How is USAID Implementing the President’s Global Development Policy?

See below for a guest post from MFAN Principal, Senior Resident Fellow at the German Marshall Fund U.S., and former Acting Deputy Administrator for USAID Jim Kunder. To learn more about this blog series, click here.


I have been poring over USAID’s responses to questions about how PPD-6 has changed the Agency’s business model since President Obama issued the Directive in 2010.  I find much about which to be encouraged in USAID’s update:  USAID’s new five-year country plans, the Country Development Cooperation Strategies, restore much-needed rigor to analysis of development dynamics; the creation of the Office of Science and Technology opens up the possibility of “game changing” partnerships with research and technology institutions; establishing a Global Development Interagency Policy Committee within the U.S. Government could lead to better coordinated aid and trade, multilateral and bilateral development policies; and the rejuvenated Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning is cranking out high-order guidance, as in the USAID Policy Framework 2011-2015.

USAID’s response to MFAN’s inquiries also raises some questions, and it would useful to hear further elaboration on these items.  First and foremost:  what happened to what many would see as the centerpiece of PPD-6:  President Obama’s extraordinary emphasis on “elevating” broad-based economic growth “as a top priority?”  According to PPD-6, or at least to the White House Fact Sheet accompanying it, “Economic growth is the only sustainable way to accelerate development and eradicate poverty.”  The same day the PPD was released, the President, during his speech to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit, hammered home the importance of emphasizing economic growth, calling it “the most powerful force the world has ever known for eradicating poverty and creating opportunity….”  As USAID’s response to MFAN displays, it appears that the process of converting the President’s priority into the USAID business model remains a work in progress.  Four “Partnership for Growth” countries have been designated; a new economic growth strategy paper has been promised; and the USAID Policy Framework mentions economic growth as the fourth of its seven “Core Development Objectives.”   Given PPD-6’s powerful endorsement of economic growth, these steps seem modest at best.

My second PPD-6 question for USAID is:  What happened to the U.S. Global Development Strategy promised in the Directive?  It is listed right there in the same paragraph of the Fact Sheet that mentions the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review as one of the core “mechanisms for ensuring coherence in U.S. development policy….”  Establishing such a Strategy – to be approved by the President every four years, according to PPD-6 – seems a concrete way to ensure, in the words of the Directive, the “elevation of development as a core pillar of American power….”

Placing PPD-6 and the President’s MDG Summit speech side by side with USAID’s 2012 MFAN response raises a third question, one related to selectivity.  PPD-6 made powerful statements about how “The United States cannot do all things, do them well, and do them everywhere,” while committing the U.S. Government to “make hard choices about how to allocate attention and resources across countries, regions, and sectors.”  This hard-edged emphasis on rigorous selectivity is not mentioned in USAID’s response to MFAN.  And a cursory review of USAID country programs and budget allocations by sector does not immediately suggest any radical refocusing of resources on a slimmed down portfolio.  Perhaps there are more subtle changes underway that do not jump off the pages of USAID’s website and budget documents, but it would be interesting to hear USAID’s take on how the Agency is implementing the rigorous selectivity statements in PPD-6.

In summary, USAID’s report to MFAN makes a useful contribution to the development community’s understanding of PPD-6 implementation.  But, more information on the topics raised above would be welcome.


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