Pakistan: US Development Strategy

CGD convened a Study Group on the US Development Strategy in Pakistan to draw lessons from past experiences and offer practical recommendations to US policymakers on the effective deployment of foreign assistance and other, nonaid instruments for achieving sustainable development in Pakistan.  As the relationship between the United States and Pakistan evolves, CGD continues to identify the fixable problems that hinder US development efforts in Pakistan and offer recommendations for the future.

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US policymakers view Pakistan as one of the most critical fronts in the American-led effort to combat violent extremism, and the Obama administration has worked to significantly increase civilian (nonsecurity) assistance to the country. Underlying this new push was a realization within the administration that Pakistan’s ability to grow economically, to meet its citizens’ basic needs, and to reduce conflict, insecurity, and instability depended on the establishment of a more capable, democratic state. Congress endorsed an approach to do so by passing the Enhanced Partnership for Pakistan Act (commonly referred to as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, or simply KLB), which authorized $7.5 billion in US economic assistance to Pakistan over the five years following its passage.

In early 2010, the Center for Global Development convened a study group to evaluate this new approach and to offer practical and timely recommendations to US policymakers on the effective deployment of aid and nonaid instruments in Pakistan. Its report, Beyond Bullets and Bombs: Fixing the US Approach to Development in Pakistan, detailed serious shortcomings in US strategy and execution.

In the years since KLB’s passage the US development approach toward Pakistan has failed to achieve what its creators and administration proponents had hoped it would. The strategy has been imperiled by the same old problems that have undermined the effectiveness of billions of dollars that the United States and other donors have spent on development in Pakistan over the past three decades: weak governance, political instability, and widespread corruption.

A follow-up report, More Money, More Problems:  A 2012 Assessment of the US Approach to Development in Pakistan, identified the fixable problems that hinder US development efforts in Pakistan and offered recommendations for the future.


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The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the world’s largest bilateral development agency. CGD’s work focuses on strengthening USAID’s position as a leading development agency by providing research and analysis on the agency’s various development initiatives and operational reforms.

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The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is an independent US foreign assistance agency with a focused mission of reducing poverty through economic growth. MCC’s model of assistance is predicated on key principles of aid effectiveness, including country ownership, transparency, and sustainable results. CGD provides regular analysis and research on the policies, operations, and effectiveness of the agency, along with ideas for innovation and adaptation.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is the US government’s development finance institution. It is a leading agency in implementing President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative and the Electrify Africa Act. CGD’s work focuses on how OPIC can most effectively promote economic opportunity and growth.

Interagency Development Initiatives

The US government often coordinates the work of various agencies through initiatives aimed at particular development challenges. CGD’s work looks at the impact of these interagency initiatives by exploring their ability to deliver on development goals.

Recent US administrations have sought to incorporate key principles of aid effectiveness into their foreign assistance architecture while proposing reforms to boost operational capacity. CGD regularly evaluates US efforts to implement these reforms and principles, which cut across agencies, sectors, and initiatives.

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As the lead agency on foreign affairs, the Department of State takes the lead in a number of areas of development policy, particularly at the nexus of development and democracy. State is also tightly linked to USAID and houses PEPFAR.

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US Treasury leads the Administration’s engagement in multilateral development assistance, participates in bilateral policy dialogue with developing countries, and provides technical assistance related to public financial management in many developing countries. CGD’s research focuses on how the United States can more effectively leverage its role in multilateral institutions and recommendations on how these institutions can adapt to an evolving development landscape.