Below is a variety of commentary and analysis from MFAN partners and the broader development community regarding President Obama’s new development policy.
InterAction’s analysis applauds many elements of the PPD and suggests the following to ensure its success:
• Recognition that true country ownership goes beyond governments to include consultation and engagement of civil society down to the community level.
• Capacity building of local institutions and civil society.
• Not losing sight of the importance of bottom-up interventions that address basic human needs such as adequate food, clean water, shelter, access to health care, literacy and improved opportunities for women and girls.
MFAN Principal James Kunder, Senior Resident Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States writes about Foreign Aid Reform in the United States: Trying to Have it Both Ways. Read key excerpts below and click here to view the post in full.
“The reason the U.S. government does not operate its current foreign aid programs in the rational paradigm President Obama described at the United Nations has to do with bureaucratic political power, plain and simple. As control of U.S. development policy has gravitated over the past several decades — slowly, inevitably, under both parties’ leadership — from USAID to the Department of State, U.S. foreign aid has increasing been colored by the interests of priority nations, a shorter-term perspective, more American flag-waving, more program priorities that will please domestic audiences in the U.S., and a predilection for broadening the categories of foreign aid.”
“This tendency does not suggest that U.S. State Department officials are malign or misguided. They, in their oversight of U.S. foreign assistance, simply behave as diplomats and foreign ministries have always behaved: Their priorities are queued up in terms of attaining foreign policy ends, and foreign aid is just one — albeit an important one — of the tools in their toolkit. In this logic, a long-term, rational, broad-based economic development plan in a well-governed, but obscure, nation will always get cut before the foreign aid program in a strategically placed ally in the counterinsurgency realm.”
“Now, if President Obama intended to change this reality with his UN remarks and Presidential Policy Directive, then the inspirational rhetoric about USAID being a “premier” development agency would have been matched by some real political power, so that rationalized U.S. foreign aid programs could hold their own in the inevitable bureaucratic and budgetary tussles.”
The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s analysis of the new development policy highlights the establishment of an Interagency Policy Committee, the role of Congress, and the administration’s three signature initiatives. USGLC’s analysis says, “The policy established an Interagency Policy Committee led by the National Security Staff and responsible to NSC Deputies and Principals. This represents a serious commitment of White House time and attention to development issues, as opposed to monitoring only crisis situations.”
“The new policy acknowledges the role Congress plays in setting development policy, and pledges to work cooperatively with Congress in making funding for development more flexible and effective. It specifically seeks to ‘forge a new and lasting bipartisan consensus on development policy within the broader context of our National Security Strategy.’”
Jim Kolbe, a Senior Transatlantic Fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and a Principal of MFAN authored a blog titled, Millennium Development Goals: Reality or Illusion?
Kolbe says, “But even if donor fatigue is not evident, if foreign aid flows continue at a steady or even an increased rate, will measurable changes in the development outcomes result in sustainable changes in the lives of people in the less-developed countries? Are the goals, clustered as they are around functional and measurable indices, really a good measure of economic growth and prosperity?”
Sherine Jayawickrama at The Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University discusses a few elements of the policy (as we know it) that give her pause:
- “the placement of development within the framework of the U.S. national security strategy (but I realize that wishing for development to be pursued for its own sake might be politically naive)
- the intent to be more selective about where it works, focusing on countries that are well governed, etc. (isn’t the need for development more acute in the opposite case?)
- the focus on game-changing innovation is welcome but it seems to refer mainly to new technologies (innovations in social mobilization, policy formulation or behavior change – just to name a few – can be as important)”
Jayawickrama says, “With this policy directive signed, the focus now shifts to the really hard part: operationalizing it. A significant factor in the policy’s success will be the extent to which USAID can be strengthened and elevated into a premier development agency. That will depend importantly on the Quadrennial Diplomacy & Development Review (QDDR) that is now several months delayed. Stay tuned!”