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Strategy Tracker Update: USAID Publishes Two New Policies

USAID is moving full steam ahead in its efforts to hammer out Agency-wide policy guidelines with two new reports: a Counter-Trafficking in Persons policy and a Gender Equality and Female Empowerment policy. As part of our USAID Monitor Strategy Tracker, I’ve dissected the documents to determine whether the Agency’s Bureau of Policy Planning and Learning (PPL) is living up to its promise to rewire the USAID policymaking process.

Getting It Right: USAID and the President’s Malaria Initiative

This is a joint post with Victoria Fan.

While PEPFAR and the Global Health Initiative (GHI) have dominated the global health community’s attention over the past few years, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) has largely flown under the radar. Surprisingly little had been written about the PMI; still the few available materials painted a reasonably positive picture. But just this month, the PMI released the results of an external evaluation which confirms what we’ve long suspected: PMI is doing a remarkably good job and generating “value for money” in U.S. global health efforts. Such results are all the more impressive in light of the common criticisms of USAID past and present – that it is ineffective, incompetent, and hampered by a complex and arcane bureaucracy. The PMI is a USAID success story that helps validate its ongoing efforts to reform and rebuild into the U.S.’s premier development agency.

Originally conceived in 2005 as a five-year, $1.2 billion scale-up of America’s malaria control efforts, the PMI was extended and expanded by the 2008 Lantos-Hyde Act, receiving $625 million in funding for FY2011. While its funding pales in comparison to PEPFAR, which received almost $7 billion for the same period, the PMI is among the largest global donors for malaria, aiming to halve the burden of malaria for 70 percent of at-risk populations in sub-Saharan Africa. Led by USAID under a U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator, the PMI is jointly implemented with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Clinton Defends International Affairs Budget on the Hill

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton withstood a grueling marathon of Congressional committee hearings in defense of the FY2013 international affairs budget request. As expected, the briefings ran the gamut of U.S. priorities in national security and foreign policy, touching on everything from U.S. engagement in the frontline states to crises in Egypt, Iran, and Syria, to cuts to PEPFAR and procurement reform.

Up Next: Secretary Clinton Budget Hearings

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will testify this week before four separate congressional committees on the FY13 president’s budget request for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. The hearings will likely run the gamut of U.S. priorities in national security and foreign policy (all through the lens of budget austerity) and can be expected to hone in on hot button issues like Afghanistan, the Arab spring, and family planning.

Senegal: No Country for MCC?

Senegal, once a stable democracy, is on shaky ground as it approaches controversial presidential elections this weekend. President Abdoulaye Wade’s arguably unconstitutional bid for a third term is sparking protests and violence. Meanwhile, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)—whose raison d’etre is to work with just and democratic governments—maintains a $540 million, five-year development package in the country.

MCC Country Changes: Good Approach, Uneven Application

If a Millennium Challenge Corporation country changes income groups and no one is around to give it a compact, does it make a sound? In FY2010, the MCC adopted a useful approach to evaluate countries that transition from low income country (LIC) to lower middle income country (LMIC) status. But recent history suggests the approach is only being applied to countries already in the compact pipeline.

FY2013 MDB Budget: Stay the Course

The Obama administration’s FY2013 budget request may be a mixed bag for the overall international affairs budget, but its message on U.S. engagement in the multilateral development banks (MDBs) is clear: stay the course.

Magic 8 Ball on MCC’s Budget: Outlook Not So Good

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) shook the budget Magic 8 Ball and got a new response this year: outlook not so good. The administration requested $898.2 million for the MCC in FY2013, a decent number given today’s budget pressures and the same level appropriated in the FY2011 omnibus and FY2012 megabus.  Despite this, I’m concerned Congress will make further cuts and puzzled that, while the MCC leads U.S. development rhetoric, it continues to get short shrift in the budget.

Fake Aid

This is a joint post with Justin Sandefur

Winning hearts and minds is a key part of the US Military’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, and a major rationale for USAID’s $15 billion investment in the country. This strategy rests on Secretary Clinton’s vision that defense, development and diplomacy are closely linked, mutually reinforcing goals -- a win-win-win foreign policy love triangle.

Some development experts, channeling their inner Dr. Phil, have been skeptical of this model. But much of the industry has been won over by the lure of Pentagon-sized budgets for real aid projects serving real development goals like rural development and girls’ education.

Development Budget Nuggets and Some Cautions

The President’s much anticipated 2013 budget was released yesterday.  My initial reaction is that the request is a responsible one given the political dynamics of budget austerity.  There are some good examples of better matching resources to objectives, although I still believe country allocations have not been scrubbed well enough.

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