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Hillary ClintonLast Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that she would undertake the first ever, and she hopes forever mandated, Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). Presumably fashioned as a partner piece to the Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review, the press release says the QDDR will:

“Provide the short-, medium-, and long-term blueprint for our diplomatic and development efforts. Our goal is to use this process to guide us to agile, responsive, and effective institutions of diplomacy and development, including how to transition from approaches no longer commensurate with current challenges. It will offer guidance on how we develop policies; how we allocate our resources; how we deploy our staff; and how we exercise our authorities.”

The QDDR will be chaired by Undersecretary of State Jack Lew, State Department Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter and the acting USAID Administrator. Its leadership team will include senior representation from State, USAID and MCC, and will engage with Congress, other U.S. government agencies, and non-government experts. The QDDR is intended to inform a broader “interagency process aimed at developing a whole-of-government approach,” presumably a reference to a Presidential Study Directive rumored to be in the works at the NSC.

Reaction from the development community was swift and positive. The U.S. Global Leadership Campaign commended the announcement as “an important step toward elevating and strengthening the civilian-led tools of diplomacy and development.” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman welcomed the review, not surprising as it was a part of his own bill passed out of the House in June. The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, of which CGD was a founding co-chair, also applauded the announcement, along with some additional success measures. Indeed, Steve Radelet and I called for a Quadrennial Development Review (a similar concept, without the diplomacy component) in CGD’s White House and The World. The endorsements are both with merit and not surprising. Finally, a real vehicle through which to push much-needed reforms.

I agree we should applaud a thorough review of the current state and effectiveness of our diplomatic and development tools, most notably foreign assistance. And, yes, we need to define, with substantially greater precision, the objectives of U.S. foreign and development policy and attach measurable indicators to those objectives in order to learn from and account for our efforts. But I wonder whether we should be so quick to cheerlead while many big ticket items extend well beyond the purview of the State Department. Issues of organizational structure, operational strategies, and coherence with other U.S. government policies and programs are instrumental in terms of reducing the fragmentation, inefficiency, and confusion of mission and mandate in our current system. The QDDR is only one part of the playbook and should not be mistaken for the complete game plan. So, pom-poms up for the initiative to craft a smart QDDR play, but let’s add the following refrains to our cheer lest we have one smart analysis of the play and lose the game:

Give me an AID Administrator! Six months into the administration, expectations that a dynamic, experienced and influential individual who would elevate the voice and stature of development – distinct from diplomacy – in U.S. foreign and national security policies remain unmet. While respecting the desire to “get on with it,” particularly if you want to tie it to the FY11 budget request, the participation of the administrator in the QDDR is essential. Similarly respecting the fact that Secretary Clinton is a sincere and powerful advocate for development, she has a lot on her plate and needs someone focused 24/7 on the development portfolio. Should a candidate be nominated soon, Congress should fast-track the appointment.

Give that AID Administrator a strong development policy capacity! Restoring a policy planning bureau to USAID as the development complement to State’s policy planning bureau would allow research and policy expertise on development to strategically inform the QDDR. Creative tension between diplomacy and development should be a welcome ingredient to a successful outcome.

Give me consultation and transparency! Make the promise to reach out to non-governmental experts serious by creating an independent advisory board of experts from relevant networks and interest areas, including private sector, to both push and pull ideas for reform. And enhance transparency through open public input (via State’s website) and regular updates to the public.

Give me the bigger whole-of-government strategy! In order to truly make our diplomatic and development efforts more effective, they cannot be treated in isolation from the rest of our U.S. government policies and programs. There needs to be much greater coordination and coherence between our diplomatic and development activities and that of defense, trade and investments in multilateral institutions to ensure that what we give with one hand we don’t take away with the other. Only the NSC has the convening power and broad-based mandate to make that happen. I would still like to see a National Strategy for Global Development.

I’m happy to give three cheers, sing she’s a jolly good fellow, and all that to the State Department for taking on this task. It is an important endeavor, undertaken by a Secretary of State that cares deeply about development. But remember that the outcome may set in stone well beyond this administration the objectives, the strategy and the metrics of U.S. development policy and foreign assistance, and the degree (or not) of its separation from State Department. It is absolutely an important step forward, but one that will need to be relevant in times to come when we may not have such a supportive Secretary of State. And, ultimately, the QDDR must feed into a broader national strategy for U.S. engagement with developing countries.

 

CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.

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