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Posts Tagged ‘modernizing foreign assistance’

MFAN Statement: USAID Administrator’s Tough Speech Heralds New Development Business Model

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
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Raj Shah

MFAN Statement: USAID Administrator’s Tough Speech Heralds New Development Business Model

January 19, 2010 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chair David Beckmann:

In an extraordinary and hard-hitting speech today, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Raj Shah laid out the clear progress that is being made in changing the U.S. approach to development and reforming his agency, which has been a target of strong criticism in recent years.  The reform agenda is essential and timely, because helping struggling people build livelihoods and escape poverty has never been more critical to our success in battling extremism, opening new markets for U.S. products, and strengthening America’s allies around the world.

Administrator Shah’s message was unmistakable: America needs to take a more business-like approach to development, and everyone involved in the enterprise must be more focused on results and hold themselves to a higher standard of accountability.  While emphasizing that development “is as critical to our economic prospects and our national security as diplomacy and defense,” he explained that these reforms “are not trying to build an updated version of a traditional aid agency… we are seeking to build something greater: a modern development enterprise.”

He hammered home this message and echoed President Obama’s vision for development with perhaps the most important idea in the speech: that over time, our foreign assistance will create “efficient local governments, thriving civil societies and vibrant private sectors,” thereby making countries more accountable to their citizens while helping them “graduate” from U.S. assistance.  Administrator Shah also helped put the issue in context for the American people, noting that our long-term competiveness and global leadership is contingent on how well we reach and sell products to the world’s fastest growing economies in places like Africa.  Development is a key ingredient to helping these markets stabilize and grow, when used effectively in tandem with diplomacy and trade, among other things.

We were pleased that Administrator Shah did more than simply reiterate a vision in his speech; he actually detailed the steps that USAID will take by:

  • Making sustainable economic growth and empowered local citizens core goals across all USAID development efforts;
  • Moving to save hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years by consolidating staffing, administrative, and program management activities globally;
  • Accelerating negotiations to graduate as many as seven countries from U.S. assistance by 2015;
  • Creating a new evaluation framework that will help USAID make decisions on what programs to continue, while also communicating results to the American people through the new USAID Dashboard;
  • Unveiling a new procurement system that will increase competitiveness; and
  • Establishing a new taskforce to prevent waste, fraud and corruption.

Taken together, these reforms will bring U.S. development efforts firmly into the 21st-century and help strengthen USAID as the effective leader of those efforts.  We urge Administrator Shah to remain laser-focused on this reform agenda, including by reaching out to bipartisan Members of Congress to develop legislation that will enshrine this new development business model in law in order to drive long-term results.

For additional information, please contact Sam Hiersteiner at 202-295-0171 or shiersteiner@gpgdc.com.

From Paper to Product: Key Benchmarks for Effectively Implementing the President’s Development Policy

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
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obama-signs-billWith his speech laying out a new U.S. approach to development at September’s UN Millennium Development Goals Summit, President Obama has outlined a future in which development serves as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy, delivering greater results for people in poverty around the world and for U.S. taxpayers.  The President’s policy provides a long-overdue roadmap for more strategic, effective, accountable U.S. foreign assistance, and puts forward a mechanism for regularly refreshing our development approach through the establishment of a U.S. Global Development Strategy.

As with most ambitious policy pronouncements, the true test will come with implementation.  We are pleased to see explicit mention of the President’s commitment to “working closely with Congress to establish a shared vision of the way forward on global development,” including a desire to be given more flexibility for funding allocations in exchange for greater accountability to Congress.  It is now time to delineate a clear mechanism for doing so.  MFAN continues to believe that the only durable vehicle for this “grand bargain” is new legislation to replace the outmoded Foreign Assistance Act, now 50 years old and trapped in the Cold-War era.  This bargain should reflect a shared vision of the management of U.S. foreign assistance and a balance between granting the Executive Branch authorities that it needs to respond to a rapidly changing world and securing the rightful role of the Congress as a partner in setting national priorities and ensuring accountability to American taxpayers, with special emphasis on poverty reduction and economic growth, greater transparency and effectiveness, a strengthened development agency, and greater participation by civil society in developing countries.  Done purposefully, inclusively, and transparently, a modern, up-to-date legislative framework that reflects current global realities and challenges would reestablish confidence in foreign assistance as an indispensible aspect of the U.S. approach to global development and foreign policy at a time of constrained budgets.

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Chairman Berman Says It’s Time to Finish Foreign Aid Reform

Thursday, December 9th, 2010
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In a new piece in The Washington Times, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) calls for Congress and the Administration to complete and institutionalize their work to make foreign aid programs “more effective, more efficient and more accountable.”

HCFA_April 222009_042209 Hillary and BermanBerman applauds the initiative of the Obama Administration in pursuing two separate reviews of foreign assistance – the Presidential Study Directive that produced America’s first-ever government-wide global development policy, and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) led by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development that is due out next week.  He cautions, however, that the “real challenge…will be to use the results of this review to implement meaningful reforms with lasting impact.” He goes on to say, “That’s where Congress comes in.”

The authorizing committee chairman points to his own efforts this Congress to rewrite the outdated, now 50-year old Foreign Assistance Act, and urges the both the Executive and Legislative branches of government to come together to enact “common-sense reforms.”

