MFAN Weighs In: Development Policy Debate Heats Up


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post identified Patrick Cronin as a member of MFAN, which is incorrect.

Last week, the White House’s National Security Council convened its Deputies Committee, a gathering of high-level representatives from all the major agencies in government, to pave the way for the Presidential Study Directive on Global Development Policy (PSD) and the interim findings of the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) to be finalized.  As Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin reported, key issues have stalled action on the reviews.  MFAN Member Paul O’Brien of Oxfam America was quoted on the importance of development:

“The Tuesday Deputies Committee meeting was supposed to resolve differences between State’s overall policy review, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), led by Deputy Secretary Jack Lew and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, with heavy input from Policy Planning chief Anne-Marie Slaughter, and the NSC’s Presidential Study Directive on Global Development Policy (PSD-7), led by top NSC aides Gayle Smith, Michael Froman, and Jeremy Weinstein. Following the meeting, there is still no firm schedule for releasing the QDDR interim report, which had been expected.

While it’s not clear what all the differences are right now between the QDDR and the PSD-7 –and the two reviews serve different functions — one issue in dispute is whether or not there should be an independent body to oversee and evaluate all development programs and policies established outside the State Department. Sources said President Obama has shown personal interest in the reviews and has had meetings to talk about foreign assistance reform, but it’s not clear at what level of detail.

Sources tell The Cable that State is adamant about retaining oversight of development policy and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may become personally involved in advocating for that position — motivated in part by a desire to amass as many budget resources under Foggy Bottom’s umbrella as possible. Ultimately, President Obama will have to decide whether to side with State or the NSC, according to these sources, who are not directly involved in the process.

Meanwhile, the question of how the State Department wants to implement its stated goal to “integrate” the diplomacy and development missions is crucial, as many observers worry that development could become subsumed by the State Department’s overall foreign-policy agenda.”


Ahead of the meeting, MFAN delivered a letter to the National Security Council laying out key principals for the Deputies debate and urging President Obama to show public leadership on development.  Key excerpts are below:

“We and our Network members call for President Obama to unveil a fresh, bold vision for U.S. development policy—one built on a clear and authoritative plan that will guide the development efforts of the entire U.S. government…We are troubled that, nearly 15 months since Inauguration Day, the Administration has not articulated a strategic vision for the U.S. role in development.

Lacking this, the new Presidential initiatives that have been announced – including the Global Health Initiative and the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative – as well as the operational reforms currently being led by the State Department and USAID, are moving forward without clarity on what we are seeking to accomplish, why, and how.  We fear they will fall short of their potential as a result.

Our concern is that, without an overall strategic vision articulated by the President himself, the initiatives and trends we have seen over the last 15 months will worsen this fragmentation and render U.S. global development leadership and efforts less effective than they should be at a time when we face complex global challenges.

Tomorrow’s interagency meeting is an opportunity for the White House to take historic steps toward fulfilling the President’s pledges to make development a pillar of our foreign policy alongside diplomacy and defense.  However, to be a true pillar, the government needs institutional capacity that is focused primarily on development, and development must have a distinct voice in relevant interagency deliberations at all levels, from the field to the White House.  An overarching strategy should serve to stem the proliferation of programs and agencies that yield an uncoordinated and less effective approach to development, and it should also elevate and empower USAID as a 21st-Century development agency.”

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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