Charles MacCormack, president and CEO of Save the Children and MFAN Principal said, “With the leadership of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the QDDR reflects a serious effort to elevate the role of ‘civilian power’ in U.S. foreign policy. That’s critical for the wellbeing of children in need worldwide.” He continued, “The world’s top military power must also be as powerful a force at preventing conflict and at responding to the devastating and destabilizing conditions that war, natural disaster and poverty create,” MacCormack said. “This first of a kind, high-level review of U.S. civilian capacity lays the groundwork for more effective and efficient U.S. diplomacy and development work.”
MFAN Principal and Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations Laurie Garrett commented, “The State Department’s QDDR seeks to prepare all foreign assistance entities in the U.S. government for likely budget cuts, and move development and global health into what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described as ‘civilian power in the twenty first century.’ Overall, it creates a complicated set of networks and bridges across the entire government, reflecting the need to minimize use of private contractors, and respond to a broader, transnational, set of challenges to U.S. foreign policy interests.”
MFAN Partner the Initiative for Global Development (IGD) said in a statement: “IGD commends the Obama administration for the significant steps it has taken – first with the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development announced in September at the United Nations and now with the release of the QDDR – to improve the effectiveness of U.S. global development efforts and increase economic growth and opportunity around the world…IGD will be monitoring implementation of the reforms introduced by the Obama administration and will continue to provide the input of its business members to improve the effectiveness of U.S. development policies and re-establish the United States as the global leader on international development.”
Other Partners have started to take a deeper look into the QDDR to understand how it fits into the broader reform agenda of the Obama administration. At ONE, MFAN Principal Larry Nowels co-authored a blog post with MFAN member Sara Messer which praises the QDDR for several long overdue reforms. Still, Nowels and Messer point out three major areas that require “further review, planning and negotiation,” identified as the following:
- Partnering with Congress: In her speech, Secretary of State Clinton noted that the QDDR took place foremost with fiscal responsibility and efficiency in mind. While the funding landscape ahead is challenging, the reforms for greater efficiency and measurable results should appeal to a Congress looking to reduce the deficit and maximize the impact of government spending. The QDDR offers a blueprint that is ahead of this debate and the State Department and USAID should seize the opportunity to forge a positive association with lawmakers. For two years, the administration has missed several critical opportunities to partner with Congress on global development initiatives. The QDDR offers a new opportunity, although in a difficult context.
- Making tough decisions: President Obama’s Global Development Policy called for greater focus on where the US had comparative advantage and could make the most impact. The QDDR reinforces this principle and sets out six areas of focus: food security, health, climate change, economic growth, democracy/governance and humanitarian assistance. But what has not been said is where the US will pull back. Gaining consensus around where to cut will be difficult, but the QDDR does not help us understand where that might take place. Let’s hope that the FY2012 budget request will begin to define where the Administration has made these tough choices.
- Harmonizing foreign assistance: The QDDR represents a solid effort to integrate and bring coherence to foreign aid policy and programs. But there are many other agencies besides State and USAID that provide some form of foreign assistance. The report defines “civilian power” as including all US government agencies, not just State and USAID. But breaking down entrenched bureaucratic priorities and convincing all agencies to work under the leadership of USAID on development assistance will be daunting. If we are to achieve a true “whole-of-government” approach, the heavy lifting lies ahead with the agencies and personnel tasked with implementation, and with other agencies whose cooperation they seek. The QDDR takes a leap towards streamlining and modernizing US foreign assistance. Now the hard work of implementation begins.