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.
MCC’s model has received much recognition. However, since the agency controls just a small portion of the US foreign assistance budget, it alone has not fulfilled — and cannot be expected to fulfill — the founding vision of transforming US foreign assistance policy. Partly in response to the recommendations stemming from the 2010 Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) on Global Development, the larger agencies, especially the US Agency for International Development (USAID), have commendably worked to incorporate many of the same principles included in MCC’s model. For the most part, however, those principles are applied to a still-limited portion of the overall US foreign assistance portfolio. The next US president should continue to support MCC as a separate institution and support efforts to more thoroughly extend the good practices promoted in MCC’s model throughout US foreign assistance in general.
Climate change is a threat not only to prosperity in the United States but also to national security, foreign policy, and development objectives throughout the world. Hurricane Sandy served as a reminder of the destruction to life and property from extreme weather events, which are likely to become more frequent and severe. Likewise, extended drought in the Southwest illustrates how climate change could affect agriculture, energy, recreation, and other major sectors of the US economy. The implications of climate change for the development prospects of poor countries are even worse. Lacking infrastructure, financial assets, insurance mechanisms, or strong institutions to cushion the impacts, developing societies remain highly vulnerable to natural disasters, including those resulting from increasingly irregular climatic conditions. The poorest households are most vulnerable — their houses often perch on steep, landslide-prone hillsides around cities or in coastal floodplains, and smallholder farmers lack irrigation and depend on increasingly erratic seasonal rains.
Remarkable progress has been made in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. The number of people receiving treatment in low- and middle-income countries increased from 300,000 in 2003 to 13.7 million in 2015, including 7 million supported by the United States. These gains are primarily attributable to a 2003 US government initiative called PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) that provided major new multiyear funding for global HIV/AIDS and created a new entity, the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, headed by an ambassador-rank Global AIDS Coordinator who is authorized to allocate PEPFAR’s resources and coordinate all US bilateral and multilateral activities on HIV/AIDS.
However, without dramatic changes to PEPFAR, the next president risks being held responsible for the failure of a program that until now has been one of the United States’ proudest foreign assistance achievements. And because PEPFAR is a major component of US foreign assistance spending, the next president’s choices about PEPFAR will heavily influence any subsequent assessments of his or her humanitarian foreign assistance policies.
In the absence of effective international institutions, the United States has become the world’s de facto first responder for global health crises such as HIV/AIDS and new threats like Ebola. The US government has the technical know-how, financial and logistical resources, and unparalleled political support to act quickly and save lives. Initiatives such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative are widely considered among the most effective aid programs in the world.
Yet US global health approaches are based on increasingly outdated engagement models, which fail to reflect emerging challenges, threats, and financial constraints. The next US president, working closely with Congress, should modernize how US global health programs are organized, deployed, and overseen. By taking three specific steps, the United States can reduce the need for costly first responses and generate more health and economic impact for every US taxpayer dollar spent.
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.