Below are articles on development happenings, issues, etc. If you have articles that you believe would be of general interest to the UAA membership, please submit them here.
- New! What Antony Blinken’s nomination hearing says about US foreign aid (Devex by Adva Saldinger, January 20, 2021) — Antony Blinken, the nominee to be the next secretary of state, said at his nomination hearing Tuesday that development programs should be “front and center” and “not an afterthought,” along with diplomacy in U.S. foreign policy. “Whether it’s a global pandemic, whether it is a changing climate, whether it’s the spread of bad weapons, you name it, all of these things demand international cooperation and coordination,” Blinken said at the hearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He also stated “Our charge is to put democracy and human rights back at the center of American foreign policy.” While much of the hearing focused on broader foreign policy issues, including China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea, Blinken was asked about a number of development challenges as well. He said that it is important for development programs to be “fully and thoroughly integrated into our foreign policy,” and are delivered effectively. Based on the hearing, the nomination seemed likely to proceed quickly to approval, though there were a few Republican lawmakers who expressed reservations and pressed Blinken, particularly on his record in past conflicts.
(Blinken’s comments cover 11 issues: Global COVID-19 response; Yemen; Northern Triangle; Democracy; Human Rights; Corruption; Fragility; the Horn of Africa; Staffing; LFBTQI; and Climate Finance. )
- New! The Boogaloo Bois Prepare for Civil War. (The Atlantic by Michael J. Mooney, January 15, 2021) — In the menagerie of right-wing populist groups, the boogaloo bois stand out for their fashion, for their great love of memes, and, to put it plainly, for the incoherence of their ideology. Which is saying a lot, considering that the riot at the Capitol last Wednesday featured partisans of the long-gone country of South Vietnam, Falun Gong adherents, end-times Christians, neo-Nazis, QAnon believers, a handful of Orthodox Jews, and Daniel Boone impersonators. The boogaloos weren’t a huge presence in that mob. But according to federal officials, the attack on the Capitol has galvanized them and could inspire boogaloo violence in D.C. and around the country between now and Inauguration Day. The FBI warned earlier that boogaloos could launch attacks in state capitols this Sunday, January 17. The boogaloos don’t appear interested in fighting for Donald Trump—they tend to despise him, mostly because they think he panders to the police. But for the past year, boogaloo bois all over the United States have been cheering on the country’s breakdown, waiting for the moment when their nihilistic memes would come to life and the country would devolve into bloody chaos.It’s hard to know how seriously to take the boogaloo threat. Some are likely just joking when they “shit-post” about shooting cops or “yeeting alphabet boys”—killing government law-enforcement agents. But others seem serious. They’ve already shown up heavily armed (and in their signature Hawaiian shirts) at protests and at state capitols. They’ve allegedly killed law-enforcement officers, talked about throwing Molotov cocktails at cops during the racial-justice protests this summer, and plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. They say they want a total reset of society, even if they haven’t thought very hard about what, exactly, should come next.Who are the boogaloo bois? And why do they want to start a civil war? I’ve spent the past few months trying to figure that out. Let’s start with what boogaloo isn’t. It isn’t, mainly, a white-supremacist organization, though there are some white-supremacist boogaloo bois. It isn’t a collection of Trump supporters ready to fight for the president, like, say, the Proud Boys. And despite the various attacks—planned or carried out—against police officers and government officials, boogaloo also isn’t a militia in any traditional sense of the word. It isn’t even really a movement.
- New! Biden fills out State Department team with Obama veterans (Associated Press By Mathew Lee, January 16, 2021) — President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday filled out his State Department team with a group of former career diplomats and veterans of the Obama administration, signaling his desire to return to a more traditional foreign policy after four years of uncertainty and unpredictability under President Donald Trump. Biden will nominate Wendy Sherman as deputy secretary of state and Victoria Nuland as undersecretary of state for political affairs — the second- and third-highest ranking posts, respectively. They were among the 11 officials announced to serve under the incoming secretary of state, Antony Blinken. The team “embodies my core belief that America is strongest when it works with our allies,” Biden said in a statement. He said he was confident “they will use their diplomatic experience and skill to restore America’s global and moral leadership. America is back.”
Among the others are:
—longtime Biden Senate aide Brian McKeon, to be deputy secretary of state for management. That deputy position has been vacant for some time and McKeon and Sherman are expected to share duties as the department’s No. 3 official.
