MFAN Partner CGD Reviews New FAA Draft, Questions Sec. Clinton’s Rationale for Elevating Development

In a new post on the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Blog, MFAN member Sarah Jane Staats, director of policy outreach at CGD, offers a reaction to the recently released discussion draft of the development portions of the “Global Partnerships Act of 2010,” which is the proposed title of House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman’s (D-CA) much-anticipated initial rewrite of the antiquated Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

Staats applauds three aspects of the working draft:

1) it appropriately defines the scope of “development” as being far broader than foreign assistance, to include debt relief, trade, agriculture, migration, environmental protection, arms sales, and all other U.S. policies that affect development;

2) it restores authority to the administrator of the U.S. Government’s lead development agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and calls for the administrator to serve at a minimum as vice-chair of a new interagency Development Policy Committee (the chair is left at the President’s discretion); and

3) it puts a premium on transparency, calling for information – ranging from funding amounts to country strategies to impact evaluations – to be made publicly available.

Despite the good, she raises a few key questions along the way:

  • If development is more than foreign assistance, how do we deal with committee turf battles for those development-related issues that fall outside the purview of the foreign affairs/authorizing committee?
  • How do we marry funds for both country-specific strategies and global (non-country specific) sector strategies effectively without making an already messy system even more complicated?
  • How do we limit adding another layer (or two) of bureaucracy – read: more paperwork – with these plans?
  • How can we be less prescriptive by finding that equilibrium of greater flexibility for the Executive Branch in exchange for heightened accountability to Congress?

Finally, Staats points out that the success of the reform effort ultimately hinges on the still-unresolved Presidential Study Directive on development policy at the NSC and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) being undertaken by the State Department and USAID. She writes, “More concerning is that State and USAID have had little interaction to date with staff writing the new bill. This doesn’t bode well for striking a grand bargain between the administration and Congress on either a new development direction (which will likely require some legislation) or passing a new global partnership act (which will require support from the administration, including State and USAID).”

Speaking of the QDDR, Staats’ colleague at CGD, Todd Moss, provides a sobering perspective on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s attempt at elevating development within the U.S. foreign policy prism.  In his piece, he comments on: the one-man show at USAID – namely, Administrator Raj Shah – as there appears to be no sense of urgency around staffing him with a team of development experts to truly provide a development voice; the Secretary’s reluctance to empower the USAID administrator to really own the development agenda and portfolio; the importance of development practice as a distinct discipline and doing development for development’s sake (versus as a tool for security or diplomatic or other objectives); and the shortsightedness of not institutionalizing an elevated development function for the long term, i.e., after the Secretary departs.

Moss writes, “The staffing gap seems to be particularly acute since Raj Shah is now more than 6 months into the job (and it’s 18 months into the administration) yet still has zero of his top twelve managers in place.  Disgracefully, only two have even been named yet.  I can find only two ways to interpret this.  Either (a) no one really cares about filling these positions so it is just taking an embarrassing amount of time or (b) these mid-level spots are deadlocked in petty personnel battles between the White House and State.  It’s not good when “no one cares” may be the preferable answer.”

To read more, click here.

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