MFAN Principals Weigh in on Leaked PSD Draft

Since Josh Rogin reported on the leaked National Security Council draft of the Presidential Study Directive on Global Development Policy (PSD-7), the development community has been abuzz weighing in on the specific recommendations and the debate for where authority over U.S. development efforts should be housed.   Three MFAN Principals – Jim Kolbe, Senior Transatlantic Fellow and Jim Kunder, Senior Resident Fellow, both of the German Marshall Fund, and Carol Peasley, President, Center for Population & Development Activities – put out their thoughts on the heated policy debate and what it will take to keep reform moving forward.

MEXICO USKolbe’s piece stresses the important role Congress plays in implementing the kind of bold reforms that appeared in the draft PSD, “A New Way Forward on Global Development.”  Senator Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently commented on the decision to restore policy capacity at USAID, noting, “in fact, this was one of the first provisions included in the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act.”

Key excerpts from Kolbe’s piece below:

“While the PSD makes the obligatory acknowledgement of “development…as a key pillar of U.S. foreign policy” and calls for the U.S. to resume its historic leadership position, the direction seems clear: restore USAID as the lead agency, put its administrator into an NSC chair when it seems appropriate, and give it responsibility for policy, budget and field authority.”

“Perhaps the development community needs to change its own mindset.  For years it has focused all of its attention on the executive branch for leadership.  This was understandable in light of the inertia, inaction and inattention of Congress to aid reform.  But Congress may be the best hope now for real change.”

Carol-PeasleyPeasley’s piece, which appears in the Huffington Post, rightly acknowledges the heightened attention to development issues over the week – referencing Oxfam America President (and MFAN Principal) Ray Offenheiser’s op-ed in about the need for a National Strategy for Global Development.  Peasley notes that while the draft PSD is a step in the right direction, there are many questions left unanswered.  Excerpts below:

“Those who have been arguing for foreign aid reform and the more strategic use of “smart power” should be pleased. The NSC draft calls for the elevation of development as a central pillar of U.S. national security; it calls for a strengthened development agency (USAID) and independent development voice at the table when relevant policy is debated; and it calls for greater coherence in U.S. development policy through the framework of a quadrennial U.S. Global Development Strategy.”

“Given the investments in “siloed” initiatives for global health and food security – and soon for climate change – is there still room for a global development strategy? Is there still room for local leadership and ownership when so much of the decision-making is in Washington? Who leads the initiatives – development experts whose mission is to achieve long-term sustainable development goals, or diplomats, who must put out short-term political fires? Who controls the budgets – development experts or diplomats?”

Jim KunderKunder’s piece, posted on the German Marshall Fund blog, centers on the “tortured foreign aid debate,” in which he argues that despite the favorable language, the PSD-7 draft is unclear on structure, organization, and authority that undoubtedly impacts the level at which development is elevated.  Key excepts below:

“Now, if only those noble, forthright words could be translated into an equally clear government mechanism for carrying out international development policy.  Instead, the language in Presidential Study Directive 7 reflects deep bureaucratic divisions within the U.S. federal establishment, and serves as another reminder of the tortured foreign aid debate in Washington.  That tortured debate, if the “PSD” is any indication, continues.”

“What the people of the developing world need is not partial victories; they have had plenty of those.  What they need is a clarion indication that the U.S government fully understands what they are reminded of on a daily basis:  without development, there is no peace.  With that the Obama White House could, in the final version of the Presidential Study Directive, put aside the tortured formulations of the PSD 7 draft and really, fully incorporate the long-term development instrument into the national foreign policy toolkit on an equal basis.”

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