Secretary Clinton Hits the Right Notes on Development

July 15, 2009 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing
Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

We commend Secretary of State Clinton for her important address today at the Council on Foreign Relations, and we are particularly supportive of her inclusion of “elevate and integrate development as a core pillar of American power” and “integrate civilian and military action in conflict areas” in her list of the five foreign policy priorities of the Obama Administration. We believe, as she does, that we “advance our security, our prosperity, and our values” by alleviating poverty, fighting disease, and creating opportunity in the developing world.

Even more important than the Secretary’s development rhetoric were her pledges of action on modernizing the U.S. foreign assistance system. As President Obama said earlier this month, “Our aid policies have been splintered among a variety of agencies.” We are optimistic that Secretary Clinton will change this dynamic by more aggressively “integrating” development into the broader formulation of U.S. foreign policy and, through her recently announced Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), creating a more coherent and coordinated whole of-government approach to achieving U.S. development objectives, encompassing everything from foreign assistance to trade, defense, agriculture, and economic policy.

However, we remain concerned that Secretary Clinton’s plan to use the QDDR to “lash together” diplomacy and development, as one of her aides put it, will erode our ability to forge long-term solutions to poverty, disease, and lack of economic opportunity in the developing world. In this formulation, development is at risk of being used too often as a tool of diplomacy. For “smart power” to work, development must be more than a tool: it must be a goal of U.S. foreign policy. We look forward to working with Secretary Clinton and other Obama Administration officials to make sure that the right balance is struck on this important issue.

We call on the Obama Administration to take immediate steps to sustain the momentum Secretary Clinton created with her speech:

  • Immediately, an experienced development professional should be nominated as Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This person, who will co-chair the QDDR process, should be given a seat on the National Security Council from which to offer the development perspective on key foreign policy debates and help align the findings of the QDDR with U.S. foreign policy;
  • The White House should, as has been rumored, launch a Presidential Study Directive on global development policy, and take the lead role in making sure the findings of the QDDR feed into a comprehensive inter-agency effort on this issue;
  • Both the White House and the State Department must give vocal support to the reform efforts being pushed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D CA) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA); and,
  • The QDDR process must include input from a broad range of relevant stakeholders, including implementing partners, field professionals in and out of government, policy experts, other bilateral and multilateral donors, and aid recipients.

Contact: Sam Hiersteiner at 202-337-0808 or

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