Wilson Center Releases ‘Aiding Without Abetting’ Report on Effective Aid in Pakistan

A working group within the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars conducted an extensive policy re-evaluation of civilian aid provision to Pakistan in their report Aiding Without Abetting: Making U.S. Civilian Assistance to Pakistan Work for Both Sides. The group “concludes that a robust program of U.S. civilian assistance to Pakistan serves important interests of both countries” and recommends “substantial mid-course changes” as a key step to that end.  Improving civilian aid effectiveness in Pakistan would in turn improve American-Pakistan diplomacy by attaining mutually beneficial goals of economic development and security.

The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, better known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act (KLB), commits the United States to a multiyear program of expanded non-security assistance to Pakistan. This act authorizes assistance to Pakistan with the expressed goals of supporting democratic institutions, building capacity of governance and civil society, promoting economic freedoms and sustainable development, investing in people, and strengthening diplomacy. However, the report states that “nearly two years later, the United States is still struggling to fashion and implement an effective program of civilian aid for Pakistan.”

The KLB’s lack of impact has unsurprisingly resulted in political pressure to discontinue aid to Pakistan. Criticisms emanate for a number of reasons: a lack of results, ungratefulness and icy relations, limited institutional capacity and good governance, and the failure of aid to win hearts and minds in Pakistan. However, the working group finds that these criticisms forget the demonstrable achievements of aid efforts over the years, misunderstand the objectives of aid programs, and do not accurately account for the opportunity costs of discontinuing Pakistani aid.

The report states that stronger diplomacy with Pakistan is in the strategic interests of the U.S. for many reasons, including Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability, proximity to Afghanistan, military power, and ties to China and Saudi Arabia. Discontinuing aid would only jeopardize the integrity of a working partnership, instrumental in both avoiding hostilities and attaining mutual goals. However, while the continuation of KLB is strongly advised, the working group concludes that mid-course corrections to KLB implementation “are vital to avoid lost opportunities and disappointed expectations on both sides.”
The report finds that many obstacles in providing aid for Pakistan are beyond the responsibilities of USAID, the principle executor of KLB.  The complex and opaque mechanisms of U.S. aid-funding is a great source of confusion. Programs with overlapping objectives allow for legislators to reprogram funds under different flags for often political reasons. What results are a labyrinth of funding and a myriad of complicit programs falling under the umbrella of KLB, including the Economic Support Funds (ESF), Global Health Child Survival (GHCS), International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE), Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining, and Related (NADR) and others. To make matters worse, different USG departments- including State, USDA, DOE, and DHS- manage different programs. This not only confuses responsibilities and authority but makes spending reports and data very inaccessible and confusing.

The report outlays a series of recommendations for mid-course corrections in the implementation of KLB civilian aid. Included in these are recommendations for “improving effectiveness, transparency, and donor coordination mechanism for U.S. aid.” To this end, the report calls for enhanced USAID effectiveness through:

published information regarding KLB and other U.S. civilian aid programs and aid flows

-“seeking congressional support to streamline USAID application and administrative procedures”

-“using in-country senior personnel” to encourage “moving programs toward autonomy from aid”

-“extending Pakistan tours for USAID personnel” and “recruiting personnel experienced in international aid, not necessarily with USAID”

-evaluate whether or not USAID should switch “from cooperative agreements to (procurement ) contracts as the main implementing mechanism for U.S. aid in Pakistan.”


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