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In his response to Senator Richard Lugar's (R-IN) questions for the congressional record following a June 2007 hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Development, Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection, Steve Radelet urges reform of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and calls on the U.S. to support the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation. Radelet, who leads CGD's foreign aid efforts, says that the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which was designed for the Cold War era, no longer applies to the current foreign assistance apparatus. He suggests a new FAA, that would stem earmarks and review the FAA's current human rights and other restrictions. Radelet also suggest that U.S. support of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation will both reform ineffective development programs and build a knowledge base for the future implementation of effective development programs.
Read Steve's testimony, Foreign Assistance Reform: Successes, Failures, and Next Steps:
Access Steve's comments (pdf)
Amid the growing calls to modernize U.S. foreign assistance, there is widespread agreement that the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 is out of date and inadequate to tackle 21st-century challenges of poverty, inequality, conflict, disease, and climate change. CGD senior policy analyst Sheila Herrling takes a closer look at the opportunities and obstacles facing a Foreign Assistance Act rewrite in a new CGD Q&A. She says significant leadership and investment from the White House is needed to complement the efforts of congressional champions like House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, who has vowed to start rewriting the bill.
Q: What is the Foreign Assistance Act?
A: Put simply, the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) is the legislation guiding the authorities, use, and allocation of U.S. foreign assistance. It was enacted in 1961 and has been reauthorized comprehensively only once, in 1985.
Q: Why does it need to be rewritten?
A: The current act is outdated, messy, cumbersome, and increasingly irrelevant for the challenges confronting the United States today. Hundreds of amendments have added multiple objectives and priorities that in some cases conflict with one another, rendering the FAA irrational from a policy perspective, administratively burdensome, and wholly lacking in strategic vision. Funding is doled out by a yearly appropriations bill that earmarks nearly every dollar—yielding an inflexible and sluggish system for spending money where and how it will have the most impact on development. The FAA is simply inadequate to guide U.S. foreign assistance objectives.
Bring U.S. Foreign Assistance into the 21st Century (CGD YouTube Video)
A White House and the World Policy Brief: U.S. Foreign Assistance for the 21st Century
Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network Website
Q: What are the key issues a new FAA would need to address?
A: A new act should clearly outline the objectives and priorities of U.S. foreign assistance programs; consolidate decision making and implementation functions into a single independent institutional entity; specify the roles and responsibilities of other government agencies where appropriate; clarify the coordination of oversight responsibilities and functions; adjust regulatory requirements to fit the reality of implementing assistance programs; and discourage to the highest degree possible political and bureaucratic constraints (such as earmarks and presidential initiatives).
Q: What stands in the way of taking on this challenge?
A: Mainly, political will and competing priorities. Remember that two major attempts to rewrite the act in the past—the Hamilton-Gilman process of the late-1980s, early-90s and the Peace, Prosperity and Democracy Act of 1994—failed. To be successful, enacting a new FAA will require significant leadership and investment from the executive branch at a time when it will be consumed with managing the global financial crisis. I remain optimistic it can succeed this time. There are so many more voices calling for reform; President Obama’s campaign promises include a plethora of global development and foreign aid reform issues, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made development a prominent theme in her confirmation hearing, and key leaders like House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman are prioritizing a rewrite of the FAA. Hopefully the connections between investing smartly in global development and protecting U.S. national security, economic, and moral interests are more widely recognized.
Q: What should the executive branch do and what should Congress do?
A: Responsible and interested parties in both branches must own this process if it is to succeed, and in some ways the process itself may be the most important benefit. If done well, it could help forge a more positive and constructive relationship through which Congress will be more willing to extend greater flexibility to the executive branch, while receiving from it greater accountability and attention to Congressional priorities and better tools for exercising policy and program oversight. To guide the process, the executive branch should work with Congress and civil society to craft a National Strategy for Global Development that would include (but not be restricted to) U.S. priorities for foreign assistance.
CGD senior fellow Steve Radelet, co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, shares a surprising new analysis of U.S. aid spending (it has fallen sharply in the past two years!) and explains how the next administration can bolster America’s security and reputation through better investments in reducing global poverty, fighting disease, and creating economic opportunity around the globe.
