Until Tuesday, the PSD was just PSD — a mysterious acronym rumored to outline what the Obama Administration thought United States foreign assistance policy should look like. But with the leak of the draft Presidential Study Directive-7, we now know a little more about what the administration has in mind. We know that the administration was serious when it said it was going to take a closer look at U.S. foreign assistance. And it was serious when it said that development is a key pillar of U.S. foreign policy.
In the months before this administration took office, many of us in the development world, including the Global Health Council, wrote and talked extensively about the need to bring more coherence and coordination to U.S. foreign assistance. Many had called for development to be elevated to cabinet level. This paper answers those pleas. It very strongly outlines a more coordinated, coherent approach to U.S. foreign assistance and recommends that development priorities should guide diplomacy. By recommending that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator be a part of National Security Council meetings “as appropriate,” the administration has elevated the role of U.S. development programs.
Now that the principles have been articulated, they have to be developed further. The call for a unified development strategy is welcomed. But how will this unified strategy reconcile past initiatives and newer initiatives? Two new or expanded initiatives have already preceded this document — the Global Health Initiative (GHI) and the Food Security Initiative. The document makes no mention of these early efforts, particularly the GHI, which will serve as a pilot test for a new business model of foreign assistance. The principles outlined in the GHI are a strong starting point and should be incorporated into the development strategy. And we hope that the strong reference to research and innovation in this draft PSD is translated into reality and more strongly incorporated into the GHI.
These steps are urgently needed, as the call for coordination among U.S. foreign assistance programs has yet to be followed in practice. For example, the GHI and the Food Security Initiative are moving on separate tracks and not linked to each other. The first step towards a unified approach might be to create synergies between these two efforts.
Developing country ownership of U.S. foreign assistance programs is a part of this new business model but needs to be better defined. A true country-driven approach will not be based solely on the needs identified by country governments but will draw on the strengths and expertise found in other sectors of the country, particularly of civil society and community-based organizations.
While it still has a long way to go, the draft PSD document is an excellent starting point for redefining development policy in a more coherent, coordinated and results-based way. Let’s hope that the principles outlined are translated into reality.
Here’s the take of President Carol Peasley of CEDPA, a GHC member organization, on the Huffington Post.