Posted by: drollason | 10/20/2009

The Future of Development Assistance

WASHINGTON – Representatives from non-governmental organizations, corporations, various U.S. government agencies and Capitol Hill packed into the Grand Ballroom at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., for the first public dialogue with the leadership of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).  The panel discussion was moderated by Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent for the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and gave insight into the reasoning for the review and the process for civil society engagement.  Although those in the ballroom and watching online engaged in a productive dialogue with Deputy Secretaryof State Jack Lew, State Department Director of Policy and Planning Anne Marie Slaughter, and Acting USAID Administrator Alonzo Fulgham, many questions still linger.  As one audience member noted, we are still waiting to find out who the next USAID administrator will be, presumably a key player in the implementation of the U.S. diplomacy and development that was being discussed.

For now, perhaps it’s best to focus on what we have heard from U.S. development and diplomacy leaders.  In his keynote address, Lew said that the purpose of the QDDR is to elevate diplomacy and development in such a way that they work better together, organize the U.S. government (specifically the State Department and USAID) so that they can better engage and work with non-state actors and move away from the mentality of emergency funding and make U.S. development assistance efforts sustainable.  According to both Lew and Slaughter, the line between development and diplomacy is already beginning to blur with the advent of interagency teams within the QDDR. 

Integration of development and diplomacy might be for the better in the eyes of the State Department, but there appears to be serious concern among the development community that integration may mean that the State Department would absorb USAID.  In response to a specific question on the issue, Ann Marie Slaughter stated that the QDDR was not about the State Department absorbing USAID, but rather about building a stronger, much better resourced USAID, better integrated within the bodies of decision making.  Some might still be skeptical, but one thing is certain and was emphasized by Fulgham.  It is imperative that USAID’s capacity as a development agency is increased so that it is able to bring countries along the development continuum, provide a space for their economic growth and ultimately their sustainability. 

It is clear that USAID is in desperate need of resources to support the kind of capacity that is being discussed, but it’s still unclear where those resources will come from.  As one audience member asked, “Is the Pentagon (Department of Defense) ready to share resources with the State Department and USAID?”  Fulgham discussed the possibility of public private partnerships to help support USAID’s efforts and all around better justification of the international affairs budget, also known as the  “150 account.” 

According to Slaughter, the results of the QDDR are scheduled to be released by January for the 2012 budget process and will ultimately be legislated.  It’s still unclear how the QDDR, the House and Senate efforts to reform assistance and the Administration’s Presidential Study Directive to conduct a whole-of-government review of U.S. global development policy will be coordinated, but the leadership on the panel assured the audience they were all in communication.

Immediately following the panel discussion, the audience broke into various working groups to offer their input into the future of U.S. development assistance.  The leadership made it very clear that they want to hear from civil society, specifically through the working groups and sub-working groups as the QDDR unfolds.

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  1. By all means, give help to humans, not guns in soldeirs’ hands. And educate the young, girls as well as boys.

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