Q: What should President-elect Obama and his transition team be thinking about as they look for smart ways to strengthen U.S. global development as a pillar of U.S. foreign policy?
A: First, I think it’s important to acknowledge that President-elect Obama said more about global development in his campaign than any other incoming president. His “Common Security, Common Humanity” strategy sets out a bold agenda to bolster America’s security and reputation and show our nation’s values through investments in alleviating global poverty, fighting disease, and creating economic opportunity around the globe. At the same time, Obama has recognized that Americans want smart and effective government programs that work.
U.S. foreign assistance has had some great successes, including supporting the Green Revolution in agriculture, helping to eradicate small pox, supporting HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, getting more girls into school, and building infrastructure to attract foreign private investment and spur local business. But our overall efforts are not as effective as they should be. They suffer from lack of coordination across more than 20 different agencies that provide assistance, from burdensome restrictions in outdated legislation that severely restrict our ability to respond effectively on the ground, and from a lack of an overall guiding strategy. And while funding for foreign assistance has grown over the last decade, it declined sharply during the last two years, as some of my colleagues and I describe in a new CGD Note “What’s Behind the Recent Declines in U.S. Foreign Assistance?”
President-elect Obama, his team, and key leaders in Congress have the opportunity to make every dollar we spend on development programs much more effective, especially since there is bipartisan consensus on the need to move forward. The Democratic Party platform recognizes this imperative: “We will modernize our foreign assistance policies, tools, and operations in an elevated, empowered, consolidated, and streamlined U.S. development agency. Development and diplomacy will be reinforced as key pillars of U.S. foreign policy, and our civilian agencies will be staffed, resourced, and equipped to address effectively new global challenges.” The Republican Party platform makes a strong call for “a review and improvement of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 oriented toward: alignment of foreign assistance policies, operations, budgets and statutory authorities; development of a consensus on what needs to be done to strengthen the non-military tools to further out national security goals; greater attention to core development programs…and great accountability by recipient countries.” So there is enormous agreement in both political parties about what needs to be done.
The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, which I co-chair, has recommended a four-part approach to address these challenges and strengthen our assistance programs:
Develop a National Strategy for Global Development;
Reach a “Grand Bargain” between the Executive branch and Congress on management authorities; and plan, design, and enact a new Foreign Assistance Act;
Streamline organizational structures and improve capacity, preferably by creating over the long run a Cabinet-level Department for Global Development, or possibly a strong non-Cabinet professional development agency; and
Increase funding for and accountability of foreign assistance.
These steps will go a long way towards creating the development capacity necessary for the United States to effectively face 21st-century challenges.
Q: What initial actions can be taken during the transition period and in the early days of the new administration to begin this process? Are you calling for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to be folded into USAID?
A: MFAN recommends that the president-elect and his team take two key early steps. First, they should announce soon a strong, experienced, high profile nominee for USAID Administrator, simultaneously name that person as interim head of the MCC and PEPFAR, and make him or her a key part of the National Security team. This step would begin to provide much-needed coordination and coherence across our assistance programs, and would elevate development to a new level in our foreign policy dialogue. It would also create a package of responsibilities that would attract a strong, very high-profile leader that has the vision and leadership skills needed to drive the modernization effort forward over the next few years. At the same time, with one very senior leader named to provide vision and head the overall effort, three strong professionals should be named to run USAID, the MCC, and PEPFAR on a day-to-day basis, much as we have now. We do not recommend eliminating either the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) or MCC structure, eliminating the OGAC coordinator or MCC CEO positions, or folding these activities into USAID as it is now constituted. OGAC and the MCC should be maintained as strong and separate programs with special characteristics, just as they ultimately would be under the aegis of a strong development agency in the future.