—former senior diplomats Bonnie Jenkins and Uzra Zeya, to be under secretary of state for arms control and undersecretary of state of democracy and human rights, respectively.
—Derek Chollet, a familiar Democratic foreign policy hand, to be State Department counselor.
—former U.N. official Salman Ahmed, who also served as head of strategic planning in the Obama National Security Council, as director of policy planning.
—Suzy George, who was a senior aide to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, will be Blinken’s chief of staff.
—Ned Price, a former Obama NSC staffer and career CIA official who resigned in protest in the early days of the Trump administration, will serve as the public face of the department, taking on the role of spokesman.
—Jalina Porter, communications director for Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who is leaving Congress to work in the White House, will be Price’s deputy.
Price and Porter intend to return to the practice of holding daily State Department press briefings, officials said. Those briefings had been eliminated under the Trump administration.
—Jeffrey Prescott, a former national security aide when Biden was vice president, is Biden’s pick to be deputy ambassador to the United Nations, He would serve under U.N. envoy-designate Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Five of the 11 are either people of color or LGBTQ. Although most are not household names, all are advocates of multilateralism and many are familiar in Washington and overseas foreign policy circles. Their selections are a reflection of Biden’s intent to turn away from Trump’s transactional and often unilateral “America First” approach to international relations.
- New! USAID officials prepare for higher profile role under Samantha Power (Devex by Michael Igoe and Adva Saldinger ,13 January 2021) —President-elect Joe Biden’s announcement Wednesday that he plans to nominate Samantha Power to be administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development and elevate the position to the National Security Council has officials and experts hoping a leader with “star power” can help turn the page for an agency that has struggled in recent months. Power, formerly a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and member of the NSC, as well as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, would be among the highest-profile figures to ever occupy that role. “Samantha Power is a world-renowned voice of conscience and moral clarity — challenging and rallying the international community to stand up for the dignity and humanity of all people,” Biden said in a statement, adding that “her expertise and perspective will be essential as our country reasserts its role as a leader on the world stage.” The announcement comes after months of turmoil inside the U.S. foreign aid agency, which has seen morale suffer as a result of controversial appointments by President Donald Trump’s administration, leadership battles, and management problems. Inside and outside USAID, the move was met with hope that Power would be able to restore the agency’s standing and credibility. “In terms of star power, international chops, respect for USAID, and closeness with the rest of Biden’s cabinet, she’s an outstanding pick and I’m really looking forward to her arrival,” a current USAID official wrote to Devex. As the pandemic threw the world into disarray, the U.S. Agency for International Development found itself in the midst of its own political upheaval. Devex spoke to current and former officials about a year when USAID made headlines for the wrong reasons.“I do know there are legitimate concerns at her limited international development experience, and she has essentially no experience managing a vast complicated bureaucracy. She’ll need to surround herself with an all-star team and be able to discern which of USAID’s senior leaders will be helpful and which to sideline,” the official added. Career staffers at USAID are describing the pick as healing, inspirational, and bringing leadership, all of which “are just sorely needed at USAID right now,” said Erol Yayboke, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Yayboke said her leadership is the “most important initial take” but added that she will need to have a strong team around her that understands how the agency and its “antiquated” systems work.Some sources noted her standing as a member of Biden’s foreign policy inner circle could place greater demands on USAID’s programs and workforce. “USAID had better buckle up. She will certainly raise the profile of the agency, but there won’t be a lot of group hugs. I imagine she will get right down to business,” a former USAID official wrote to Devex. Biden’s decision to elevate the role of USAID administrator to a seat on the NSC was seen as particularly significant and a move that has been long advocated for by some in the development community. Sources also noted that Biden’s announcement came a week before his inauguration — perhaps the earliest a USAID administrator candidate has been revealed. “She won’t have to fight for a seat at the table, she will be a player from day one because of the respect that she has with other key members of the administration,” another current USAID official wrote to Devex.
