Saturday, October 27, 2012

International Development Assistance Ecosystem of the USA

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has published a new white paper on US international development assistance strategy (link here).  An extract of the introduction is below:

Since the end of the Cold War, the method by which the United States delivers foreign aid to the developing world has changed considerably. During this time, as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) saw large-scale staff reductions coupled with an increase in programs, a large base of U.S for-profit and nonprofit organizations grew up to implement projects and programs in the developing world. Although the budgetary situation reversed beginning in 2002, staffing levels at USAID remained low and a need to engage the U.S. implementer community continues. 

Concurrently, a broader discussion occurred over the effectiveness of development assistance by major donors. This effort, which resulted in the Paris Declaration of 2005 and later agreements at Accra in 2008 and Busan in 2011, enshrined the notion of country ownership—that the developing world must drive its priorities to ensure sustainability. The Obama administration launched its USAID Forward agenda to re-establish USAID as the premier development agency in the world. A central aspect of this agenda are reforms designed to reduce the Agency’s dependence on contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements with U.S. development implementers and shift to a greater use of government to government support and local organizations.

The report argues that the current U.S. ecosystem of international development assistance should be treated as a strategic asset that plays an important role in meeting U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives. As with all systems, it can and should be improved; however, it should be strengthened, not weakened. This system, while imperfect, delivers a level of accountability and transparency for the U.S. government that is vital to continued political support for foreign assistance. 

The development implementers must do more to evolve to meet the changing nature of how the U.S. government sees development and the broader trends in the field. However, there are significant risks associated with USAID’s proposed reforms, which, if fully implemented, may not achieve the results desired.

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