According to the United States’ new foreign policy strategy released this spring, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), democratic governance is the sine qua non underpinning all other U.S. objectives; the document mentions corruption and accountability over 50 times in almost 90 pages. U.S. President Barack Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum last fall as part of the Stand With Civil Society initiative that directed all U.S. Government agencies to step up engagement with non-governmental actors and to “oppose efforts by foreign governments to impose excessive restrictions on the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.”
Still, democracy, human rights, and governance are the three lowest funded areas for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the main U.S. agency for foreign assistance. As Casey Dunning, senior policy analyst for the Center for Global Development has written, “USAID will need to dramatically rethink its budget and program allocations if it hopes to achieve the QDDR’s aims in each of these priority areas.” More critically, Nazanin Ash, the former deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Near East Affairs (NEA), wrote in May that, “We lack, at critical mass, the people with the skills for today’s challenges and today’s solutions.”
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