Second, we recommend that the incoming administration name a “Deputy National Security Advisor for Development” with joint NEC/NSC responsibility for interagency and White House coordination and coherence of development policy. This person’s responsibilities would include coordination across programs and policies regarding democracy, humanitarian assistance, and crisis and conflict response, and ensuring consistency with U.S. trade policy. This position would be supported by several senior director positions at the NSC/NEC. Two key actions would be coordinated by the directorate with the new development nominee: developing a National Strategy for Global Development (in tandem with the new National Security Strategy), and initiating a review of all foreign assistance and international crisis management authorities, including those in DoD, to determine which authorities are most appropriately civilian and which are most appropriately military.
There is no silver bullet here; no one recommendation will be enough to bring our foreign assistance up to date and make it as effective as it can be. And we know it is not possible to have a new development strategy, new legislation, and consolidation (hopefully into a new cabinet agency) on the first day, so these recommendations represent the first key actions along the road toward meaningful reform. Without the initial step to put one person in charge of our three largest development programs, we risk continuing the diffuse leadership and uncoordinated efforts that will undermine the prospects for serious modernization of U.S. development programs to effectively combat poverty, fight disease and hunger, and widen the circle of development and prosperity.
Q: Why should the United States care about foreign assistance and global development in the midst of the financial crisis?
A: The financial crisis makes it imperative that we focus on rebuilding the U.S. economy, and it clearly will put significant strains on an already overburdened budget. But at the same time, it shows us yet again that U.S. and global prosperity rise and fall together; the same is true for domestic and global security. The very issues that we want our global development programs to address—including poverty, hunger, and economic stagnation—are being exacerbated by the current turmoil.
Unfortunately, America’s image in the world has deteriorated sharply in recent years, undermining both our standing as a global leader and our ability to create a better, safer world. The financial crisis has exacerbated this situation. Understandably, many Americans will be tempted to turn inward to try to protect their own interests. Yet the reality is that, now more than ever, the prosperity and security of Americans is integrally linked with the prosperity and security of the rest of world.
While we work to fix the economy at home, people around the world will be looking for the United States to restore its international leadership to help limit the economic and political consequences of the crisis. Our success or failure in restoring U.S. and global economic stability to create jobs, increase trade and private investment, and prevent the emergence of rogue nations and groups that foster insecurity and fear will depend in large part on our ability to strengthen all of our tools of global engagement, including building a more robust diplomatic corps and much more effective development programs to complement our defense and security programs.
For our long-term security and prosperity, one of the worst things we could do is to draw back from our efforts to engage with the world and support people in developing countries. President-elect Obama and his team clearly understand that, and have the strong support of leading members of Congress such as Howard Berman, Nita Lowey, Betty McCollum, Christopher Dodd, Richard Lugar, and Robert Menendez. The economic crisis is both a mandate and an opportunity to fundamentally reform our national security and foreign policy so that every investment we make abroad is strategic and cost-effective. So why should we care about strengthening our engagement with developing countries right now? In short, we can’t afford not to.
Q: Isn’t all this talk about modernizing foreign assistance an inside-the-beltway conversation? Does anyone outside Washington care?
A: Survey after survey shows that Americans are supportive of development assistance, but they want to be sure that our money is being spent effectively to help those who need it. Particularly with the deep concerns over the direction of our foreign policy in recent years, people across the country want the United States to engage in smart new ways with the rest of the world. The ONE campaign was ubiquitous during the presidential primaries and debates. Organizations like Bread for the World, Oxfam, and Save the Children have networks of millions of Americans that are actively engaged in the issues and talking to their members of Congress. Recent polling suggests that a strong majority—76 percent—of those questioned support modernizing foreign assistance. They want to see results and believe that reforming foreign assistance will help ensure that our programs are helping promote prosperity and security globally and at home.
Q: Some argue that while we need to modernize our foreign assistance programs, we can do a lot without new legislation. Do we really need to rewrite the Foreign Assistance Act?
A: If we are serious about real reform, the answer is yes—as much for the process of executive branch and congressional collaboration as for the substance that emerges. It is true that we can, and should, take several steps to strengthen our programs that do not require new legislation. These include rebuilding the professional capacity of our development organizations, streamlining procurement procedures, building a more effective monitoring and evaluation capacity, and reversing presidential directives that in their totality undermine program effectiveness, among others.
