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.
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Earlier this month the US Treasury’s top international official announced at a congressional hearing that he would like to see the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) “wound down.” Scratching beneath GAFSP’s surface, there are good reasons to be concerned about the potential loss of this particular trust fund. And for those very reasons, it seems unlikely that the other GAFSP donors will be so quick to follow the US lead.
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.
The US Department of the Interior announced last week that the United States would no longer seek to comply with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international multi-stakeholder organization that aims to increase revenue transparency and accountability in natural resource extraction. The move—while disappointing—is not altogether unexpected. And sadly, it will put the United States further behind the curve when it comes to corporate transparency.
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.
One form of soft power is concrete enough. That is, it’s literally concrete. And by a measure of bricks and mortar, it’s clear that the United States is rapidly losing the soft power game to China. In fact, the contrast between the two countries on display this week in Washington is startling.
In Congress, support for aid is often bipartisan, and the seriousness and quality of thinking about aid reform is often very high. Case in point on both fronts is new legislation introduced by US Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) that would create the architecture and principles for a policy review and assessment of US contributions to multilateral institutions.
The upcoming USAID-led Evidence Day on September 28 at the Ronald Reagan Building (part of Global Innovation Week) provides a perfect opportunity for Administrator Green to spell out his plans to prioritize the role of evidence at USAID. In a new CGD Note, Advancing the Evidence Agenda at USAID, Amanda Glassman and I offer some suggestions.
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.