- New! USAID Chief Plans to Block Last-Minute Push to Add Trump Loyalists (Foreign Policy by Column Lynch/Jack Detsch, January 13, 2021) — The acting deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development plans to block a last-minute push by Trump appointees to install political and religious allies in permanent federal jobs, a sign of how quickly the power of President Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters is evaporating in the wake of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by a Trump-inspired mob. Trump administration appointees at USAID planned to use their final days in power to install allies in permanent positions as a way to continue promoting a conservative social agenda in America’s premier development agency while rewarding loyalists. Trump loyalists throughout the federal government have been using the waning days of the presidency to secure permanent jobs for friends, allies, and ideological fellow travelers through a process known as burrowing. The effort followed the president’s issuance of an executive order in October 2020 that stripped job protections for federal workers engaged in “confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating,” making it far easier to fire career officials, creating openings that can be filled by political appointees. But the effort at USAID faced pushback from career administrators, including from Human Resources and the Office of Personnel Management, as well as acting Deputy Administrator John Barsa, the agency’s de-facto administrator, who signaled less than a day after Foreign Policy sent USAID a long list of questions that he intends to block the hiring effort.
New! How Samantha Power Can Restore USAID’s Crucial Role in US Foreign Policy — (Just Security by Ambassador Donald Steinberg, January 13, 2021– referenced in George Ingram’s DACOR presentation today) — USAID must also affirm its support for human rights, democracy, and marginalized populations such as women, people with disabilities, racial and religiousPresident-elect Joe Biden’s selection of former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power as his nominee to be the next administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development sends a clear message that international cooperation is back in the toolbox for America’s pursuit of an equitable, prosperous, and just world. The nomination of a respected former Cabinet member, the position’s elevation to the National Security Council, and the timing of the announcement among Biden’s first tier of nominations also reinvests USAID with the authority and influence to take its rightful place in U.S. foreign policy and development/humanitarian assistance circles.Power is smart, savvy, and ready to serve. Her international reputation as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a principled advocate of human rights and global justice, and a foreign policy thought leader was well-established even before she entered the Obama White House in 2009. In her next eight years at the National Security Council and the United Nations, she logged achievements in such areas as peacebuilding, conflict resolution, atrocity prevention, women’s empowerment, and LGBT+ rights, and helped develop new tools for multilateral diplomacy. For example, during her U.N. tenure, she helped negotiate and adopt the world’s most comprehensive and ambitious set of commitments to eliminating global poverty, the Sustainable Development Goals. Given the abandonment of the U.S. commitment to the SDGs under the current administration, Power is well-suited to handle a reverse in course. During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2013 to 2016, she helped build an effective coalition of 60 countries that proved critical to its containment. She travelled extensively to global hotspots and adopted a holistic approach linking national security to human security. Her U.N. experience and contacts also will be invaluable as the United States re-engages with the World Health Organization and partners in the Paris Climate Accord to address two of the most pressing global challenges: the COVID-19 response and climate change.Swift action on Power’s nomination is particularly important given the transition turmoil now facing USAID and other government agencies. USAID cannot afford the eight months it took for President Donald Trump’s USAID administrator, Mark Green, to take office in 2017, or the full year it took for President Barack Obama’s administrator, Rajiv Shah, to be sworn in. (See the full article to read further paragraphs re: the “Prospects for Confirmation” and “Armed with Humility.”)
- New! Biden to nominate Samantha Power to lead foreign aid agency —(NBC News by Andrea Mitchell, January 13, 2021) — Signaling a dramatic new direction for U.S. foreign assistance, President-elect Joe Biden is expected to announce Wednesday that he will nominate former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power to head the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to transition officials. Biden is also expected to enhance Power’s role by elevating the position to membership on the National Security Council. In a prepared statement obtained by NBC News, Biden called Power “a world-renowned voice of conscience and moral clarity.” “As USAID Administrator,” Biden said, “she will work with our partners to confront the Covid-19 pandemic, lift up vulnerable communities, fight for the value of every human being, and advance American ideals and interests around the globe.” If she is confirmed by the Senate, Power will have a great deal of rebuilding to do. Under President Donald Trump, the agency’s budget has been slashed and career development experts have been replaced by political appointees with little experience in the field.In the administration’s proposed budget last year, foreign aid and USAID funds were cut by 22 percent. Trump officials defended the cuts, saying they were looking to other countries to step up to global needs.