But at the core of many of the problems we face are the burdensome requirements that have been built up over the years as part of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. The dialogue with Congress on these issues is so broken that the act has not been re-authorized for more than 20 years. We need to rebuild the trust between the executive and legislative branches and reach a “Grand Bargain” on management authorities, responsibilities, and operational modalities. This step is crucial for supporting our personnel in the field so that they can be responsive to the highest needs in particular countries and make sure every dollar we spend is done so effectively.
It is important to recognize that legislation alone is not the answer—rewriting the Foreign Assistance Act must be seen as part of a complete package that includes developing a new strategy for global development, consolidating programs into a new, strong development agency, and increasing funding and improving the allocation of funding over time.
Q: What else needs to be done to finally bring U.S. foreign assistance into the 21st century?
A: One of the most important steps towards realizing this goal will be for President-elect Obama, his foreign policy team, supportive members of Congress, and our community of development professionals to keep making the public case that U.S. global development efforts are critical for our national security and long-term prosperity. We have to emphasize that foreign assistance modernization is inextricably tied to the creation of a new foreign policy approach for the United States and will bring more strategic depth, efficiency, and accountability to our global development efforts. This is particularly important because the financial crisis, geopolitical instability, and emerging demographic pressures will cross paths in more unpredictable ways over time. We can’t afford not to prepare to address these challenges now.
It will take leadership and cooperation to complete foreign assistance modernization, which I believe the Obama Administration will see as a way to realize its own political and foreign policy goals. In the short term, changing the way the system works will make government work better and be more cost-effective. More importantly, it will create a structure that will be up to the task of handling President-elect Obama’s proposed increases in foreign assistance strategically and efficiently, and ultimately ensure that U.S. development programs meet our foreign policy goals for creating better, safer world.
A White House Summit on International Development took stock last week of the Bush administration’s efforts to reduce global poverty and promote economic development around the world, especially in Africa. CGD senior fellow Todd Moss, who recently returned to CGD after serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa at the U.S. Department of State, discusses the Bush administration’s Africa legacy and challenges for the next administration.
Q: What has the Bush administration done to strengthen U.S. engagement in Africa?
A: I don’t think it’s too strong to say that President Bush’s Africa policy is the most distinguished foreign policy legacy of the administration. Although few expected such interest eight years ago, the president has clearly been deeply and personally committed to strengthening U.S.-Africa relations. We have not only seen U.S. assistance levels to Africa skyrocket, but the whole debate about foreign aid and Africa has changed.
Q: How so?
A: A decade ago, Washington was still arguing about whether foreign aid was a waste or not and whether we had any real interests in Africa. Today, the discussion is about how to innovate, build partnerships, and fix our aid system. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) have been game-changers. Africa’s debt problem is essentially fixed. We have seen a huge spike in American trade and increased private investment. The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp. has helped to launch more than a dozen private equity funds targeting the continent. American thinking on Africa has changed completely. It’s no coincidence that views of the U.S. are still overwhelmingly positive across Africa.
Q: How has the creation of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) affected U.S. engagement in the region?
A Week of Calls to Elevate Development and Modernize Foreign Assistance, Blog post by CGD Senior Policy Analyst Sheila Herrling
President Bush’s Speech at White House Summit on International Development, October 21, 2008
White House Fact Sheet on International Development
Africa: An Emerging Strategic Partner, Speech by Todd Moss, then Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs,
March 5, 2008
A: AFRICOM unfortunately started amidst a whirl of confusion and misperception. The creation of a new combatant command is just an internal reorganization of global responsibilities for the U.S. military, rather than a new push to militarize our relationships. The controversy over headquarters’ location was a distraction from the real question of what the U.S. military should be doing in Africa.
Q: Is that changing?
