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November 18, 2010
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WASHINGTON, DC The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has embarked on an ambitious reform effort, USAID FORWARD, to change the way the Agency does business-with new partnerships, an emphasis on innovation and a relentless focus on results. It gives USAID the opportunity to transform its agency and unleash its full potential to achieve high-impact development.

Announced by USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID FORWARD is critical to achieving President Obama’s vision of the United States as the global leader in international development. This initiative is an early outcome of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) led by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and will help modernize and strengthen USAID so that it can meet the most pressing development challenges and work more efficiently towards its ultimate goal-creating the conditions where its work is no longer needed.

USAID FORWARD is a comprehensive package of reforms in seven key areas:

1. Implementation and Procurement Reform: USAID will change its business processes-contracting with and providing grants to more and varied local partners, and creating true partnerships to create the conditions where aid is no longer necessary in the countries where the Agency works. To achieve this, USAID is streamlining its processes, increasing the use of small businesses, building metrics into its implementation agreements to achieve capacity building objectives and using host country systems where it makes sense.

2. Talent Management: USAID will explore ways to leverage the enormous talent that lies within the broader USAID family of foreign and civil service officers, and Foreign Service Nationals. To solve the world’s biggest development challenges, it will improve and streamline processes so it can quickly align its resources to support the Agency’s strategic initiatives, with better hiring and training tools as well as incentives. USAID must attract and retain the best people who reflect global diversity and who share the ability to be innovative problem-solvers.

3. Rebuilding Policy Capacity: To make smart, informed decisions, USAID has created a new Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) that will serve as the intellectual nerve center for the Agency. PPL will promulgate cutting-edge creative and evidence-based development policies-leveraging USAID’s relationships with other donors, utilizing its strength in science and technology, and reintroducing a culture of research, knowledge-sharing and evaluation.

4. Strengthening Monitoring and Evaluation: Learning by measuring progress is critical for high impact, sustainable development and therefore must be an integral part of USAID’s thought process from the onset of its activities. That requires USAID to do a much better job of systematically monitoring its performance and evaluating its impact. USAID will be introducing an improved monitoring and evaluation process as part of these reform efforts, and it will link those efforts to its program design, budgeting and strategy work.

5. Rebuilding Budget Management: USAID is rebuilding our budget capacity to allow for increased responsibilities and capacity to manage constrained budget resources and ensure the Agency will be able to align resources against country strategies, make difficult trade-offs, and re-deploy resources toward programs that are demonstrating meaningful results. In consultation with the Department of State, USAID has created an Office of Budget and Resource Management in the Office of the Administrator that will provide increased responsibilities over execution of its budget. With these increased responsibilities, USAID will have to propose difficult funding tradeoffs in order to continue robust funding of key operational and program priorities.

6. Science and Technology: USAID has a proud history of transforming development through science & technology (S&T), from the successful use of oral rehydration therapies to the green revolution. As part of these reform efforts, USAID will upgrade its internal S&T capabilities, supporting the expansion of technical expertise and improving access to analytical tools like Geospatial Information Systems. It will also develop a set of Grand Challenges for Development, a framework to focus the Agency and development community on key scientific and technical barriers that limit breakthrough development progress. Finally, USAID will build S&T capacity in developing countries through cooperative research grants, improved access to scientific knowledge, and higher education and training opportunities.

7. Innovation: USAID is putting into place a structure for fostering innovative development solutions that have a broad impact on people, wherever they may arise. As part of these reform efforts, USAID is creating opportunities to connect its staff to leading innovators in the private sector and academia, and it has created the Development Innovation Ventures Fund-where creative solutions can be funded, piloted and brought to scale.

For more information about USAID’s programs, please visit:


The Development, US MDG and Foreign Aid community has been waiting on Sec. Clinton’s much touted Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) for months now, and got a taste of it yesterday when a draft was made available. Easily explore it online here courtesy the Washington Post document reader.

The QDDR serves as a “scheduled review of development aid — and how to integrate it with U.S. diplomatic efforts”, in an effort to keep development projects relevant and “fresh” (WaPo, 2010)

Policy and administration folk who are keen to see increased accountability and a greater awareness of need-based/locally-owned development will be anxious to see how the final decisions regarding USAID’s operation and goals play out. We’ll keep you posted on this.