Trump’s budget also cut other State Department accounts for refugees, global health in the midst of a pandemic and other humanitarian programs, even though foreign aid totals less than 1 percent of the federal budget. Republicans and Democrats in Congress ended up rejecting the proposal, but development experts said the signal sent to the poorest countries had already left its mark. The administration has also been widely criticized for filling key slots at USAID with political appointees. The Friday after the 2020 election, the White House abruptly fired Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick, who had been confirmed by the Senate, telling her she had until the end of the day to clear out of her office. Officials offered no explanation of the firing to reporters, but had she not left, she would have automatically taken over from the Trump administration’s acting administrator of the agency, John Barsa, a political appointee, whose tenure as acting administrator was set to expire at midnight the same day under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. More recently, The Washington Post reported that USAID employees were left out when the federal government dispensed the first round of coronavirus vaccinations to the State Department last month. Although vaccine doses went to 1,100 State Department employees, none went to USAID until last week. Morale plummeted further after the attack on the Capitol when the agency’s White House liaison, former Trump campaign official Catharine O’Neill, tweeted in criticism of any Trump officials who were considering resigning. Axios also obtained audio of her declaring the week after the election: “The election is still happening. The Electoral College has not voted yet.”
- New! Audio of departing Trump appointee describes Capitol riot as largely peaceful, led by ‘a few violent people’ (Washington Post by Yeganeh Torbati, January 12, 2021) —A departing Trump administration political appointee at the nation’s leading foreign aid agency told staff on Tuesday that the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol was the work of “a few violent people,” and added “several million” others there were protesting peacefully for electoral reform, according to audio recordings of a staff meeting obtained by The Washington Post. Tim Meisburger is a Trump appointee and a departing deputy assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s bureau for development, democracy and innovation. Meisburger made the comments on a video call with about 70 to 80 USAID workers, according to one USAID official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal communications at the agency. “What I saw was several million people demonstrating in the Capitol, peaceful protesters in the Capitol,” said Meisburger, according to an audio recording of the video call. “I saw a few violent people and I’m not, I would never endorse violence. But what I saw was a lot of people who were committed to reform. And they were committed to electoral reform.” A USAID spokeswoman declined to comment. The Washington Post obtained two different recordings of the same meeting, where Meisburger made the comments. When The Post reached Meisburger by phone for comment, Meisburger declined to comment, then hung up, and did not respond to subsequent text messages. There were not several million people protesting at the Capitol last Wednesday, nor at an earlier rally at the Ellipse, near the White House. Organizers had expected up to 30,000 people to attend the rally. Also, multiple videos of the incident contradict the description Meisburger gave of the riots, showing scores of people pushed their way into the capitol, attacking several police officers, including one who was beaten with a flagpole. More than 60 people have been arrested in connection to the storming of the capitol. Five people died, and 56 Washington, D.C., police officers were injured.
Republicans and Democrats have denounced the violence. Lawmakers in both parties have called for Trump’s removal, because of his role in inciting the mob. Meisburger also suggested the fact that some people believe the presidential election was fraudulent was enough to call the overall results into question. There has been no evidence of widespread fraud, with multiple courts across the country dismissing cases that alleged fraud in the November election. “Whether you believe the elections were free or fair or not, all of you know that in the election game, perception is reality, and if people don’t have confidence in their institutions then it doesn’t matter whether what occurred in the election machine was perfectly correct or whether it was completely false,” he said. Meisburger also seemed to lament his own professional prospects after serving in the Trump administration. Before joining USAID, he worked at the Asia Foundation for more than two decades, most recently as director for elections and political processes, according to his LinkedIn profile. “I know that I’ve been blacklisted now by the Lincoln Project and canceled by antifa, so I may not be working in this particular sector in the future,” he said.
- New! Renewing US global engagement in a changed world (Brookings by George Ingram, January 12, 2021) —The world of 2021 that awaits the Biden-Harris administration is not the straight-forward frame of post-World War II U.S.-USSR competition, or of the dominant position the U.S. briefly held in the post-Cold War period of the 1990s. The economic, social, and political disruption wrought by the coronavirus, along with retrenchment from global leadership by the Trump administration, have unmasked and accelerated what has been an evolving alteration in the international order and the position of the United States in that system. The disruption to the international order is forcing a reassessment of the notion of “American exceptionalism” and what is meant by “U.S. global leadership”—maybe “leadership” in a multipolar/multi-actor world means listening and partnering rather than driving the train To understand how the U.S. can best maneuver in this increasingly complex world, it is important to recognize a few basic dynamics.
