old desktop and save to send our children to college? Should government forego additional taxes to stimulate the economy, or would it be better to raise them and avert a potential long-term fiscal crisis?”

“The same tension exists for U.S. government investments in international development.  Short-term projects based primarily on immediate national security needs and objectives often compete for resources that would otherwise be dedicated to effective development work aimed at poverty alleviation and institutional capacity-building. At the heart of this tension is the need to address both short- and long-term objectives well, rather than having an ad hoc approach that fails on both fronts.”

To read the full blog post, click here.

The most sexy boring thing you haven’t heard of: USAID’s Implementation & Procurement Reform

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
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A Guest Post by Porter McConnell, Aid Effectiveness Team, Oxfam America

What if I told you a little-known bureaucratic process called “Implementation and Procurement Reform”, IPR for short, was one of the sexiest victories for poor people in years?  Bear with me as I stick this through the wonk-speak translator:

Implementation /imp-le-men-ta-shun/ n., everything the US Agency for International Development (USAID) does to fight poverty.

Procurement /pro-kür-ment/ n., how USAID gets what it needs to fight poverty.

Reform /re-form/ n., changes to how aid is delivered so poor people get the help they need most.

Put it all together, and you’ve got big changes for how and where USAID does what it does to fight poverty and get people the help they need most. Pretty exciting, right?

You’re probably thinking, yeah yeah, you already told us big changes were coming two weeks ago when President Obama announced the new global development policy. How is IPR news?

It’s taking the concept of country ownership and making it real. In 2005, the US promised along with other countries to deliver the kind of assistance citizens and their governments need, not just what we want to give them. Put simply, we don’t do development, people develop themselves. So the job of donors like the US is to transfer information, capacity, and control to the true agents of change, poor people themselves. Implementation & Procurement Reform is a plan for how the US will help citizens and their governments build their own capacity, instead of setting up our own systems like we used to do.

So, we know it’s a good thing, but how do we know it will happen? This is where it gets really exciting: USAID has set itself concrete short and medium-term targets to get it done. The targets they set for themselves are laser-focused on results, and to fighting global poverty not just in the short-term, but for good.

So to recap, we don’t do development, people develop themselves, and this little-known bureaucratic process called IPR is going to change the way the US helps people around the world develop themselves. And our job as US citizens who care about global poverty is to make sure the US government meets and exceeds their ambitious targets, no matter what special interests get in the way. Any questions?


“‘Our pockets are empty, but our minds are not’, said our first president. Ownership is about creating the time and space for developing countries to determine what support they need to achieve development. Ownership has to prepare us to stand on our own two feet. We learn by doing.” Tanzanian ambassador to the United States Ombeni Sefue (pictured with Tanzanian students, second from left)

MFAN Partner: “What Does the PPD Mean for USAID?”

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
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Connie Veillette, new director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Initiative at the Center for Global Development (CGD), analyzes the commitment to rebuild USAID into “the world’s premier development agency” in light of the new Global Development Policy for CGD’s blog.  She argues that any government agency is only as strong as three conditions, identified as:

  • the human resources to get the job done;
  • the authority to form its own budget and then fight for it through the labyrinthine budget process; and,
  • policy influence and operational control over the programs that form the core of its mission.

Be sure to read Veilette’s full post here exploring the “potholes” that will impact how the new policy gets implemented and see key excerpts below:

“These issues have been points of contention between State and USAID through both the PSD and QDDR processes.  The newly released global development policy represents an attempt by the White House to adjudicate between calls from the development community (and some voices within the administration) for a strong and independent aid agency and arguments from the State Department on the need to more fully integrate diplomacy and development.  I fear that reality will not match the rhetoric in this case, and political dynamics will continue to work against USAID.”

“Pothole No. 3 (also known as the Mother of All Potholes):  Policy influence and operational control. Well, let’s see.  The Bush administration’s signature development program that rewards countries for good performance was put in the specially created Millennium Challenge Corporation.  Another Bush administration program – PEPFAR – was put in the State Department under the direction of a coordinator.  In the Obama administration, aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan is largely directed out of the Holbrooke shop at State, and in the field, USAID mission directors report to State Department foreign assistance coordinators.  In Afghanistan, Pakistan, and several African countries, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is running agriculture programs.  The Feed the Future initiative was developed at the State Department, and it is expected that a global food security coordinator will sit at State.  (While no announcement has been made on whether the State coordinator will have operational control of FTF, isn’t it a tad troubling that anyone would question putting USAID in control of what is fundamentally a development program?)  As for the Global Health Initiative, we still don’t know who is in charge.  USAID will provide “leadership in the formulation of country and sector development strategies, as appropriate.”  (When would it not be appropriate?)  It appears that the scope of USAID’s mission has been, and continues to be, diminishing.”

“What Obama Got Right about Development”

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
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Over on the AidWatch blog–aid critic Bill Easterly’s blog–a guest post by Lant Pritchett explores four areas where President Obama’s new Global Development Policy achieved great wins in the overall development debate.  Pritchett argues that it’s easy to get bogged down in the architecture debate, but from a policy perspective, the Global Development Policy embraces principles of effective aid.  He identifies the following four “big ideas” where the new policy is successful:

  • Placing an emphasis on economic growth;
  • Avoiding stovepipes and instead adopting a holistic approach to development;
  • Encouraging innovation and supporting rigorous evaluation; and
  • Simply changing the way we do business.

Pritchett notes that it will be interesting to see how these policy changes are implemented, dependent upon the findings from other reforms including the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), but for now, we can celebrate.  Read his full blog post here and see some key excerpts below:

The paradox of the external organizations that attempt to support development is that people tell them “we’ll give you budget if you tell us for sure what you are doing will work.”  This leads to a powerful culture of pretending that much more is known about the “theory of change” that leads to development that really is known.  The fact that the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world has just spent eight years devoting fantastically high level of resources to “develop” Afghanistan (with security as one element of that) with results that range from mixed to shambolic should make it obvious that we need much greater openness within the development community to an approach of structured experimentation–on all fronts.

Fourth, one thing the speech gets right it does so by omission.  There is no dollar figure.  The message “lets do more” is always popular because it also means “business as usual” for what is already going on.  “Let’s do better at what we are doing”–that is a tough internal sell, but one that is useful–including I believe to people who are actually on the ground, doing the work.  Anyone who has actually worked inside the development industry knows how much better things, at least potentially, could be, but how tough achieving that will be given the inertia of massive organizations.  So while tackling policy and “architecture” might seem arcane relative to the apparent obvious gain of spending more money.  More is better, but better is better too and more is even better after better is better.