A: Not really. AFRICOM will focus on pretty much the same thing the U.S. military was doing before: training peacekeepers and helping build military capacity with partner countries. There’s a temptation to try to free ride on the Pentagon budget to get extra development projects, but there aren’t many people—in the military or on the civilian side—who think AFRICOM should be playing a lead role in development efforts. As for the location controversy, this is not nearly as important as people tend to think. AFRICOM is not a base and comes with zero new troops. Given technology, it doesn’t really matter where it is housed. For example, U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East, is based in Tampa, Florida. AFRICOM is currently in Germany. It may stay there for a while or move to Africa or, most likely, find a home back here in the United States.
Q: What challenges will the next U.S. president face in Africa?
A: U.S. interests in Africa are to promote democracy, to support African initiatives to end conflict and fight terrorism, to address the continent’s enormous health challenges, and to expand economic opportunity. These interests are broad and growing, so I’m hopeful that the next administration will continue to engage proactively with the continent. The United States has a large number of real partners in Africa that will require ongoing support, and a few lingering problems—Zimbabwe, Somalia, and Darfur come to mind—that will need sustained attention and creativity. The pressure on the next administration to reduce U.S. investments in Africa will be enormous given the financial situation and pressure to focus on domestic problems. If the aid budget comes under pressure, we may see even more narrowly focused programs.
Q: How should the next U.S. president overcome these challenges?
A: The new president will need to resist this pressure to cut back U.S. engagement with Africa. But he also will need to better balance U.S. activities on the continent to better reflect the full range of U.S. interests. American aid has to be about more than just health and counter-terrorism. I also hope that the new president will allow time for a fair assessment of the MCA. Even though disbursements got off to a slow start, the MCA is an elegant idea, and it’s too early to judge definitively if it’s working or not.
Is the U.S. military’s growing involvement in activities formerly reserved for civilian-led agencies such as the State Department and USAID good for the U.S.? How about for developing countries? CGD research fellow Stewart Patrick investigated these and other questions as the lead co-author of Integrating 21st Century Security and Development Assistance (PDF, 784 KB), a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Task Force on Non-Traditional Security Assistance. Patrick sees cause for concern—but also encouraging signs of an emerging consensus on a fresh whole-of-government approach to U.S. foreign policy that integrates all three of the so-called three Ds: Defense, Diplomacy and Development.
Q: According to the New York Times, a forthcoming U.S. Army manual will elevate stabilizing war-torn nations as a mission for the U.S. military, putting it on par with war fighting. The Times quotes the new manual as saying: "Winning battles and engagements is important but alone is not sufficient. Shaping the civil situation is just as important to success." Is this part of a larger trend?
A: Yes. The new manual reflects a sea change in the role of the U.S. military, the mission of which is to fight and win the nation's wars. But Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us that you only win the war if you win the peace. Success in both counter-insurgency and "stability" operations requires fostering home-grown institutions that can provide security, governance and social services. For the Pentagon this represents a huge cultural shift from the 1990s, when the uniformed military disdained "military operations other than war" (or "MOOTWA"). And it's a big adjustment for the Bush administration, which came to office disdainful of "nation-building" -- an attitude encapsulated by Condoleezza Rice's remark in a 2000 Foreign Affairs article that "we don't need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten." The military's expanding nation-building role has made it a significant provider not only of security but also of aid for governance and development assistance. These trends show up in U.S. foreign aid figures:between 2002 and 2005, the share of all U.S. official development assistance (ODA) channeled through the Pentagon nearly quadrupled, rising from just under 6 percent to nearly 22 percent -- or approximately $5.5 billion.
Q: What's driving this trend?
A: As our report outlines, there are three main factors. The first is the Bush administration's strategic focus on the "global war on terror," which treats fragile and war-torn states as the main battlegrounds of the 21st century. As the military's 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review explains, the United States needs agile aid instruments to help build the capacities of fragile states that are recovering from conflict and to contain "ungoverned areas" that can be exploited by terrorists and other non-state groups. The second is the vacuum left by civilian U.S. agencies. Despite Condi Rice's commitment to "transformational diplomacy," both the State Department and USAID have fallen short in their efforts to deploy adequate personnel and other resources to the field, particularly in insecure environments. A good example is the difficulty of both agencies to staff "provincial reconstruction teams" (PRTs) in Afghanistan and Iraq. This shortcoming reflects the third driving force: chronic underinvestment by the United States in the non-military instruments of state-building. As my colleague Kaysie Brown and I pointed out in a recent CGD working paper, the dramatic expansion of the Department of Defense's aid role reflects a serious mismatch between the Secretary of State's responsibilities to control U.S. foreign assistance and the actual resources budgeted to the civilian side of the U.S. government to fulfill this role.
