MFAN Principal J. Brian Atwood Discusses Political Obstacles for Foreign Aid Reform in Huffington Post

J Brian Atwood

Today in the Huffington Post, Dean of the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, former USAID Administrator and MFAN Principal J. Brian Atwood moves beyond the lack of leadership at USAID to highlight other obstacles the Obama Administration must overcome to  modernize foreign assistance, make the most of current reviews like the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) and the Presidential Study Directive (PSD) and enter a new era of U.S. global leadership.    Atwood lays out four aspects of the political culture that determine the way the U.S. has come to think about development and its foreign assistance.  Below are some key excerpts from this thoughtful piece:

“No one doubts the sincerity of the administration’s commitment to development. Consider the recent focus on climate change, food security, and gender equality addressed at the G-20, the United Nations General Assembly, and the Clinton Global Initiative. While these are all worthy initiatives, they have been put forth in the absence of an overall development strategy.”

“Despite years of development practice and a keen international understanding of what works in long-term development, the American political culture will challenge those seeking a cogent and broad definition of this mission. And four aspects of this very culture will create centrifugal forces as the White House and State Department study groups seek consensus.”

“The relationship between development and diplomacy, subject to constant debate, has recently heightened in profile now that Secretary of State Clinton has so strongly embraced the development mission and expressed her commitment to a “smart power” approach. If she manages this relationship well, she will have created an enduring legacy. But the open question is whether the State Department will be willing to grant USAID the management autonomy, policy voice and budget authority it needs to achieve long-term development results and reclaim its status as a global leader on development theory, policy, and practice.”

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