Foreign Policy & Development: Structure, Process, Policy and the Drip-by-Drip Erosion of USAID

On November 18, 2010, The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) held a discussion of Jerry Hyman’s article “Foreign Policy and Development: Structure, Process, Policy and the Drip-by-Drip Erosion of USAID.” Panelists included Jerry Hyman, President of the Hills Program on Governance at CSIS; MFAN Principal Jim Kolbe, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund and former Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State/Foreign Operations; and Larry Garber, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa.  The discussion, which was moderated by Dan Runde, Director of the Project on Prosperity and Development at CSIS, focused on the inherent tensions between foreign policy and development policy. Runde said when the question is asked, “Who is in charge of U.S. development policy?” the answer is often times: “It depends.”

Hyman said development has grown in importance over the last few administrations, noting that the main reason is because it is being seen as a critical component of national security. Despite development’s elevated role and stature, there has been “utter deterioration” at the same time: organizationally, substantively, and procedurally. Hyman referred to the “idiom of lines” between the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development and said there has never been a time when development policy was de-linked from diplomacy.

Additionally, he discussed the decision to place key development initiatives, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation and PEPFAR, outside of USAID, as problematic. Hyman suggested that the conceptual and organizational clutter leads to confusion in implementation, chain of command, and coordination. He said that the government must “avoid the impulse to create a new box every time there is a new idea.” The more you divide the structure, the more inherent the need for coordination. Instead, we need to rebuild USAID, and the agency needs to reclaim as much lost ground as possible.

Kolbe began his remarks by stating that, “The deterioration of USAID is not a subjective statement…it’s a fact.” He contributed USAID’s diminished capacity to the militarization of aid and the creation of two new government agencies to circumvent dealing with USAID. Kolbe highlighted the President’s presidential policy directive on development (PPD) and the draft Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), noting that they are not in conflict with each other, but that they do have differences in emphasis. Kolbe underscored the importance of the Obama Administration working with Congress, because if they want reforms from the PPD and QDDR to have any meaningful impact, they have to have legislative buy-in.

Garber highlighted the reforms underway at USAID as a part of USAID Forward. He said that their reform efforts are taking place within the broader context of the 2010 National Security Strategy, the President’s global development policy, and the QDDR, which will be formally released in mid-December. Garber stated that USAID Administrator Shah and the staff at USAID believe that organizational change is possible, but it will take time before a “true development renaissance” is achieved.

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