New GMF Paper Creates a Model for a Global Development Strategy

MFAN Partner the German Marshall Fund of the United States this week hosted a discussion on a new paper that offers a model for a U.S. Global Development Strategy.  The paper was written by MFAN Principal and GMF Senior Resident Fellow Jim Kunder and MFAN member Jonathan White, senior program officer at GMF.  The paper, titled “The Roadmap for a Grand Bargain: Comments on a U.S. Global Development Strategy,” draws from existing foreign assistance approaches and recent support from the Obama Administration and Congress for the notion of formulating the United States’ first-ever global development strategy for the 21st century.  The major distinction in the new model is that it fundamentally changes the way the U.S. approaches development – moving from a focus on inputs to a focus on outcomes.

MFAN Principal, GMF Senior Transatlantic Fellow and former U.S. Representative Jim Kolbe kicked off the session with remarks about how the U.S. has lacked a real development strategy since the Marshall Plan, which helped to rebuild Europe following World War II.  With recent renewed attention to U.S. development policy – the ongoing Presidential Study Directive on development (PSD), the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman’s rewrite of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, and President Obama’s recent statement at the G8 Summit on “A New Approach to Advancing Development” – Kolbe said it’s critical that these studies and drafts lead to a unified outcomes-based approach.

In a brief presentation on the paper, Kunder said the U.S. must ask itself, “What would success look like?”  He said the U.S. government currently lacks a coherent vision of the role of development in U.S. foreign policy.  He also added that there is no real quantitative basis for funding requests made for aid programs, nor does a strong monitoring-and-evaluation system currently exist to measure progress and results.  By defining the so-called endgame, a U.S. development strategy should:

  • Have a clear mission
  • Be able to measure impact
  • Create a systematic focus on development (as opposed to one based on security or emergency assistance)
  • Provide for greater flexibility and partnership on the ground
  • Set nations on a sustainable path

Focusing a U.S. development strategy on outcomes will also demonstrate foreign aid’s impact on a global scale, making it more communicable to American taxpayers.

USAID spider graph-Romania and Bulgaria 2002The model uses the existing State Department’s “F” Bureau country ranks – Rebuilding, Developing, Transforming, and Sustaining – and USAID spider graphs (pictured) to formulate a gap analysis.  The authors argue that having a clear metric for a sector where a country is falling behind can serve as justifiable evidence for funding when it comes time to make the case to Congress.  And funding in a specific sector will help the country advance to the next country rank.  However, there was also concern expressed during the discussion of the paper about the need for qualitative analysis to measure long-term development impact, not just short-term outputs.

Kunder acknowledged that the model is not perfect, but that it is a starting point for policy planning and budget allocation – all the more necessary given the limited resources we currently have.  MFAN Principal Sam Worthington, President and CEO of InterAction, was the lead respondent in the discussion, arguing that while the model reconciles allocation of resources with the political resonance of social change, it does not adequately address the principle of country ownership and could continue the top-down distribution of aid.

The paper is timely given the yet-to-be-released reviews on development and the Obama Administration’s Feed the Future food security initiative and the Global Health Initiative, which are now being operationalized.

Read about MFAN’s call to action urging the President to show leadership on creating such a global development strategy as well as on engaging with Congress on comprehensive foreign assistance reform.

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