Here are the excerpted principles Berman lays out to ensure durable reform:

“Foreign assistance programs not only reflect American values and principles but serve as essential means for protecting U.S. economic, foreign-policy and security interests,” Berman concludes. “Only by mandating the new structures and processes in law can we establish the level of bipartisan support and executive-legislative consensus that will guard against backsliding and retrogression.”

To read the full article, click here.

CAP Proposes Way Forward on Aid Reform in the New Congress

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
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In a new report called “U.S. Foreign Aid Reform Meets the Tea Party,” MFAN Principal and Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress John Norris explores how foreign assistance reform can succeed in the new-look 112th Congress.

“While many have been quick to suggest that the November 2010 midterm elections will result in gridlock in Washington, there are good reasons why foreign aid reform can continue to gain traction,” Norris writes.  He goes on to make concrete recommendations on how to effectively implement the aspirations of President Obama’s global development policy, which was announced in September and is the first of its kind in the history of the U.S. government.  “This new U.S. foreign aid policy framework was well received by a wide spectrum of organizations and commentators, ranging from some traditional aid critics to major groups, such as the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, that have long supported reform efforts,” Norris notes.  “All welcomed an effort to bring greater clarity, discipline, effectiveness, and simplicity to our aid programs.  Articulating a new policy direction, however, is different from making it happen.”

John_NorrisNorris also discusses the role of the soon-to-be-released Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) and how it might – or might not – clarify the relationship between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department.  “It is also noteworthy that neither the new policy directive nor the likely results of Secretary Clinton’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR, have fully resolved a long-simmering tug of war between the State Department and USAID,” he comments.  “Instead, under its current review, the administration revived or partially revived some important policy and budget functions within USAID, leaving the agency with a degree of autonomy. Yet the administration also made it abundantly clear that the agency still operates under the broad policy guidance of the secretary of state, and that State Department officials will remain deeply engaged in decision-making on many key aspects of development while taking an even more prominent role in managing complex crises.”

Specifically, Norris proposes the following actions for partnering with Congress to implement the President’s vision and strategy for U.S. engagement in the developing world:

  • Focusing on countries where assistance will make a real difference;
  • Walking away from partner governments that are not committed to reform;
  • Curbing the tendency to use foreign aid to secure short-term political gains rather than achieving long-term development goals;
  • Bringing far greater clarity and direction to the maze of different government entities conducting assistance through specific regulatory and legislative fixes; and
  • Making a better case as to why foreign aid reform is the right thing to do, both in terms of our national interest and our basic values as Americans.

“For the president’s new policy directive to be effective soon and over the long term, then the administration must work with Congress in a bipartisan fashion to overhaul our foreign aid programs so that they all adhere to the new strategy.  This will require making some difficult choices and then sticking with them.”

To read the report, click here.

Foreign Policy & Development: Structure, Process, Policy and the Drip-by-Drip Erosion of USAID

Friday, November 19th, 2010
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On November 18, 2010, The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) held a discussion of Jerry Hyman’s article “Foreign Policy and Development: Structure, Process, Policy and the Drip-by-Drip Erosion of USAID.” Panelists included Jerry Hyman, President of the Hills Program on Governance at CSIS; MFAN Principal Jim Kolbe, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund and former Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State/Foreign Operations; and Larry Garber, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa.  The discussion, which was moderated by Dan Runde, Director of the Project on Prosperity and Development at CSIS, focused on the inherent tensions between foreign policy and development policy. Runde said when the question is asked, “Who is in charge of U.S. development policy?” the answer is often times: “It depends.”

Hyman said development has grown in importance over the last few administrations, noting that the main reason is because it is being seen as a critical component of national security. Despite development’s elevated role and stature, there has been “utter deterioration” at the same time: organizationally, substantively, and procedurally. Hyman referred to the “idiom of lines” between the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development and said there has never been a time when development policy was de-linked from diplomacy.

Additionally, he discussed the decision to place key development initiatives, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation and PEPFAR, outside of USAID, as problematic. Hyman suggested that the conceptual and organizational clutter leads to confusion in implementation, chain of command, and coordination. He said that the government must “avoid the impulse to create a new box every time there is a new idea.” The more you divide the structure, the more inherent the need for coordination. Instead, we need to rebuild USAID, and the agency needs to reclaim as much lost ground as possible.

Kolbe began his remarks by stating that, “The deterioration of USAID is not a subjective statement…it’s a fact.” He contributed USAID’s diminished capacity to the militarization of aid and the creation of two new government agencies to circumvent dealing with USAID. Kolbe highlighted the President’s presidential policy directive on development (PPD) and the draft Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), noting that they are not in conflict with each other, but that they do have differences in emphasis. Kolbe underscored the importance of the Obama Administration working with Congress, because if they want reforms from the PPD and QDDR to have any meaningful impact, they have to have legislative buy-in.

Garber highlighted the reforms underway at USAID as a part of USAID Forward. He said that their reform efforts are taking place within the broader context of the 2010 National Security Strategy, the President’s global development policy, and the QDDR, which will be formally released in mid-December. Garber stated that USAID Administrator Shah and the staff at USAID believe that organizational change is possible, but it will take time before a “true development renaissance” is achieved.