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USAID plays an outsize role in advancing global development progress. Working in more than 120 countries, the agency manages the world’s biggest bilateral aid portfolio, totaling around $20 billion a year across a wide range of sectors, including health, education, economic growth, democracy promotion and humanitarian relief. CGD’s rigorous analysis of the agency over the years has made us a go-to source for advice and ideas for how to make US foreign assistance more effective and evidence-based.
This week, the White House unveiled the first National Security Strategy of the Trump administration. As always, we were eager to see how the strategy considered the role of development. While there’s a lot to unpack in the 68-page document, here are few things that caught our eye.
Domestic revenue mobilization (DRM) seems set to be a priority area for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) under Administrator Mark Green. The challenge has been in tracking US (and other donors’) support for DRM activities. While the data only covers projects in 2015 so far, it contributes to a better understanding of what US aid agencies are doing in the DRM space and where they are working. If the United States is looking to step up assistance in this area, it will be instructive to understand the landscape of current efforts.
Speculation about the future of the State Department’s Population, Refugees, and Migration bureau has swirled following the Trump administration’s moves to curtail refugee admissions, and a proposal to eliminate the bureau and distribute its components to the Department of Homeland Security and USAID. But I fear that diminishing or removing an empowered humanitarian voice from the State Department weakens humanitarian priorities in US policy writ large. And I believe there are ways to address legitimate concerns about the existing structure without dismantling PRM.
The four main recommendations of the Redesign Consensus: A Plan for US Assistance are to empower USAID as the lead independent aid agency, to create a full-fledged development finance institution, to establish a global development and humanitarian strategy, and to upgrade systems to better manage personnel, procurement, information, and evidence. This proposal concretely advances the dialogue between Congress, the administration, and civil society on reforming the US development architecture. It captures the main conclusions of a series of robust discussions among a diverse group of leaders, experts, and practitioners—and it represents a bold and comprehensive vision for a more coherent and modern development architecture.
The very same week that USAID and the Department of State submitted a joint redesign plan to the Office of Management and Budget, the coauthors of four recent reform proposals packed the CGD stage for a timely debate. Fragmentation, inclusive economic growth, humanitarian assistance and fragile states, global health, and country graduation were a few of the big questions that panel members grappled with as they authored their reports.
This year is a milestone for Local Solutions. At USAID Forward’s inception in 2010, then-administrator Raj Shah committed the Agency to directing 30 percent of Mission program funds to local entities by FY2015, from a baseline of 9.7 percent in FY2010. Spoiler alert: USAID didn’t hit its target this year.
Yesterday the US Senate voted to confirm Gayle Smith as USAID’s new administrator. Despite the rapidly expiring clock on this administration, filling USAID’s top post is critical for both the agency and for US leadership in global crises and development efforts abroad. The Syrian refugee crisis shows no sign of abating, just last week Liberia found new Ebola cases, and 700 million people still live on less than $1.25 each day. In all of these challenges (among many others), USAID is the leading US actor for response, prevention, and results.
How do you make the case for US foreign aid to an Administration that has proposed slashing it? That was the task for Mark Suzman, Chief Strategy Officer and president of Global Policy and Advocacy for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, when he recently accompanied Bill Gates to meetings at the White House. In this week's CGD podcast, Suzman gives us two very different versions of the fight against global poverty and disease—the perception and the reality. At an event called Financing the Future, he joined CGD experts Masood Ahmed, Amanda Glassman, and Antoinette Sayeh to discuss ways the development community can better convey their results.
“Country ownership” has become a buzzword in the development community, but what does it really mean? A country ownership approach has multiple interpretations to different actors, within different sectors, and for different countries. It’s time to unpack this rhetoric and bring understanding and evidence to the catch phrase.