One is that the U.S. and the West’s success in winning the Cold War was built on, not our military prowess—an important backstop for sure—but on values and results. Inherent flaws in the Soviet system undoubtedly contributed to victory by the West, but more fundamental were basic American values and accomplishment. People around the world have been inspired by the ideals upon which this nation was founded—individual rights, liberty, rule of law, and the vibrance of our democracy and culture. They have been awed by our accomplishment—economic success, top universities, cutting edge technology, ability to innovate, and strong, well-managed companies. America has been viewed as the “can-do-country.”
A second factor is these values and way of life prevailed in the Cold War, not just through actions and policies of the United States government (deemed “U.S. Leadership”), but through the panoply of American civilian assets and actions (“American Leadership”), such as compelling values, international student exchanges, nonprofit organizations working in the most difficult places, private philanthropy, the ubiquity of our culture (e.g., movies, TV, blue jeans, music, literature, internet, English language). Thousands of institutions and organizations, and millions of individual Americans, mobilized across the American landscape and bolstered by principled U.S. leadership, have and can drive many aspects of global development.
The third dynamic is revised geopolitics. The U.S. is no longer the stand-alone dominant global economic and political power, as it was at the end of World War II and then again at the close of the Cold War. The U.S. is now sharing a multipolar world stage with many other actors, both an assertive China and a panoply of traditional and emerging middle powers, and a host of powerful and influential private organizations and even movements.
The economic, social, and political ramifications of COVID-19 are well known—from a 5.7 percent decline in global economic output in 2020 and tens of millions of lost jobs, to growing social inequities, to autocratic governments further closing political space and abusing human rights—touching every aspect of national and personal life.
- New! 1,100 State Department employees got vaccinated. At USAID, zero did. (Washington Post–Opinion by Josh Rogin–January 11, 2021) — When the federal government dispersed its first round of coronavirus vaccines to federal agencies last month, the State Department received and distributed them to about 1,100 employees in Washington, D.C. But its own development arm, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) got exactly zero, officials told me, despite its crucial role in combating the coronavirus pandemic. This is only the latest — and hopefully the last — example of appalling mistreatment the Trump administration has perpetrated on this organization and its workers. Even though other federal agencies involved in national security began receiving and distributing vaccine shots in Washington four weeks ago, USAID was completely left out of the plan. There’s a dispute within the agency over who is to blame. Some current and former officials point the finger at USAID’s leader, John Barsa, who was elevated to the agency’s top role last April over career professionals, despite his scant development experience. A loyal Trump political appointee, Barsa leaves behind a tenure marked by scandal and dysfunction. The White House’s Presidential Personnel Office (PPO) filled Barsa’s staff with hacks and MAGA extremists. An Islamophobe was appointed as USAID’s top religious freedom adviser. An anti-transgender activist was appointed deputy chief of staff. An anti-LBGTQ activist was appointed deputy White House liaison and then fired. After the election, the White House fired the deputy USAID administrator, career professional Bonnie Glick, as a maneuver to keep Barsa in charge, even though he was never confirmed by the Senate. Barsa’s team initially refused to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the election and refused to engage with the Biden transition team until the General Services Administration certified the results on Nov. 23, arguing it was just following the law. Then, on Nov. 25, Barsa announced he had contracted Covid-19 and didn’t return to the office until late December. It was during this period that USAID missed the boat on vaccinations for its employees. Many inside the agency blame Barsa for general incompetence and failing to secure shots for his people, many of whom are actively involved in the pandemic response. But a spokesperson for USAID told me that the Barsa and USAID leadership are not at fault.
- New! Opinion: How to restore America’s moral leadership for democracy (Devex by Mark Green, Derek Mitchell , January 07, 2021) —The horrifying scenes of violent, seditious protestors storming the United States Capitol raise doubt about how — and indeed if — the U.S. can be a democratic leader globally. How can we claim to promote democracy abroad when it is in crisis at home? As two people who have spent their careers proudly supporting democracy as U.S. ambassadors and policymakers, and who now lead organizations devoted to democracy and human rights, it was heartbreaking to watch as both friends and enemies of democracy alike ask that exact question. The president of Zimbabwe took to Twitter, saying, “Yesterday’s events showed that the U.S. has no moral right to punish another nation under the guise of upholding democracy.” The government of Turkey called on Americans to use “moderation, common sense to overcome this domestic political crisis.” Even the illegitimate foreign minister of Venezuela condemned “the political polarization.” Where do we go from here? How can we restore America’s moral leadership for democracy? First and foremost, we must unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw in and around the Capitol. Those who took part must be held accountable. But it’s not enough to decry the events of a single day. Unfortunately, these subversive acts against the legitimate results of a clearly valid election have been coming for some time.Words matter. What happened Wednesday is a result of the inflammatory and baseless comments over many years from some of our government leaders, who for the past few months regarding the election results fueled the despicable actions that took place in the Capitol. It is the culmination of the lies and contempt for democracy among those who have knowingly trampled democratic norms of transparency, accountability, and equality. (Click on the title to read the entire article.)