Q: What are the implications for U.S. development assistance of the growing Pentagon involvement in "nation building"? Is this good or should it be seen as a cause for concern?
A: It really depends on the context. In violent environments like Iraq and Afghanistan -- where friendly governments confront active, determined insurgencies and civilian actors have difficulty operating safely -- a big military role in nation-building is both inevitable and welcome. In such "non-permissive" contexts, military civil affairs teams will be called upon not only to provide public security but also to help restore the rule of law, re-establish local governance, revive commercial activity, and restore basic services. What is potentially more problematic for U.S. development and foreign policy is the Pentagon's growing aid role in more peaceful environments. Since 9/11, the Department of Defense (DoD) has expanded its role in the developing world, taking on tasks that might more appropriately be undertaken by the State Department, USAID, or other civilian actors. These activities include new authorities to train and equip foreign security forces for counterterrorism missions; the establishment of a new Combatant Command for Africa (AFRICOM); and the Bush administration's Building Global Partnership (BGP) Act, which would further expand DoD's assistance authority. Unless handled carefully, these trends could skew U.S. engagement with fragile developing countries in a military direction, undermining broader efforts to build effective, accountable, and sustainable local institutions.
Q: There's been a lot of talk recently about the need for U.S. "Smart Power," that is, relying less on military and more on civilian instruments. Is there any hope of building U.S. civilian capabilities?
A: The prospects are better today than at any time since 9/11. There is serious momentum, both outside and inside the U.S. government, to re-balance the three-legged stool of U.S. national security, so that the wobbly diplomatic and development legs can keep up with the defense leg. The need to invest in these civilian instruments was a central theme of the recent Center for Strategic and International Studies Commission on Smart Power and HELP Commission reports, and it's the main recommendation of our own Task Force Report. These voices have been echoed within the Bush administration. In his eloquent Landon Lecture at Kansas State University in November 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivered a clarion call for greater federal investment in U.S. civilian agencies, to help make a difference in fragile and war-torn states. Equally important, the administration has finally put its money where its mouth is. In its budget request released last week, the White House asked Congress for more than a thousand foreign service officers in State and USAID, as well as for $250 million to fund a new Civilian Stabilization Initiative to create a civilian expeditionary capability to support stabilization and reconstruction operations. This would include hundreds of staff in State and USAID and a 2,000-person Civilian Reserve Corps--a sort of Peace Corps on steroids--drawn from U.S. citizens with appropriate technical expertise. These are all promising developments. The two dark clouds on the horizon are the political calendar and the looming recession. Although advisers to Senators Clinton, McCain, and Obama have all been on record as supporting strong civilian capacity, securing passage of major new spending in an election year can be problematic, particularly at a time of looming budget austerity.
Q: What's needed to make sure the Pentagon's expanding role advances rather than detracts from development prospects?
A: The overriding objective should be to ensure that the Pentagon's expanding aid role is not independent but embedded in a broader U.S.-government wide strategy, with civilians having the lead in determining policy and integrating all instruments of U.S. national influence, both in Washington and in the field. This should be equally true both for post-conflict operations and for U.S. military assistance to fragile states. In Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, it is critical to involve civilian development and governance experts in the design and evaluation of U.S. reconstruction efforts, even where U.S. troops are taking the lead in implementation. When it comes to more "permissive" environments -- such as the U.S. military activities of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa or the newly created AFRICOM -- the executive branch and Congress should work to ensure that the U.S. military sticks to its lane, focusing on security sector issues and military-to-military cooperation, while leaving development and governance interventions to civilian professionals who have the training and expertise required to promote effective institutions. The ultimate goal should be a "whole of government" approach based on a partnership of equals.
