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My (low) expectations for the 2013 State of the Union address were happily exceeded when President Obama delivered an ambitious speech that spanned a myriad of US and foreign policy topics. Admittedly, most of his remarks on development were cleverly disguised as domestic issues. But the 100+ wonks gathered at CGD’s annual State of the Union Bingo event weren't fooled, as mentions of climate change, immigration and trade set ink daubers in motion and prompted victorious shouts of “
A new year calls for a development policy wish list. My wish list is about what the rich and powerful global actors– mostly but not solely in the United States – can do to improve lives among the poor and vulnerable around the world in the coming year.
This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.
While talking beautifully about its development plans, the Administration is really not living up to its rhetoric of elevating development to equal status with diplomacy and defense, the so-called 3Ds. If development is really such an equal partner alongside defense and diplomacy, why is USAID increasingly a minor subcomponent of the State department? The promises of making USAID the “world’s premier development agency” are ringing embarrassingly hollow. How can an agency be influential when it doesn’t even control its own budget or set its own strategic priorities? Even in areas where USAID has traditionally been very strong—disaster relief and food security, for instance—the State Department has taken over. (The Feed-the-Future initiative is effectively directed by State and, despite early promises that USAID would lead on Haitian earthquake relief and reconstruction, it was recently leaked that a State coordinator is running the show.) And it should hardly be surprising that USAID is getting its lunch eaten in the interagency when it had no head for a year and, nearly two years in, still has less than half of its top managers on the job.
But what if the problems of the 3Ds aren’t really about the staff vacancies, the battle of Washington egos, and an empire-building State Department? What if the real problem is that the much-vaunted “whole-of-government” approach is fundamentally unworkable in the United States?
This is a joint posting with Sarah Jane Staats and also appeared on the Huffington Post
Amidst of a month of partisan battles on Capitol Hill over a Supreme Court nominee, healthcare and financial regulation, a new bill was introduced this week that rose above party lines: the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009 (S. 1524). Senators Kerry, Lugar, Menendez, Corker, Risch and Cardin--three Democrats and three Republicans--introduced the bill as “a first step toward comprehensive reform of U.S. foreign assistance,” showing they are ready, willing and able to work with the administration on a set of deeper reforms.
An open letter to President Obama and congressional leaders on the importance of global development and foreign assistance reform was published in Politico last week on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) and signed by more than 150 influential individuals and organizations. The letter says, in part: