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November 18, 2010
Press Office: 202-712-4320
Public Information: 202-712-4810

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!

A follow up post to the one below, also from the Food First blog.  A little long, but well worth it.

Africans Face Competing Visions of Agricultural Development at Critical Juncture
Posted May 20th, 2010 by rjonasse
By Richard Jonasse, Food First

Aid Collage

A contest of competing visions over the future of Agriculture is playing out across Sub-Saharan Africa. Farmers’ organizations are lining up against an aid regime that threatens to swamp smallholders with purported “solutions” to which these farmers have not assented and do not desire.

Read the rest of this entry »

“Cause you can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery” – Paul Schickler, President of Pioneer Hi-Bred

This week I had the privilege of attending the release of Feed the Future (FTF), the Obama Administration’s strategy to address global hunger and food insecurity. Approximately 300 senior leaders from the Administration, Congress, and the business, policy, and NGO communities packed into the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel to hear USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah unveil the Administration’s plan.

With more than a billion people – one sixth of the world’s population – now suffering from chronic hunger, the U.S. is stepping up its game. At the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy last summer, President Obama pledged $3.5 billion over three years (to be leveraged in conjunction with the more than $18.5 billion pledged by fellow heads of state) to “scale up” U.S. investments and impact towards achieving Millennium Development Goal #1: Eradicating Extreme Hunger and Poverty.

Some of us have expressed skepticism with respect to the Administration’s initiative and the Global Food Security Act in the past: namely with respect to money earmarked for corporate biotech research and U.S. investments being funneled through “multi-lateral” institutions such as the World Bank.

While those concerns remain, I want to take a moment to highlight the points of this plan that deserve applause:

  • FTF puts addressing global hunger and poverty back at the forefront of the US foreign policy agenda
  • FTF supports country-led strategies, supporting effective governments and active citizens’ efforts in determining which goals to pursue and how to allocate resources

Read the rest of this entry »

Peace is something that mankind has strived for since our ancestors left the swamps and began to build civilizations. It is what prompted pilgrims to leave Europe in hopes for a new start and huddled masses to chance everything for something better. It is the creed of our United Nations and it is a value in the lives of every American. But the question is how do we find the road to peace? Is it the UN? Is it through our Government? Is it in academia, the Peace Corps, churches, special panels, or non-profits? The road to peace is simpler than we think; it is You and I, who believe that peace comes when individuals gather for a greater cause than themselves.  We believe that peace is something that is a right to all. You and I know (and do not merely believe) that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at chains of slavery to others. Peace is something that must be given and must be able to live on its own – and that is where we come in. Individuals are the key to the road to peace.

The road to peace is long and at times it seems difficult, but it is the drive of individuals pushing forward, that the cause is greater than their self.  There are American civilians in Afghanistan working at the International School of Kabul, , working to help give a better education to the future of that country and through that education, build peace.  I have the honor of friendship with one of the people there who has shared with me the following:

“I enjoy my work well enough and God proves Himself faithful time and time again. Really to watch God love these people who have known nothing but war and death for generations is incredible and humbling. Some of our students lost families to assassination. The pain in their eyes is so terrible yet they come to school because there is peace and the freedom to find joy. It’s such a privilege to witness God’s unwavering love through pain and tears. The horribleness that we do seldom see seems insignificant to what we see every day….hope for Afghanistan.”

I have also had the privilege to know a friend that attends a church from Massachusetts who adopted a town in South America to build a school and a better future for its people.  It is here that the road to peace is built, through the work of individual people. Read the rest of this entry »

Post by Alex Simon, George Washington University

When Lily first invited me to a discussion on foreign assistance reform on Capitol Hill, I must admit my expectations were low.  Not only had I come to think of government approaches to global development as weakened by their bureaucratic processes and special interests, but looking briefly at the history of attempted foreign aid reform, there hasn’t been a lot of progress.

To my surprise, the meeting, convened by House Foreign Affairs Committee Senior Staffer Diana Ohlbaum last Tuesday, was filled with optimism and a sense that the time to modernize US foreign assistance has finally come.

The topic of discussion:  “Discussion Paper #1: Development Assistance Reforms” released by Chairman Berman’s committee staff on October 6th of this year.  Currently, foreign assistance priorities are driven by Washington, not by the needs of the countries receiving the cash and long-term development success is compromised by annual appropriations and Congressional earmarks.

The paper outlines 10 reforms directed at fixing these bureaucratic barriers and balancing what are often perceived as competing objectives.  According to the paper, the following reforms could

“Provide greater support for country-owned plans while serving U.S. national interests; allow greater input from USAID field missions while advancing policy priorities; offer greater flexibility while demanding greater accountability; respond to areas of greatest need while rewarding good performance and addressing security threats; and achieve a measurable impact that leads to sustained economic growth.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Decades of research leave little doubt about the vital role of women in global development. While women often bear poverty’s heaviest burdens, focused investment in that portion of the population has proved a near-surefire way to build healthier, better educated, more prosperous communities. Last month, the Global Resources and Opportunities for Women to Thrive Act (GROWTH Act, S.1425) was introduced in the Senate. This legislation is an exciting opportunity to ensure that US foreign assistance and development efforts adequately (and smartly) invest in the power of women in the developing world.

Though women comprise a disproportionate percentage of the world’s extremely poor, studies have demonstrated that women who are given extra income are more likely than men to invest it in their children, improving the family’s health, lowering child mortality and malnutrition rates, and boosting education rates. Women’s successes in the microfinance industry over the last 30-40 years have been breathtaking as well. The GROWTH Act proposes much wider administrative and financial support for such initiatives, including microenterprise, improved land and property rights for women, more access to formal employment, skills trainings, and focused investments from trade (the latter four components have been widely absent from general microfinance initiatives).

CDTD cooking class

Somali refugees attending a cooking class that will enable them to secure better jobs and earn higher wages

I’ve had the luck to witness the results of such initiatives in Kenya, and am now very much a believer in the power of women in development. I spent several months in early 2008 interning at the Centre for Domestic Training and Development, an organization led by an inspiring Kenyan woman to help other impoverished women thrive. Edith Murogo, the Centre’s founder, is a wife and mother who recognized a problem in her community and began working to solve it, raising money slowly to establish and expand her organization. Today she is one of the most well-known and respected social entrepreneurs in Kenya.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday, I barely managed to squeeze into the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on “The Case for Foreign Aid Reform: Foreign Aid and Development in a New Era.”

The room was packed with young people, and spectators overflowed into the hallway. Senator Robert Menendez jokingly asked Dr. Jeffrey Sachs if he had invited his university classes to attend. As pleased as I was that the Senator noticed our presence, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he misunderstood our reason for being there—we may be interning on the Hill or for advocacy organizations in D.C. this summer, but we are also voters, taxpayers, and activists. We packed into the SFRC hearing like sardines because we are interested, informed, engaged, and passionate about politics, not for extra credit.

The truth is, older generations still fail to take young people seriously. It’s the fault of both sides; Menendez needs to realize the significance of young people’s presence at that hearing, and we students need to make more calls, write more letters, cast more votes, attend more meetings, and raise our voices outside Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and the blog world.  The social networking sites our parents hate may serve as a valuable tool to connect us with the rest of the world, but affiliating with groups or causes is nothing more than mere affiliation if we don’t use that network to act. As more and more of us study abroad and gain first-hand perspectives on the world’s challenges, we’re exposed to innovative and collaborative approaches to global development and security. Young people packed the SFRC hearing because we want to know whether our government—the country with the richest economy in the world—is pulling its weight and supporting these solutions.

Wednesday’s SFRC hearing was designed to address this question:  Are U.S. foreign assistance programs working?

Read the rest of this entry »

President Obama isn’t letting go of the Bush administration’s obsession with defense spending.

