The Center for Global Development’s (CGD) long-awaited report, Beyond Bullets and Bombs: Fixing the U.S. Approach to Development in Pakistan, is a wakeup call to the White House and Congress that critiques a Pakistan policy burdened by too many priorities, measured by poor indicators, and obscured by a lack of transparency. The report, out today, makes a compelling case for continued U.S. foreign assistance to Pakistan, but pulls no punches in its criticism of U.S. policy. Simply put, CGD’s exhaustive study identifies the elements of the strategy that are not working and outlines what must be done to get the program back on track.
The most recent chapter in the U.S.-Pakistan development partnership dates back to March of 2009, when the Obama administration announced a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that would prioritize development and boost both resources and personnel. Several months later, Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar and Representative Howard Berman introduced legislation that tripled economic assistance to Pakistan to $7.5 billion over five years.
There is more to Pakistan than is suggested by the dire headlines that have depicted scenes of anarchy, extremism, and instability to U.S. audiences over the last decade. The country has considerable economic and social assets, such as a sizeable middle class and private sector, a fragile but intact democracy, and a vocal civil society and free press. However, CGD’s verdict is unambiguous: two years after the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, the U.S. development program in Pakistan is falling short.
Many of the program’s shortcomings are not unique to Pakistan, and those who are acquainted with MFAN’s From Policy to Practice will recognize challenges that are shared across the spectrum of development initiatives, from emerging markets to fragile states: inefficient practices, slow bureaucracy, unclear lines of authority, ineffective coordination across agencies, imprecise objectives, policies that undermine USAID’s leadership role, a disconnect between U.S. and local priorities, a conflation of diplomacy and development, and poor measurements of impact.
Ultimately, Beyond Bullets and Bombs provides recommendations to U.S. policymakers that, while specific to Pakistan, closely align with the principles proposed by MFAN to alleviate poverty and grow economies across the developing world. Many of the flaws they identify are symptomatic of broader flaws in the U.S. approach to development, which has not yet matched the vision of country ownership, innovation, and transparency set out by President Barack Obama in the country’s first ever global development strategy.
Stay tuned for more on Beyond Bullets and Bombs as we match the report’s findings with MFAN’s core recommendations.