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Is USAID Being Set Up to Fail on the GHI?

Since the launch of the Obama administration’s $63 billion Global Health Initiative (GHI) in May 2009, we have followed its ups and downs with great enthusiasm (see for example: here, here, here and here), trying to better understand its structure and role within the U.S. government’s complicated global health architecture. One recurring question we have continually raised has focused on leadership: who, exactly, was to be in charge of this massive undertaking? Who would be accountable for meeting the initiative’s eight high-level targets and adhering to its seven guiding principles?

Last December, the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) appeared to put those questions to rest. According to the 200+ page document, USAID would assume leadership of the GHI by September 2012, contingent upon fulfilling a set of 10 benchmarks to demonstrate its capacity. But upon closer inspection of the GHI over the last year, the QDDR provision only seems to have generated a new set of questions that are more difficult to resolve. While there are no easy answers, the administration should consider these issues as it thinks through the tough decision of pulling the GHI together under one leader and demonstrating success by meeting its targets: