Noteworthy News – 12.11

This weekly posting includes key news stories and opinion pieces related to foreign assistance reform and the larger development community.

What we’re reading:

  • Aid Gives Alternative to African Orphanages (The New York Times, December 6)  More than a billion dollars in foreign aid has been spent over the past five years for orphans and vulnerable children, but some major donors cannot break down how their contributions were spent. Researchers say donors need to weed out ineffective, misconceived programs, scrutinizing those that are managed by international nongovernmental organizations or governments but reliant on volunteers in villages to do the work.  “An enormous amount of money is going into these efforts with very little return,” said Linda Richter, who runs the children’s programs at South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council.
  • McCaffrey Afghan assessment says there will be no civilian surge (Politico-Laura Rozen, December 7) Note this point, for instance, in the summary: “The international civilian agency surge will essentially not happen —although State Department officers, US AID, CIA, DEA, and the FBI will make vital contributions. Afghanistan over the next 2-3 years will be simply too dangerous for most civil agencies.”  The State Department, USAID and CIA etc. are providing “vital contributions”? Ouch.
  • Lessons from Lesotho:  Smart Coordination to Save Lives (All Africa-Ambassador Robert Nolan, December 7) The coordination between MCC and PEPFAR to help the government and people of Lesotho overcome the HIV/AIDS crisis is one of the best I’ve seen in all my years of service.    With results like this materializing in Lesotho, American taxpayers can rest assured that their resources are being invested wisely.  At a time of global economic challenges, it is imperative that we seek and implement ways that leverage American assistance so that it complements, not duplicates, efforts on the ground and that it reflects the priorities of partner countries themselves, not outside donors.  This is how real progress is unfolding in Lesotho in the critical national fight against HIV/AIDS, and I am proud that American aid through MCC and PEPFAR is contributing effectively to this reality.  It is a model of smart coordination worth emulating elsewhere around the world.
  • Lew On The Civilian Surge: Another ‘20-30 Percent’ Increase Next Year (Washington Independent-Spencer Ackerman, December 9) During his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning, Jack Lew, the deputy secretary of state, praised Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry for “their commitment for truly joined civilian-military efforts are absolute” in Afghanistan. Accordingly, he said, the U.S. troop increase has to be matched by “fully resourced” civilian resources from State, USAID, U.S. Department of Agriculture and other civilian agencies are working to “ramp up” programs at the “national and sub-national” level that will continue “long after our combat troops … begin to depart.”
  • How to Mend Fences with Pakistan (New York Times-Asif Ali Zardari, December 10) Although we certainly appreciate America’s $7.5 billion pledge over the next five years for nonmilitary projects in Pakistan, this long-term commitment must be complemented by short-term policies that demonstrate American neutrality and willingness to help India and Pakistan overcome their mutual distrust. It could start by stepping up its efforts to mediate the Kashmir dispute.  We need the support of our allies in war but also to help build a new Pakistan that promises a meaningful future to our children. We are not looking for — and indeed reject — dependency. We don’t need or want (nor would we accept) foreign troops to defeat the insurgency, and we seek trade more than aid from you in the future. It is an economically viable and socially robust democratic Pakistan that will be the most effective long-term weapon against terrorism, extremism and fanaticism.

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