Over the past month and a half, we’ve seen our new President alternate between faltering new kid on the block to strong, progressive policy maverick. His foreign policy agenda, especially with respect to foreign aid, fall somewhere in between his dual personalities of tired novice and bold social entrepreneur.

One recent development that has many international aid and foreign policy experts alarmed is Obama’s apparent continuation of sky-high defense spending. A recent article from Foreign Policy magazine reveals the economic downturn has not precluded a quickening arms race, and neither has Obama’s election into office. The magazine claims Obama has released budget figures that allocate a whopping 534 billion for the Department of Defense; Obama’s pentagon budget reportedly falls 1.9 percent above last year’s figures, adjusting for inflation. The United State’s defense expenditures still violently exceed those of China, India, Russia, and Iran, and greatly exceed funding allocation for development agencies such as USAID.

So how does this relate to foreign aid?

In the past decade, the Butroopssh administration utilized the military to conduct many foreign assistance missions, a dangerously inadequate model for aid distribution. For instance, the Bush Administration’s Commander Emergency Response Program authorized the military to provide humanitarian relief to citizens in Afghanistan and Iraq, blurring the distinction between aid workers and army officers. The 2006 National Defense Authorization act contained provisions spearheading joint Pentagon-State Department development missions. Similar military/aid ventures have been conducted in Africa as well.

It is up to Obama to dismantle this misguided, militaristic approach to foreign aid that alienates, incenses, and demoralizes civilians, not to mention fails to establish strong civil societies and solid infrastructure. According to Emira Woods, of Foreign Policy In Focus, allowing for such a fine line between humanitarian assistance and military meddling can create serious complications. While some argue that military presence ensures a peaceful and secure environment in which other goals of economic development, health, education and democracy can be met, Woods warns that “making military force a higher priority than development and diplomacy creates an imbalance that can encourage irresponsible regimes to use U.S. source military might to oppress their own people.”  For further articulation of this debate with regards to AFRICOM, or U.S. Africa Command, check out this transcript from a January episode of “Straight Talk Africa.”

President Obama ran on a platform which championed diplomacy and development as stronger, smarter tools than defense.  But if the numbers don’t match the rhetoric, where’s the change?

Last night I was told that my stances on U.S. foreign policy are un-“American.”  While I personally believe that citizenship is an arbitrarily created concept and, therefore, does not automatically warrant greater attention than human solidarity, there is an economic logic to my critique that surpasses boundaries of nationality.

Take the issue of U.S. food aid.  In the most recent edition of Foreitimor_cpgn Policy Magazine, Helene Gayle, President and CEO of CARE USA, argues that U.S. food aid policy does “more harm than good.”  What she means is this:  under current U.S. food aid policy, the majority of food given to developing countries in crisis must be purchased from U.S. farmers and then shipped overseas on U.S. carriers in order to be distributed or sold at its final destination.  The problem: in an effort to ensure benefit for American workers and corporations into U.S. food aid policy, the U.S. Agency for International Development spends more on shipping and administration (65 cents on every dollar) than it does on providing actual food to the starving populations we aim to help.

Gayle points out that “the generosity of the U.S. government and its citizens would be far better served if more food aid came in the form of cash.”  Such a system would not only give humanitarian aid agencies more flexibility to respond more efficiently and appropriately, but would free up funds to be spend locally, stimulating production with developing countries towards stronger, more self-sufficient economies.

Is building stronger, more self-sufficient economies and communities abroad not the end goal of U.S. foreign assistance?  Some might say, “Well sure, but now you’ve cut out the American worker altogether.”  While this is true, the sacrifice is short-term.  We will spend less money in the long-term on foreign aid if we invest now in supporting developing countries as they build their own infrastructure and industries.  Countries with these qualities make better trade partners, a relationship which is and should be designed to create American jobs.

Besides, isn’t standing by inefficient programs simply because they create jobs something that the U.S. criticizes socialist governments for?


August 2020

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