- New! What Democratic control of the Senate could mean for US foreign aid (Devex by Adva Saldinger, January 07, 2021) — Two runoff elections in the U.S. state of Georgia this week handed the Democrats a slim majority in the Senate, which development advocates say could impact aid funding, appointments, and policy in the next administration. “There’s an opportunity here. It opens the door to more possibilities of some kind of robust agenda,” said Conor Savoy, executive director of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, adding that the development community needs to be “cleareyed” that it will still be a challenge to get priorities passed through both houses of Congress. In 2009 — the last time there was a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress after a presidential election — there was a sense that there was a clear opportunity for a robust development agenda, but it didn’t really materialize, he said, adding that the development community needs to continue to work in a bipartisan manner and engage Republicans and Democrats. The majorities in both houses in the United States are narrower this year, and the Senate is split 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. “Fundamentally advancing significant lasting changes has always required strong bipartisan support. That hasn’t changed, especially with narrow margins,” said Erin Collinson, the director of policy outreach at the Center for Global Development. Despite those challenges, the Democratic majority presents some true opportunities, some advocates said. “The game has really changed overnight,” said Jonathan Rucks, senior director of policy and advocacy at PAI. “You can’t underestimate or undervalue how important it is.” There are a number of areas where a Democratic majority could help foreign aid, advocates told Devex. (The article continues with analysis of Process and Policy elements.)
- New! To end a global pandemic, we need global solutions: In my view. (One Campaign by Gayle Smith, December 23, 2020) — The year 2020 wasn’t supposed to be like this. Predicted by many but prepared for by few, the global pandemic that is still ravaging the planet has upended public health and killed over 1 million people. But its aftershocks are at least as daunting: stunning losses to the global economy, the disruption of worldwide commerce, growing food insecurity, education interrupted, massive job losses, and a global spike in domestic violence. The pandemic has also laid bare the stark inequalities that still, in 2020, dictate who lives and who dies, who thrives and who suffers, which countries and communities rebound from these multiple shocks and which countries will collapse under their weight. And with the World Bank already reporting that the pandemic will push an additional 88-115 million into extreme poverty in 2020 alone, it is increasingly clear that the pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on the world’s most vulnerable people. If nothing else, it has revealed that poverty and inequality are inextricably linked and fueled a desire for fundamental fairness and growing anger that such fairness remains elusive.That the pandemic hit at a time of unprecedented global disunity has only increased the potency of the virus. At the time of writing, the world’s leaders have yet to come together to forge a common plan to defeat a transnational threat that is beyond the control of any individual country or region. Citizens are, in the main, doing their part – following the measures prescribed by experts and officials, wearing masks, working from home, social distancing, and providing the healthcare so urgently needed by so many. Theirs is a reasonable demand: leaders need to lead. (Read the full article for Gayle Smith’s three responses for “what is needed” and “what it takes”.
- New! Better Ways to Use Aid in Middle-Income Countries (CGD by Ranil Dissanaake, Charles Kenny and Mark Plant, December 21, 2020) —Official Development Assistance (ODA) is to be spent for the economic development and welfare of developing countries. The definition of what constitutes a developing country is broad, to say the least, with ODA being spent in countries as rich as Oman as recently as 2010, when it had a per capita GNI of $18,500. And currently only about 25 percent of ODA is spent in the poorest 26 countries of the world, with about eight percent going to countries classified as upper middle-income countries. Even though this has been the case for a long time (see figure below), this skew of ODA to richer countries surprises many observers: at a prima facie level it seems that scarce aid should be spent in the poorest countries which are home to the world’s poorest people. In a new paper published today, we examine the distribution of aid among countries at different income levels and focus on the aid going to middle-income countries (MICs). (Note: Issues that are addressed include: 1) donors should focus ODA on the poorest places; (2) But ODA will continue to be spent in MICs; (3) ODA should be used in MICs only when it clears three screens; Applying these screens to various potential uses of ODA, four principles guide aid allocation in MICs; and do donor practices reflect these screens and principles?)
