Changing organizational culture to embrace evidence and its use in decision-making is a long, hard slog. Over the last decade, USAID has made progress in that journey and—in many ways—has outperformed many federal agencies on fulfilling certain evidence requirements. But room for improvement remains.
CGD Policy Blogs
Next week, Atul Gawande, the prominent author, surgeon, researcher, and—most recently—presidential nominee to lead USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his nomination hearing to serve as Assistant Administrator.
USAID Administrator Samantha Power appeared before House and Senate authorizing committees late last week to discuss the agency’s FY22 budget. It wasn’t surprising to hear Administrator Power make a case for strong US global engagement—including robust aid investments and continued commitment to humanitarian response. But she also demonstrated—in a number of important ways—a clear-eyed focus on development effectiveness. Below we highlight several issues we were glad to see receive attention.
John Norris’ fascinating new book The Enduring Struggle: The History of the US Agency for International Development, provides an authoritative history of US foreign assistance from the end of the Second World War until today. It is packed with anecdotes and quotes from people who were working on projects and working in the halls of Washington (although that many anecdotes and quotes in 300 pages was tough on those of us vainly resisting the transition to bifocals). However it is the book’s conclusion, in particular, that should be required reading for those in Washington who oversee America’s assistance programs.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently advanced the Global Learning Loss Assessment Act. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation shines a light on the critical issue of learning loss—and the impacts of disrupted education more broadly—as schools around the world closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a quick overview of the evidence to date—and why it’s important that lawmakers (and USAID) are casting a watchful eye on global learning and inequality.
Governments, impact investors, and philanthropists are increasingly looking for innovative ways to address tricky development challenges. USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV)—which celebrated its 10-year anniversary last year—was set up to do just that.
These proposals would cost money (and so the need to work with Congress), but all are tied to America’s strategic interests and all would help the world exit the COVID pandemic and global recession with greater speed and resiliency.
Not only is Ambassador Power a high-profile pick who will bring clout and deep foreign policy experience to USAID, but the announcement itself also conveyed a clear message that the Biden administration is keen to elevate global development. Here are some of the priorities Ambassador Power has highlighted and how they will translate to US development policy.
Whether a COVID-induced expansion of cash transfers can set the stage for increased use of cash as a broader development tool remains to be seen.
While the spread of COVID-19 overshadowed the launch of the first digital strategy from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in early April, the pandemic has also highlighted its significance by calling attention to the importance of access to digital technology and accelerating the global trend towards increased reliance on digital systems.