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Posts Tagged ‘United States Agency for International Development’

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 United States Institute of Peace: A “Think and Do” Tank

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
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A Guest Blog Post by Colonel Greg Hermsmeyer, USAF (ret.)

Former Director, Partnership Policy and Strategy, Office of the Secretary of Defense

As Congress inches towards agreement on a FY 2011 budget this week, the U.S. House of Representatives should correct the mistake it made by eliminating funding for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).  The bipartisan amendment that would cut USIP appears to have been passed under the mistaken understanding that the Institute is simply another “think tank” and that private funding can make up for lost congressional funding.  When Congress established USIP, it prohibited the organization by law from receiving non-federally appropriated funds for its program activities.  Congress wisely recognized that USIP was a national security actor whose mission and credibility should not be compromised by private interests.  This prohibition means that without an appropriation by Congress, there will be no Institute.

I have worked on the defense and civilian sides of international affairs and know from firsthand experience that USIP is not just another “think tank.”  The Institute and its cadre of dedicated peace-builders provide a critical bridge between the military—where I served for 21 years—and the non-military sectors and is a vital national security resource.  The Department of Defense, Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, and other government agencies as well as non-governmental organizations routinely leverage USIP’s unrivaled convening power and facilitation skills.  USIP is uniquely positioned to help disparate government and non-governmental stakeholders develop solutions to thorny challenges such as those posed by failed and fragile states.  USIP is better viewed as a “think and do tank.”

When the Department of Defense and U.S.-based Humanitarian NGOs represented by InterAction needed help addressing critical differences arising from encounters in the field, USIP provided its good offices and facilitated a two-year process culminating in the “Guidelines for Relations Between U.S. Armed Forces and NGHOs in Hostile or Potentially Hostile Environments.”  These “Guidelines” for the first time provided “rules of the road” for situations when U.S. military forces and humanitarians find themselves sharing the same space.  USIP continues to provide a venue for addressing issues arising from civilian-military interaction in the field under its congressional mandate.  No think tank can play this role.

Last year, the Secretary of Defense identified a critical gap in DoD’s capabilities to build the institutional capacity and human capital of foreign security sectors and “Helping Others Defend Themselves.”  Secretary Gates recognized that partners with sustainable security capacity are better able to defend themselves without the need to put the lives of U.S. service men and women at risk.  His Department turned to USIP for help in developing new U.S. Government programs and capabilities and in implementing programs in fragile states.  The Institute responded to this national security need by developing a Center for Security Sector Governance that supports U.S. efforts to help partners build the institutions and governance they need to provide for the safety, security, and justice of their own populations.  Many think tanks contribute to thinking in this area, but USIP translate ideas into action by sending experts to the field to support U.S. Government stakeholders and their international partners.

I can think of no other organization with an impact on our national security that is so out of proportion to its budget.  USIP is truly irreplaceable, and its peacebuilding mission should be fully funded as long as peace remains to be built around the world.  Congress should ensure that any budget that is sent to the President for signature restores America’s “Think and Do Tank.”

U.S. Development Firms Lead by Example

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
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A Guest Blog Post by Lawrence J. Halloran
Director, PSC International Development Initiative

With all the talk about whether foreign assistance is achieving its intended results, recent success stories demonstrate that economic development remains the strongest foundation for advances in all other sectors, such as health, governance, education and the empowerment of minorities and women. These successful projects show how U.S. development firms lead by example, teaching entrepreneurship and efficiency and creating thriving local businesses.

DevEx recently highlighted the success of a project to reform agriculture in Latin America implemented by TetraTech.  That USAID-funded effort was successful because it brought innovative science and a rigorous evidence-based approach to agricultural development there. And USAID recently highlighted work by AECOM and Nathan Associates on successful projects in post-conflict countries, such as Sri Lanka, that trained indigenous workforces and gave them the skills they need to develop viable local industries to compete and succeed in a global market.

These are just two examples of hundred of development projects underway that showcase how U.S. companies practice the capitalism we preach, often hiring up to ten locals for every U.S. technical expert deployed, and by nurturing budding local risk-takers and business leaders who go on to build more stable, prosperous, healthy communities in their countries.  Development is by nature a long-term process and changing political winds can sometimes prevent short-term progress from taking root.  But successes like these projects prove that USAID-planned, long-term development implemented by U.S. companies continues to unleash unstoppable and sustainable economic activity that is the only sure driver of progress in all other areas.

Feed the Future: A Promising New Model of Development

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
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A Guest Blog Post by Mannik Sakayan,

Senior Policy Analyst, Bread for the World

Every day, troubling data suggests that the ranks of hungry and poor people around the world are again expanding. For organizations who work to shed light on global hunger and poverty, the data is not news. Yet we hold in our policy cache smart, sustainable solutions to addressing the root causes of persistent global hunger and poverty.

Over the years, Bread for the World has joined forces with other global hunger advocates in calling for sustainable solutions to a path out of hunger and poverty for millions of men, women, and children in developing countries. We have done so by calling for focused agricultural development investments that take into consideration local needs and wants. And we have called for efforts to scale up and replicate the programs that work in order to get the most for our investments.

Fortunately, Feed the Future, the administration’s comprehensive food security and agricultural development initiative that launched in 2009, holds the promise to re-establish U.S. leadership in global agricultural development. It also holds the promise to address the root causes of global hunger through sustainable economic growth. It aims to achieve this through inclusive agricultural sector growth and improved nutritional status of women and children.

We have seen successes. New and innovative approaches to agriculture have helped save hundreds of millions of lives in Asia and Latin America. Yet the promise of alleviating hunger and poverty for people throughout the developing world should have served as an impetus to do more and to commit targeted resources to the programs that worked well. Instead, over the last few decades, changing global circumstances and priorities resulted in a gradual decrease in funding for agricultural development. With declining investments came diminished capacity in U.S. technical expertise. Rebuilding our technical capacity and recommitting the necessary resources will certainly be a heavy lift, but not an impossible one.

Feed the Future takes an innovative approach to bilateral assistance and offers a new model of development that takes stock of global needs as well as our own strengths in order to maximize the impact of the investments. Through country-led investment strategies, the United States will work in partnership with developing country governments to strengthen their agricultural capacity, with particular focus on smallholder farmers. Feed the Future calls for a consultative process with national stakeholders that best understand local needs and wants.

Feed the Future also includes a multilateral component, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), housed at the World Bank, to leverage donor contributions from other governments, foundations, and the private sector. Similar to Feed the Future, GAFSP allocates resources based on country-led proposals.

Both Feed the Future and GAFSP offer a new model of development that holds substantial promise. It is a sound development strategy based on targeted investments and measurable results. It has the all-important elements of reform—rigorous standards for monitoring and evaluation, accountability and transparency, country-led programming, and consultation—that are greatly needed to bring U.S. development policy into the 21st century.

Now is not the time to squander the momentum for lasting change. Hunger has never been a partisan issue. Now is not the time to make it one. Our leadership and commitment to save lives and prevent political instability around the world are at stake.

The way forward is to build broad, bipartisan support for enacting legislation that would codify the goals of Feed the Future so that it lives beyond this administration and truly becomes the cornerstone of U.S. global development policy.