Despite measured progress in the last few years to elevate development and make U.S. foreign assistance more effective, there is still a long way to go. The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) released a new policy agenda and website today that lauds the progress made and calls for additional reform measures.
The President’s policy on global development and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) led by the State Department and USAID outlined a number of principles to guide U.S. development policy. Neither went as far as many reform advocates had hoped, and many aspects of both studies are difficult to fairly assess until they begin to be implemented.
Even with the evident good intentions by the large group of people involved with both studies, there are still issues that need to be addressed. U.S. foreign assistance policy goals are not well articulated. There are still too many agencies managing assistance with too little coordination. There is still some fuzziness around the distinctiveness of development versus diplomacy. USAID has made good progress on becoming a strong and reliable development leader, but is some miles away from being the world’s premier development agency. Congress has not been engaged by the Administration to partner on improving aid policies or structure.
In the midst of a shaky economic recovery and the challenge of reducing budget deficits, aid reform is more important than ever. Policy makers need to be convinced that U.S. foreign assistance is effective, efficient, and designed to accomplish well-articulated goals.
MFAN’s renewed call for reform in its From Policy to Practice: Maximizing the Impact and Accountability of U.S. Global Development Efforts makes strong arguments for the importance of development while pointing out further steps that need to be taken. (In the interest of full disclosure, I serve as a member of MFAN.)
As always, I’d love to hear what you think.