Partisanship in Washington seems to be at an all-time (and ever escalating) high these days. But when it comes to international development, there is a strong consensus across the ideological spectrum that it is something the U.S. must do and do well. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have taken important steps toward reforming U.S. development policy and practice. The establishment of the Millennium Challenge Corporation by President Bush, with strong bipartisan support from Congress, paved the way for other important reforms by the Obama Administration including the first-ever Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development and the USAID Forward agenda.
In 2011, MFAN released From Policy to Practice—a set of reform principles to help guide U.S. development policy. The principles include modernizing legislation, incorporating local priorities, and strengthening and empowering USAID. In the two years since the release of From Policy to Practice, we have seen the Obama Administration and Congress make strides and the development community rally behind the importance of reform. But there is still more work to be done, and at a time when budgets are shrinking, finding more effective and efficient approaches to solving development challenges is something everyone can get behind.
Today, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition released their second Report on Reports, which analyzes over 30 reports, including MFAN’s From Policy to Practice, from across the political spectrum. Despite analyzing a diverse range of work from groups like the left-leaning Center for American Progress and the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, USGLC finds there’s more of a consensus on U.S. development policy than we might expect. The Report on Reports highlights six key areas of agreement, including ensuring results-driven development, improving coordination, and maintaining sufficient resources, that many groups in the development community are highlighting as priority areas for improving U.S. policy.
The elevation of development alongside diplomacy and defense, the continuing implementation of the USAID Forward agenda, the introduction of legislation like Rep. Gerry Connolly’s (D-VA) Global Partnerships Act and Rep. Ted Poe’s (R-TX) Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, and President Obama’s proposal to reform U.S. food aid are all positive signs that the reform agenda is making headway. However, the Administration and Congress must work together to institutionalize these important reforms so that progress is not lost as political winds shift in Washington.
Click here to see USGLC’s helpful infographic on the road to a “smart power” approach to national security issues.