The QDDR will hopefully serve as a key map in navigating Congressional discussions on US development commitments and new spending priorities. Here at AIDemocracy, we will be monitoring this story closely, with help from our friends at MFAN and USGLC— Look for action moments from our side soon!

The G20 meetings are publicly recognized for being the arena of two repeating themes: citizen protest against unfair trade policies that affect communities across the world, and world leaders flexing their muscles to see who walks away as top dog.

The G20 meeting in Seoul, South Korea was burdened with a third theme– that of finding solutions to the ongoing global economic crisis and the fast approaching threat of protectionism. Why is protectionism an issue? In the context of the US economy, it could mean lower foreign investment, which would lower the value of the dollar. In the context of social justice, this could have far-reaching adverse effects on local and international unemployment and worker rights as well as on US government spending on social services.

The US came under pressure for the Quantitative Easing (QE2) decision taken by the Federal Reserve Board. What’s all the noise about, and did the rest of the G20’s argument against the US decision make any sense? Nice analysis of the situation (and some groovy Economics 101!) here.

But really, the only thing we’re asking each other right now is, why should we care about what is discussed or decided on at the G20?

Simple answer? International Aid Reform. The G20 meetings are a significant platform for world leaders to discuss global approaches to the issue of misdirected foreign aid and unmet aid targets.

Read the rest of this entry »

By Catherine Bugayong, Global Development Issue Analyst

The United States’ complaints about China have only progressively increased in volume since the economy crashed in 2008. At issue here is the exchange rate, which China holds “fixed” at 6.65 yuan to US$1.

Unlike the Chinese yuan, the US dollar and (other major trading currencies such as the euro and the Japanese yen) are on a “floating exchange rate regime:” the value of the US dollar automatically changes in reaction to demand and supply in markets. For China to place the yuan on a “fixed exchange rate regime,” it must continuously buy and hold in reserve trillions of US dollars.

These actions have the United States grumbling that China is a “currency manipulator” and that the yuan is “undervalued.” The United States argues that keeping the yuan artificially low gives Chinese exports an unfair advantage. Pressured further by the US economy’s slow recovery, the House of Representatives passed a bill that permits the US government to set up tariffs against countries that undervalue their currencies. The bill awaits approval from the Senate and a signature from the President, but what the world is really waiting for is China’s reaction. Read the rest of this entry »

By Sara Hooker, Global Development Issue Analyst

There is a joke in Southern Africa that vegetarians don’t exist, at least not by choice. There is even a Zimbabwean rap group dedicated solely to eulogizing chicken in their songs. Another inside joke is that you can tell who a government worker is by the girth of their waist, as people tend to literally show their power in kilos. While this may tend towards hyperbole, meat has always been an indicator of wealth in Africa. Unfortunately this may no longer be the case. Grain, long a diet staple, is taking over as a luxury.

Last week in Rome, from October 11th to the 16th, some of the world’s most accomplished academics on food security convened for the annual committee on World Food Security. While the verdict is still out on their performance (the CFS chairperson described it as a ‘rich and lively session’ which in UN speak means there were probably not any sweeping reforms) it is clear it is a necessary dialogue to maintain.
Read the rest of this entry »

By Marshall Kirby.

Marshall is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Marshall below or take a look at the Student Issue Analysts.

The author with John Perkins

On Thursday October 14th, 2010 I had the honor of attending a speech given by John Perkins in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Perkins is the author of the bestselling books: Confessions of an Economic Hitman, The Secret History of the American Empire, and Hoodwinked. As you might expect, the talk was very interesting and inspiring at the same time.

Perkins’ main points of discussion were about the history of the economic collapse, what brought us there, and where we can go from here to build a more sustainable and just global economic system. All of these I will discuss below.

How did we get here?

Perkins gives us his take on a much longer journey back through history. Prior to the rise of modern states, global power derived out of religious empires. With the rise of modern nation states, the religious structure in which global power was concentrated was displaced. Then, he said, something changed – power started shifting from sovereign states towards global corporations. Through lobbying, the power of money, and corruption, some corporations have been able to thwart democratic practices in certain thriving democracies. This has produced the economic system of today and the current crisis. Perkins’ explains that this was no fluke – it was inevitable.

Read the rest of this entry »

By Rachel Stanley
Rachel is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Rachel below or take a look at the Student Issue Analysts.

