The QDDR on USAID and the GHI: A Bridge to Nowhere?

December 22, 2010

The early Christmas gift from the State Department of a 200+ page Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) was unwrapped several times over and inspected by its many recipients in the development and diplomacy communities. The “Made in DC” review is a 100% American product finely crafted by some of the best American women and men (see pages 214-215) in the U.S.G. to assess the performance of the U.S.’ development and diplomatic efforts.  Secretary Clinton has matched President  Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive vision with this practical review to ensure that development is indeed elevated in U.S foreign policy, along with the U.S’ diplomatic and defense efforts.A flurry of commenters and bloggers took to the world wide web to praise the arrival of the first ever QDDR and at the same time to chasten the QDDR team for not tackling some issues with clarity (see here and here for example ).  One such issue is the leadership of the largest development initiative— global health.  In response to the draft QDDR my colleague Connie Veillette and I wrote that USAID should lead the GHI, and that if benchmarks were established to prepare USAID to take charge, these should be transparent and time bound.So, where did the final QDDR come out on this?Time Bound: Check. By 2012Transparent: Check. All 10 benchmarks are listed in Appendix 2, in the last 3 pages of the documentWhat was not expected was a somewhat arbitrary list of ten benchmarks that are meant to bring USAID to the point that it can lead the GHI.  I read through these a few times and I’m still not sure that we have clarity on a few issues:

  1. Why were these particular benchmarks selected? What experience (from PEPFAR, for example) has informed this set of benchmarks?  A footnote in the Appendix mentions that “In meeting all of these benchmarks, USAID is building upon the successful PEPFAR interagency model..”  but fails to define what this model is and why it was successful.
  2. Is USAID already doing some of these activities? It is perhaps the case that USAID is further along on some these benchmarks than others.
  3. And what about the other agencies involved in meeting these benchmarks? USAID will be assessed against benchmarks that involve other agencies, so these agencies will have to play well with USAID.“While the benchmarks below are directed at the measures USAID will undertake to assume leadership of the Initiative, it is incumbent upon each of the agencies implementing GHI to support implementation of these standards and foster a culture supportive of interagency work including through the development and provision of employee incentives for interagency collaboration.”But what are the incentives for the State Department and CDC, for example, to enable USAID to achieve readiness in two years? Will they be assessed for their roles in the interagency process?  After all, USAID can only lead those who want to or are incentivized to be led!
Maybe the metrics for these benchmarks that the Operations Committee (the USAID Administrator, the Global AIDS Coordinator, and the Director of the CDC) still need to decide will help to give us some sense of where USAID is and where it needs to go to lead the GHI. Until then it seems like we might be riding a Bridge to Nowhere.


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