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The US State Department plays a critical role in US government efforts to promote development and address humanitarian crises around the world, including managing US contributions to international organizations such as the UN and World Bank, overseeing the US commitment to fight global HIV/AIDS through PEPFAR, and facilitating aid to refugees and other vulnerable populations. CGD analyses State’s policies and practices across the range of its activities, as well as the Department’s own structure and operations, offering evidence-based proposals to make this central tool of US foreign assistance as effective as it can be.
The Trump administration delivered its FY 2019 budget request to Capitol Hill this week. Containing deep cuts to the international affairs budget, it looks a lot like a repeat of the FY 2018 request. And with a 30 percent reduction in topline spending, few programs were spared. Meanwhile, buried among the rubble are smart reform ideas that run the risk of being overshadowed—or even undermined—by the depth of the proposed spending reductions.
Debt relief is high on the Sudanese government’s agenda. This week’s budget proposals coming out of the White House indicate that Sudan may finally get its wish—but there’s something weird about where the money comes from. Here I offer an alternative.
Speculation about the future of the State Department’s Population, Refugees, and Migration bureau has swirled following the Trump administration’s moves to curtail refugee admissions, and a proposal to eliminate the bureau and distribute its components to the Department of Homeland Security and USAID. But I fear that diminishing or removing an empowered humanitarian voice from the State Department weakens humanitarian priorities in US policy writ large. And I believe there are ways to address legitimate concerns about the existing structure without dismantling PRM.
The very same week that USAID and the Department of State submitted a joint redesign plan to the Office of Management and Budget, the coauthors of four recent reform proposals packed the CGD stage for a timely debate. Fragmentation, inclusive economic growth, humanitarian assistance and fragile states, global health, and country graduation were a few of the big questions that panel members grappled with as they authored their reports.
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.”
We’re getting closer to knowing how the USG spends its foreign assistance dollars. Recently, the State Department announced its first release of foreign assistance data on the ForeignAssistance.gov website (also known as “The Dashboard”).
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted yesterday to give the greenlight to Rex Tillerson’s nomination for Secretary of State. Assuming he is confirmed by the full Senate—which at this point is all but certain—Tillerson will play a critical role in shaping US foreign policy from the helm of the State Department with important implications for global development. While, like other nominees, some of Tillerson’s stated positions appear out of sync with those espoused by President Trump, it’s worth examining where Tillerson is on the record when it comes to issues of development and humanitarian relief.