The Commitment to Development Index ranks 27 of the world’s richest countries on policies that affect more than five billion people living in poorer nations. How did your country do this year?
CGD’s US Development Policy Initiative (DPI) has assembled five proposals to do foreign assistance better, drawing on both new and long-standing work and analysis from the Center. We believe there should be a shift in mindset to embrace “doing better” in a way that can be applied in times of budget-cutting or even budget expansion. The ideas we promote here offer ways in which our aid enterprise can pursue qualitative improvement alongside budgetary savings.
The lack of well-defined core priorities has enabled structural fragmentation across the more than 20 agencies that together constitute the US development architecture, making resource optimization and policy coordination nearly impossible.
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 first hundred days of the new administration should kick start an ambitious agenda in global health alongside long-needed reforms to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of US action. Building on our earlier work, we suggest seven priority actions within three broad categories.
Power Africa has the potential to be transformative for millions of poor people and be the single biggest legacy in Africa for President Barack Obama. Observers now have roughly three years to reflect on the initiative: on what’s progressing well, what’s not, and where future risks may lie. While it is still too early to provide a complete analysis of outcomes, this report card provides a timely assessment at the close of this administration and an input to the next one. While the judgments of Power Africa are largely positive, the coming months will be crucial to keeping the effort on a positive trajectory.
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.
Women’s economic empowerment is increasingly recognized as critical to achieving development outcomes around the world. Informed by a roundtable discussion at the Center for Global Development (CGD) and additional suggestions from CGD researchers, this four-point memo aims to issue practical proposals for the next US administration, particularly aimed at economically empowering women and girls worldwide, as a building block toward the full realization of broader gender equality and women’s agency and empowerment. The recommendations build on those in CGD’s The White House and the World briefing book, as well as the CGD policy memo “A US Law or Executive Order to Combat Gender Apartheid in Discriminatory Countries” and ongoing work at CGD focused on women’s financial inclusion.
The United States Government has the requisite technical know-how, financial and logistical resources, and bipartisan political support to lead the response to enduring global health challenges, and it is critical that the United States is prepared to meet them. This memo’s six recommendations are the result of a roundtable discussion on how the next administration and Congress can update and improve on the US global health engagement model.
US development policy was built for a world that no longer exists. When the US Agency for International Development (USAID) was created in 1961, foreign aid was by far the most important flow of resources to developing countries. Today, aid is a relative sideshow. International migrants send roughly four times more money home to developing countries (close to $500 billion per year) than all donors disburse in global aid (roughly $130 billion per year). Remittances sent from the United States to Latin America and the Caribbean ($32 billion per year) are more than five times the combined US economic and military assistance to the same countries (less than $6 billion per year). Individuals earn much more in the United States than in their home countries, and they develop valuable skills through migration, often transmitting useful ideas and technologies back to their home countries.
The United States is not using trade as effectively as it might to promote development. The executive and legislative branches of the US government have long recognized that trade can be an important tool to help poorer countries generate resources, create jobs, and reduce poverty. They also recognize that growth in developing countries contributes to global prosperity and growing markets for US exporters as well. Despite that, the few significant US trade barriers that remain often target agricultural and labor-intensive products in which developing countries have a comparative advantage.
The future of development policy is in development finance. Developing countries need aid less and less as their incomes rise and economies grow. What they need now is private investment and finance. US development policy, however, has failed to bring its development finance tools in line with this reality. Related US efforts have not been deployed in an efficient or strategic manner because authorities are outdated, staff resources are insufficient, and tools are dispersed across multiple agencies.
Other players are doing more. Well-established European development finance institutions (DFIs) are providing integrated services for businesses, and these services cover debt and equity financing, risk mitigation, and technical assistance. Moreover, emerging-market actors — including China, India, Brazil, and Malaysia — have dramatically increased financing activities in developing regions such as Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.
While global development is about much more than aid, US foreign assistance is, and will remain, one of the most visible tools for US development policy in many countries. The US government spends less than 1 percent of its annual budget — about $23 billion — on nonmilitary foreign assistance across the globe. These programs have consistently come under fire for failing to achieve measurable and sustainable results, ignoring local priorities and contexts, perpetuating bureaucratic inefficiencies and inflexibility, and repeating mistakes over time. A paradigm shift within US aid agencies is needed. In this brief, we outline concrete proposals that would address many of the traditional shortcomings of US foreign aid approaches.
Weak institutions are both a cause and a consequence of underdevelopment. Improving governance is widely regarded as critical to accelerating economic opportunities, democracy, and security. This is especially important for fragile states and countries emerging from conflict. Despite this, the United States and other donor governments have few financial tools that are demonstrably effective at stimulating and delivering improved governance.