Noteworthy News — 8.14.09

August 14, 2009

This weekly posting includes key news stories and opinion pieces related to foreign assistance reform and the larger development community.

What we’re reading this week:  Calls to restore USAID and name an Administrator…the dawn of ”Africa’s Century” …Foreign assistance to Pakistan… Local voices for foreign aid reform

Aid Reform in Washington

  • Restoring USAID’s Capabilities (Washington Post- Senator Richard G. Lugar, August 9)
    Without a more robust aid agency, President Obama’s pledge to double foreign assistance would be like adding a third story to a house that had a crumbling foundation. Without a strong administrator, USAID’s voice will be lost in the current interagency debate.
  • USAID: an agency without leader and direction (The Lancet, August 14)
    With such deep involvement by the State Department and without a strong leader at USAID in place, the justifiable fear is that programmes will be directed to achieve short-term political gain rather than governed by need and science-based advice.  Obama’s preoccupation with US health-care reform must not distract him from urgently and speedily finding and appointing a strong candidate to competently lead USAID—one of his greatest assets to advance trust in US commitment to global health.
  • Update on Paul Farmer and USAID  (The New York Times-Nicholas Kristof, August 10)
    So I hear it’s final: Dr. Paul Farmer will not run USAID, after all. I still think the proper response is to throw the vetters overboard — if a saint like Farmer can’t get through, who can? — but in the meantime we need an administrator for USAID. That’s particularly true at a time when the administration is pushing for a systematic rethink of how our aid program works.

Other News

  • Africa’s century for development: World Bank chief (Reuters, August 14)
    The World Bank chief said his travels to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda had reinforced his belief that the immediate challenge to keep Africa growing required more resources to bolster regional integration as well as investments in energy, infrastructure and agriculture.  But to make the case for more resources from donors, whose budgets are being strained by the financial crisis, Zoellick said Africans need to demonstrate that they can use aid effectively and improve governance.
  • More Than Missiles (New York Times, August 10)
    Congress left town for its summer recess without passing a long-promised bill to triple American economic and development assistance to Pakistan — the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s plan to win the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people.   The aid — and particularly its pledge of five years of uninterrupted help — is intended to demonstrate that this time Washington is in for the long haul.
  • The Promise Of Change: U.S. Engagement With Africa (The Seattle Medium-Jennifer Lee, August 12)
    Clinton’s State Department has pushed badly needed foreign aid reform and advocated for the appointment of effective professionals outside of the DC establishment, like Dr. Paul Farmer for USAID. And yet, many of these changes seem to be stalled, delayed or vetoed from on high.  Buzz words like “human rights” and “transparency” define the Administration’s expectations of Africa. And yet, with all of the problems on the continent, rarely is there discussion of fundamental economic causes at the heart of problems in Africa.

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