Last Wednesday, MFAN held a town hall at the Newseum to discuss the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD). Panelists took questions on their views on the PPD and progress their agencies have made on implementing the directive, while also touching upon the overwhelming sense of austerity and the potential effect of budget cuts on U.S. foreign assistance. One of the most predominate themes was that all panelists stressed the meaningful interagency coordination that has resulted from the PPD. MFAN Co-Chair Jim Kolbe kicked off the event by highlighting the importance of reform in these tough fiscal times. The panel was moderated by Carol Lancaster, Dean of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and former Deputy Administrator of USAID. Panelists included Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation of the Millennium Challenge Corporation; Marisa Lago, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Markets and Development; Ambassador Demetrios Marantis, Deputy United States Trade Representative; Susan Reichle, Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning, U.S. Agency for International Development; and Jake Sullivan, Director of Policy Planning, Department of State.
Lancaster opened up the panel by asking broadly what each agency has done to implement the PPD. Jake Sullivan took up the first question, noting that not only is development a priority for Secretary Clinton, but the PPD—and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review—have changed the way the State Department operates. Specifically, the State Department has begun to implement the PPD’s guidance in terms of prioritizing initiatives where the U.S. has a comparative advantage and in countries that can benefit most from intervention. Such areas include global health, climate change, and food security. Additionally, Sullivan said the State Department has begun the process of reducing reporting requirements for development professionals in the field. He also mentioned the push to be more transparent, citing the Foreign Assistance Dashboard.
Susan Reichle addressed the Partnership for Growth initiative. She said the program is a result of efforts of USAID, State, and other agencies to work together more closely to focus on nations that are “on the edge” of becoming emerging markets and need what she described as an “extra push.” Sheila Herrling elaborated on the way the Millennium Challenge Corporation reacted to the PPD. She noted the MCC was founded on principles of transparency, accountability, and results but said the PPD pushed them to achieve even deeper levels of transparency and accountability. Herrling also spoke to the Partnership for Growth and how each agency is bringing its unique expertise to the table—improving efficiency overall.
Ambassador Marantis described the role of the U.S. Trade Representative in development work. According to Marantis, USTR does non-assistance policy work that fuels the economy of both the U.S. and development targets, as well as assisting in job creation. Through AGOA, for example, several African countries have had trade barriers lowered in the U.S., making it easier for them to grow free market economies and trade goods. Marisa Lago was the final panelist to address the overarching question and focused her remarks on Treasury’s role in leveraging multilateral institutions and banks, as called for in the PPD. She said multilateral banks are skilled in infrastructure and, therefore, the U.S. is seeing how it can become a better partner in promoting economic growth in country.
A range of topics were covered during the question and answer session including budget cuts, the Global Development Council, a new policy framework for USAID, and sustainability. All panelists felt that the PPD’s call for efficiency has showed the agencies how to do more with less over the last year that puts them in a good place ahead of potential budget cuts. Still, Sullivan conceded that severe cuts could negatively impact the progress made over the past year; perhaps Reichle said it best when she said “Our operating budget is USAID forward.” What to look for in the upcoming year? Marantis said the next year is all about making the PPD sustainable, arguing the personalities involved were a big part of its success over the course of last year. All panelists look forward to continue to focus on key areas and get the most of our every development dollar they are given.