With his speech laying out a new U.S. approach to development at September’s UN Millennium Development Goals Summit, President Obama has outlined a future in which development serves as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy, delivering greater results for people in poverty around the world and for U.S. taxpayers. The President’s policy provides a long-overdue roadmap for more strategic, effective, accountable U.S. foreign assistance, and puts forward a mechanism for regularly refreshing our development approach through the establishment of a U.S. Global Development Strategy.
As with most ambitious policy pronouncements, the true test will come with implementation. We are pleased to see explicit mention of the President’s commitment to “working closely with Congress to establish a shared vision of the way forward on global development,” including a desire to be given more flexibility for funding allocations in exchange for greater accountability to Congress. It is now time to delineate a clear mechanism for doing so. MFAN continues to believe that the only durable vehicle for this “grand bargain” is new legislation to replace the outmoded Foreign Assistance Act, now 50 years old and trapped in the Cold-War era. This bargain should reflect a shared vision of the management of U.S. foreign assistance and a balance between granting the Executive Branch authorities that it needs to respond to a rapidly changing world and securing the rightful role of the Congress as a partner in setting national priorities and ensuring accountability to American taxpayers, with special emphasis on poverty reduction and economic growth, greater transparency and effectiveness, a strengthened development agency, and greater participation by civil society in developing countries. Done purposefully, inclusively, and transparently, a modern, up-to-date legislative framework that reflects current global realities and challenges would reestablish confidence in foreign assistance as an indispensible aspect of the U.S. approach to global development and foreign policy at a time of constrained budgets.
We applaud the new policy’s emphasis on rebuilding the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) “as the U.S. Government’s lead development agency” and “as the world’s premier development agency.” Elevating and empowering USAID will ensure a strong development voice at the policymaking table, and should include a role for the USAID Administrator in National Security Council (NSC) deliberations, supported by well-staffed policy and budget offices that can help ensure leadership from USAID on development issues.
We look forward to supporting the Obama Administration – in particular the NSC as it looks to coordinate the adherence of all relevant agencies and departments to clear targets and timelines – in the implementation of the new development policy and assisting in its call to be held accountable for fulfilling these groundbreaking commitments. As this process unfolds, MFAN will continue to assess the Administration’s success in achieving broad-based development policy reform based on the following benchmarks.
Development Policy Reform Benchmarks
Is the President’s new development policy…
1. Advancing long-term U.S. national interests by reducing poverty and creating broad-based economic growth?
□ Demonstrating the ability of programs to effectively eliminate poverty and promote economic growth in the developing world;
□ Ensuring that programs are led by development experts;
□ Improving coordination between trade preference programs and trade capacity building;
□ Implementing a more consistent and coordinated USG policy and approach to gender integration.
2. Making our assistance more selective, focused, and catalytic, while building upon established aid effectiveness principles?
□ Reaching agreement with Congress on the goals of U.S. development approach to enact statutory provisions necessary to achieve these goals;
□ Developing, in consultation with Congress, clear and effective criteria and transparent metrics for determining where aid should be directed and how its impact is measured;
□ Concentrating development spending to countries or programs where it can be effective and curtailing spending where it has proven ineffective;
□ Holding countries receiving assistance primarily for strategic or transition purposes accountable for development results;
□ Publishing comprehensive, comparable, and timely information on USG development activities that is accessible to recipient governments, civil society, and U.S. taxpayers.
3. Streamlining and coordinating development policy within the USG and with other donors?
□ Supporting improved burden-sharing with key development partners and more effective multilateral institutions;
□ Providing the National Security Council with a strong coordinating role on the Interagency Policy Committee for Development to ensure appropriate levels of strategic and program coordination are occurring at the country level;
□ Providing clear guidance on how to pursue specialization and a division of labor among partners in development, both within USG and with other bilateral and multilateral donors;
□ Consulting early and broadly with U.S. civil society and the private sector to leverage best available knowledge and expertise;
□ Establishing clear leadership and regular process for coordinating development and humanitarian relief efforts effectively in Washington and in the field;
□ Elevating and empowering USAID as the lead USG development agency:
- USAID Administrator participates regularly in NSC meetings, so that defense, diplomatic, and development expertise are distinctly represented in interagency debate;
- USAID leads implementation of Feed the Future, the Global Health Initiative, and other USG core development activities;
- New USAID policy and budget offices are fully staffed and exercise control over their respective areas of concern;
- USAID continues to hire additional staff and creates a professional training and staff development program and capability;
- USAID makes its own determination on balancing program and operational expenses.
4. Being more responsive to local priorities in developing countries?
□ Consulting with local stakeholders in developing countries – including governments and civil society – in all phases of the development, implementation, and monitoring of development policies and programs;
□ Assigning appropriate and coordinated roles to the ambassador and the USAID mission director in preparing and approving country development strategies, in close and ongoing consultation with other USG agencies, civil society, and local actors;
□ Procuring more goods and services locally through host country procurement and public financial management systems to create more efficient programs, reduce red-tape, and ensure greater local program benefits;
□ Working collaboratively with Congress to reduce earmarks and directives in exchange for greater transparency and accountability.
5. Establishing a system for getting crises right?
□ Making a formal White House-level determination that puts civilians in the lead on U.S. assistance policy in crisis situations, with clear and distinct roles, responsibilities, and prerogatives for diplomatic, developmental, and military actors in setting and implementing assistance policy in crisis contexts;
□ Working collaboratively with Congress in designing a strategy for rebalancing capacities between civilian and military actors to align with the above determination, and make concrete financial and personnel investments in alignment with this strategy, including shifting major military aid programs such as CERP and section 1207 to civilian agency control, increasing civilian staffing levels, and building appropriate staff training programs for civilian agencies;
□ Ensuring that relief and development programs are led by relief and development experts;
□ Keeping lifesaving humanitarian programs free from political interference;
□ Holding all USG assistance actors in crisis contexts accountable to standards of monitoring and impact.