- New! The Inner Workings of USAID: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It. But If It Is Broke, Fix It. (CSIS by Bonnie Glick, December 18, 2020) —Since April, most media reports on activities at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have been negative, and unfortunately, most have been accurate. But most of the bad news stories have focused on a small cohort of political appointees and their shenanigans who were brought into leadership positions after former administrator Mark Green’s departure. The good news for the incoming Biden team is that much like the well-built homes of old, the “bones” of the agency are in excellent shape. (I touched on USAID policy issues in my first transition memo. This memo will address the operational side of the house and issues related to personnel.)
[Issues addressed by Bonnie Glick include: Personnel amid a Pandemic, a Better Workforce, a Respectful Workplace, Foreign Service Nationals, and Leading Effectively.]
- New! US State Department releases Global Fragility Strategy. (Devex By Teresa Welsh, 19 December 2020) —The State Department on Friday released the Global Fragility Strategy, a document detailing how the U.S. administration intends to overhaul the country’s current approach to conflict prevention and stabilization in fragile contexts. The administration was required to produce the document by the 2019 Global Fragility Act, legislation that grew out of a recognition that large-scale U.S. stabilization efforts after 9/11 have cost billions of dollars but failed to produce intended results. “This is the very first time that the United States has had a strategy, an enduring — a 10-year strategy — to address conflict prevention and stabilization or to stabilize fragile states. We have not done so before. … It’s an issue that crossed political boundaries and looked at why we failed in the past and how we make sure that we don’t fail again, because we’re all committed to this,” said Denise Natali, assistant secretary for conflict and stabilization operations at the State Department, on a briefing call for reporters. The U.S. government has spent $30 billion in 15 of the most fragile countries in the world in just five years, according Jim Richardson, director of the State Department’s Office of Foreign Assistance.
The strategy outlines how the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, Defense Department, and other relevant agencies will meet four goals and objectives: prevention, stabilization, partnership, and management. It also details roles and responsibilities of relevant agencies, including how decisions will be made and outlining staffing and resource requirements; how the strategy will be integrated into existing U.S. development, diplomatic, and defense tools; and how success will be measured. The original legislation required release of the GFS in September, but the agency released just a summary report. Natali told Devex in an interview in October that she expected the document to be ready that month. During the briefing call Friday, she said that the agency wanted to be sure it completed necessary consultations with stakeholders and that the delays were due to overcoming some “final hurdles.”
- New! Global Gag Rule is just the tip of the iceberg: Why Repealing the Helms Amendment matters (The Hill – Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Barbara Lee, Jackie Speier, and Ayanna Pressley, December 17, 2020)–While we hope the Biden administration will rescind the Global Gag Rule (also called the “Mexico City Policy”), this is only the tip of the iceberg in achieving real change. Despite this executive action if restrictive policies like the Helms Amendment are still on the books, reproductive and economic freedom will continue to remain out of reach for millions worldwide. For nearly 50 years, the Helms Amendment has prohibited any U.S. foreign assistance funds from being used for “the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.” Despite this legislative text the policy has been grossly misinterpreted and over-implemented to effectively act as a total ban on U.S. foreign aid being used for any abortion services abroad, even in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment. As a direct consequence, tens of thousands of people around the world have died due to lack of health care, even though many lived within eyesight of a U.S.-supported health clinic.
- New! A Note on the Future of MFAN (MFAN ExDir Conor Savoy, December 16, 2020) — From the passage of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, to significantly shaping elements of USAID’s Feed the Future and Local Solutions initiatives, to combatting budget cuts and political instrumentalization of U.S. foreign assistance, MFAN has successfully influenced U.S. foreign aid policy for over a dozen years. The coalition’s funding landscape has changed, however, and the beginning of a new administration provides an opportunity for MFAN to update its aid reform agenda. Recent global trends, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the social justice movement, and great power competition, suggest this is an important opportunity for MFAN to revisit its approach. While robust advocacy efforts focused on an innovative aid reform agenda for the incoming Biden administration will continue, the moment necessitates that MFAN evolve. Following interviews with stakeholders regarding MFAN’s successful impact on U.S. foreign assistance policy during the Trump administration, along with internal reviews, the network will undertake an examination of its aid reform agenda, a restructuring of its membership and staff, and prepare to influence the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance in the coming years. MFAN’s Executive Director, Conor Savoy, will lead a re-envisioning initiative, which will include the consideration of major trends affecting international development; roundtables and discussions with Washington and field-based experts, academics, and stakeholders; and the establishment of a vision for a forward-looking advocacy agenda. The initiative launches this month and will run through the spring of next year.