I’m a student at Elon University, and former President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan just spoke at fall convocation. His lecture was titled “Insights into the Islamic World”, and he used the opportunity to point out some troubling historical facts that the West likes to forget about. As an International Studies major, his historical references were not new to me, but I thought that they were very important to say. He pointed out that extremists have been able to use the examples like the US leaving Afghanistan after expelling the Soviets without helping to rebuild as a recruitment technique. As he says, even though he is a military man himself, he understands that arms and soldiers cannot be the sole guard against extremism in a society; yes, there may be a need for military, but there should also be a build up of civil society.

The recent natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan are a perfect example of the (perceived?) discrimination in U.S. and Western aid distribution that helps fuels extremists. Did Haiti get more aid than Pakistan for disaster relief? It may be difficult to get an accurate dollar- to-dollar comparison, but perhaps perceptions are more significant than reality here. Even if the amount of humanitarian assistance given to different nations was exactly equal, because of historical events, there is a perception in many poorer countries, particularly non-Western countries, that the U.S. is only truly willing to expend time and money to achieve its own political means through military action with no consequences.

Whether or not we believe this or to what extent should not be a primary concern. The U.S. can utilize its vast resources in a more effective way. Instead of spending billions of dollars on war, what if Western nations and inter-governmental organizations spend some more money on the development of civil society? Yes, this would be a daunting task, an I don’t mean to oversimplify, but we can start somewhere. What if we took, let’s say, 1% of the current cost of the war in Afghanistan and put that money towards schools that would educate boys and girls? That would be approximately $3 billion, give or take. Can you imagine how many schools could be erected in Afghanistan with $3 billion dollars? Greg Mortenson did a great job of popularizing this idea in his books Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time and Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It would be fascinating to see how the support for extremist groups in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan might change if foreign assistance from Western governments was directed to programs that worked on increasing education and employment opportunities, instead of bombs.

By Marshall Kirby.

Marshall is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Marshall below or take a look at the Student Issue Analysts.

There has been much media coverage regarding reform of the financial sector in the US. Regardless of where you may stand on the issue, it is important to note one thing – that while reforms made in each nation can produce results, without global cohesion and cooperation the world’s financial health will remain vulnerable.

Since the global financial crisis, we have witnessed an economic collapse in Iceland and debt crises in both developed and developing economies. Throughout the world specifics are different, but nearly each country faces the same overall picture. The call for financial reform is present in nearly all countries, but what we still lack is global financial reform and cohesion.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund, two organizations which receive so much criticism, some of which is fair and some unfair, are trying to bring this issue to light. Top IMF officials have gone on the record stating that they believe individual reforms are not going far enough to prevent the root causes of what has caused this global crisis. Echoing this, Charles Dallara, the managing director of the Institute of International Finance has said “Urgent action is needed to arrest the disturbing trend towards unilateral moves.”

The real problem here is that without uniform global financial standards, risky practices will still occur due to loopholes and differing levels of regulation. Read the rest of this entry »

By Sara Hooker

Sporting events have traditionally been a source of catharsis for the nation-state. The 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing was like prom for the girl who had finally removed her braces, as China showed off the eclectic economic mix which had taken it to dizzying new heights of wealth. The World Cup this year in South Africa showed a host nation with a truly hopeless soccer team but a more valid story; a country emerging from the after effects of apartheid as a blossoming economic power.

Of course, the role of the debutante nation-state is not always easy. Greece struggled to organize the 2004 Summer Olympics in time, running massively over budget and saved only by the formidable Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. The games themselves were a success but the fundamental issues within the Olympic committee; corruption, logistical delays and incoherence in government seemed to indicate greater underlying issues which rippled the economic system.

Looking at the latest example of international games, the 2010 Commonwealth Games currently underway in Delhi, India, we may again question what these games say about the economy of the host nation. So far the verdict is discouraging. The games themselves have been ill attended with empty stadiums dominating the landscape and heavy criticism about the state of facilities, particularly the Athletes’ village. This is all against an estimated sunk cost of $2.8 billion, making it the most expensive Commonwealth Games in history.

What does this say about India’s future as an emerging economic power? Read the rest of this entry »

USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah held a conversation with David Lane, President and CEO of ONE, on global development opportunities and challenges on the eve of the Millennium Development Goals summit. A great overview of the U.S. approach to the MDGs and development– Check it out! (Thanks to MFAN for pointing it out!)

AIDemocracy staff and the student MDG champions will be at the MCC 2010 summit from September 17th-19th. Send us your comments and questions, and we’ll answer them here!


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