In a major policy speech hosted by CGD, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared international development a central pillar of U.S. foreign policy, together with diplomacy and defense. She hailed Raj Shah, recently confirmed as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and said she intends to rebuild USAID into, “the premier development agency in the world.”
In her speech, Clinton said that, especially in tough economic times, the American people have the right to ask why the United States spends tax dollars to help developing countries. Development overseas is critical to U.S. security and prosperity, she said, and development professionals must do a better job of measuring and communicating the impacts of their work.
“We must evaluate our progress and have the courage to rethink our strategies if we're falling short,” said Clinton. “We must not simply add up the dollars we spend or the number of programs we run, but measure the results—the lasting changes that those dollars and programs have helped achieve.”
Seasoned observers in the standing-room-only audience of development professionals said afterwards that the speech was the most detailed and forceful on development by a top U.S. official in many years. This reflected, they said, both Secretary Clinton’s personal interest in global poverty reduction the Obama administration’s broad commitment to elevate development policy issues.
Introducing Clinton, CGD president Nancy Birdsall said that “in the rich world no country … has more unrealized potential to make a difference than our own USA—and doing this well is in our own best interest.”
Birdsall said that she has been pleased to learn that a 2008 CGD book, The White House and the World: A Global Development Agenda for the Next U.S. President has been widely read within the administration. “I won’t mind if its ideas and recommendations are reflected here today—indirectly or directly!” she said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Birdsall also thanked Clinton “as the world’s most powerful diplomat” for putting “women and girls at the center of U.S. foreign relations,” for speaking out for women’s rights and “giving voice to the most vulnerable women in the Congo and beyond by calling for an end to sexual violence and mass rape.”
Clinton Ties U.S. Security to Better Aid Delivery (Reuters)
Hillary Clinton on Development Issues (New York Times Blog)
Hillary Clinton: Yemen Needs more Than Air Strikes and Diplomacy (Christian Science Monitor)
Read all the media coverage
CGD Analysis and Commentary
Clinton Stresses the Need to Re-balance Health Assistance Away from AIDS Treatment (Mead Over)
Secretary Clinton Pushes the Development Envelope in CGD Speech (Sarah Jane Staats)
The End of Exile for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (Rachel Nugent)
Clinton, Innovation, and the MCC (Darius Nassiry)
A central idea in Clinton’s remarks was the need for better coordination of development assistance, both within the U.S. government and in U.S. activities overseas. She highlighted the multitude of U.S. agencies involved in international development and described the complexity of today’s aid environment, in which aid flows not only from traditional bilateral and multilateral donors, but also from the emerging powers, from non-profit organizations, individual charity, venture capital funds, and for-profit corporations.
“Now, I know that the word integration sets off alarm bells in some people’s heads. There is a concern that integrating development means diluting it or politicizing it—giving up our long-term development goals to achieve short-term objectives or handing over more of the work of development to our diplomats or defense experts,” she said.
“That is not what we mean, nor what we will do. What we will do is leverage the expertise of our diplomats and our military on behalf of development, and vice versa. The three D's must be mutually reinforcing.”
In interactions with developing countries, Clinton declared that U.S. approach should be based, “on partnership, not patronage.” She spoke of the need for shared responsibility between donors and recipient countries and highlighted the Millennium Challenge Corporation model, which rewards countries that meet economic, governance and human rights benchmarks, as one way of sharing control.
Clinton also highlighted key sectors where she says the United States will focus its assistance. She described significant commitments to global health and agriculture, and stated that support for women and girls will be a theme that runs through all of the U.S. development work. “I will not accept words without deeds when it comes to women’s progress,” Clinton said.
Clinton closed by recalling some of the successes of development assistance over the past half-century—from the eradication of smallpox to the success of South Korea, Thailand, and Mozambique, to massive humanitarian relief operations. She said these are achievements that Americans can take pride in, and said the mission of development is fundamentally in tune with American values.
“We can succeed,” Clinton concluded, “and when we do, our children and grandchildren will tell the story that American know-how, American dollars, American caring, and American values helped meet the challenges of the 21st century.”