USAID has announced its intention to pursue “strategic transitions”—shifting select countries which have achieved an advanced level of development to a model of US engagement that relies less on traditional development assistance and more on other forms of cooperation. This paper seeks to inform USAID’s approach to strategic transitions.
The US Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development launched the Foreign Assistance Agency Briefs for a simple reason. Foreign assistance is in the spotlight, slated for significant budget cuts during the Trump administration, yet it remains poorly understood. The series of five briefs contained here provide a snapshot of the primary US foreign assistance agencies. And while these agencies implement nearly 90 percent of US development and humanitarian assistance, there are twenty agencies in total that implement aid-related programs. Additionally, the United States has the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which does not manage foreign assistance funds but uses other tools to catalyze private investment in developing countries.
Established in 2004, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) was designed with a singular mission: to reduce poverty through economic growth. The agency’s approach reflects key principles of aid effectiveness, in particular, country selectivity, focus on results, and emphasis on local ownership.
Since 1971, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has served as the US government’s development finance institution. OPIC works to mobilize private capital to address development challenges while advancing US foreign policy priorities—furthering strategic, development, economic, and political objectives. OPIC aims to catalyze investment abroad through loans, guarantees, and insurance, which enable OPIC to complement rather than compete with the private sector. The independent agency also plays a key role in helping US investors gain a foothold in emerging markets and is barred from supporting projects that could have a negative impact on the US economy.
State Department guidance underscores the importance of its work in furthering development: “The surest path to creating more prosperous societies requires indigenous political will; responsive, effective, accountable, and transparent governance; and broad-based, inclusive economic growth. Without this enabling environment, sustained development progress often remains out of reach.”
Treasury’s Office of International Affairs works with other federal agencies, foreign governments, and international financial institutions to strengthen the global economy and foster economic stability. The United States’ international engagement through Treasury supports our national economic and security interests by promoting strong economic governance abroad and bolstering financial sector stability in developing countries. Through Treasury, the United States exercises leadership in international financial institutions where it shapes the global economic and development agenda and leverages US government investments, while tackling poverty and other challenges around the world.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead US development agency, managing roughly $20 billion in annual appropriations. The agency operates in over 120 countries, including the world’s poorest and most fragile. Its work spans a wide range of sectors, supporting humanitarian relief, economic growth, health, education, and more. USAID’s broad remit reflects the agency’s mission: “We partner to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity."
Attention presidential transition teams: the Rethinking US Development Policy team at the Center for Global Development strongly urges you to include these three big ideas in your first year budget submission to Congress and pursue these three smart reforms during your first year.
Since its establishment more than 54 years ago, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has expanded into an $18-billion-a-year agency, operating in over 145 countries and in nearly every development sector. But USAID is often constrained in its ability to adapt to emerging development challenges due to differing political priorities among key stakeholders and resource constraints. This memo is the result of a roundtable discussion in July 2016 on how the next US administration, in close concert with Congress, can build upon and maximize the development impact of USAID.