Secretary Rice made a speech announcing long-awaited plans to reform U.S. foreign aid and named Randall Tobias U.S. global AIDS coordinator and former pharmaceutical industry CEO of the year, as director of foreign assistance and deputy secretary of state. Rice spoke at the State Department on Thursday, Jan. 19. The next day, Steve Krasner, head of State's Policy Planning Staff, explained the administration's plans to nearly 200 people from the development community at a CGD event (photo and transcript available). Reactions to these proposals within the development community range from supportive to the highly critical.
CGD senior fellow Steve Radelet, a deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury and a leading authority on aid effectiveness, argued in CGD's group blog, Views from the Center that Sec. Rice's Aid Reform Plan Falls Short; the plans are a missed opportunity, he said, to bring all U.S. development assistance under one roof. CGD research fellow Stewart Patrick, who worked in the State Department as a member of the Policy Planning Staff before joining CGD, offered four questions for evaluating the new approach, perhaps most importantly: how will the reforms correct the flaws in current U.S. development policy? Carol Lancaster, a former US deputy assistant secretary of state and deputy administrator of USAID (and a member of CGD's board of directors), argued in an Op-Ed in the Financial Times that merging USAID into the State Department was, essentially, a recipie for disaster, like folding FEMA into the Homeland Security Department (see USAID and State = FEMA and Homeland Security)
CGD president Nancy Birdsall suggested that things might not be so bad after all. "Development is a security imperative," she wrote. Maybe pulling USAID into State would actually make U.S. policy more pro-development. In a post titled Transformational Diplomacy or Tweaking? she wondered whether Randall Tobias would have, for example, a major voice in shaping the U.S. strategy in Bolivia. "Will USAID and State Department 'security' money be redirected from coca eradication to rural roads, health, education and agriculture programs? Or will aid policy and money be used to reinforce the traditional and largely singular U.S. emphasis in the Andes on the drug war?
One of the most supportive assessments of the administration's plans came from Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. Beckmann was among the last to speak from the floor at the CGD event. Beckmann said he believed that the reorganization would make the U.S. more effective in the fight to reduce poverty around the world. Oddly, however, neither Sec. Rice nor Krasner had actually mentioned the word poverty. A formal statement by Beckmann is available from the Bread for the World website.