- New! Fragile countries are ‘backdoors’ for Russian attacks, says former Trump official (Devex – Michael Igoe, December 15, 2020) — In the wake of reports that Russian hackers infiltrated numerous U.S. federal agencies, a former national security official said Tuesday that the U.S. Agency for International Development’s framework for countering Kremlin influence could offer a useful blueprint for the rest of the government to follow. USAID released its “Countering Malign Kremlin Influence” development framework in 2019 — on America’s Independence Day — in an effort to help partner countries better withstand Russian government meddling. Speaking at the German Marshall Fund on Tuesday, some of the architects of the framework reflected on its implementation so far and noted that the U.S. has sometimes failed to recognize that the activities USAID seeks to confront also present threats at home. “Many of the vulnerable, fragile countries of the region have proven to be backdoors into attacks on us as well in the United States, as well as more broadly in Europe,” said Fiona Hill, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
- New! Executive order to rebrand US assistance: Right question, likely wrong answer(The Hill – Daniel Runde, December 14, 2020) —Last week’s “Executive Order on Rebranding United States Foreign Assistance to Advance American Influence” recognizes an important problem: There are too many U.S. government agencies carrying out soft power work outside of our borders. There are at least 20, and all of them understandably want their agency logos on everything they do. A better solution would be to reorganize ourselves so that one agency did this work. The best solution would be to put all soft power activity under USAID, the foreign aid arm of the U.S. Government. But that solution is highly unlikely in the near future. Instead, various administrations have struggled with the problem of too many agencies working overseas — and with one related problem: the so called “branding” issue. The Bush administration was partially successful through its update of USAID’s rebranding in 2005, while all other attempts in the last 20 years have failed. The Trump administration in its waning hours is trying to take the branding issue on through an executive order. However, a number of the proposed solutions are likely to be rejected by an incoming Biden administration.
- New! State Department receiving limited number of coronavirus vaccines this week (CNN, December 15, 2020) — The State Department will be receiving a “very limited number of vaccines” protecting against the coronavirus this week and plans to distribute them to prioritized individuals — a group that includes front-line medical personnel and American personnel in Kabul, Baghdad and Mogadishu, the department revealed in a memo Tuesday from a top department official. “While we would have preferred to vaccinate our entire Department workforce at once, we will have to do so incrementally based on vaccine availability,” State Department Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao wrote in a memo to the department that was reviewed by CNN. “We advise employees to continue to wear face coverings, physically distance, and follow the guidance issued through Diplomacy Strong and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”In addition to front-line medical personnel and American personnel in Kabul, Baghdad and Mogadishu, Bulatao said, the department will initially “prioritize vaccination” of personnel supporting its 24/7 watch centers, critical operations, maintenance, custodial staff and mission-critical diplomatic security personnel in the national capital region. The news comes after the first doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered to the American public on Monday, after the US Food and Drug Administration authorized the groundbreaking vaccine late last week. The initial batch is being focused on health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, per CDC recommendations, but some government officials are also slated to be inoculated in the early rounds of the vaccine. Vice President Mike Pence announced Tuesday that he will receive a Covid-19 vaccine in “the days ahead,” while administration officials have discussed how and when President Donald Trump might be vaccinated but haven’t yet made a decision on scheduling his shot, according to a person familiar with the plan. The Biden transition team expects to announce “soon” when President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive Covid-19 vaccines, a transition official said. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery announced last week that the Pentagon was expected to receive “just under 44,000 doses” of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine early this week, with the first doses going to medical personnel and a select number of senior leaders.
- New! Opinion: Revitalizing USAID is essential to reestablishing US global leadership (Devex – Susan Reichle and Patrick Fine, December 15, 2020) — Since the departure of Administrator Mark Green in April of this year, the U.S. Agency for International Development has lost its bearings. It is less influential on the world stage, a less reliable partner to allies and partners, and less constructive in advancing U.S. interests through humanitarian and development cooperation. This is the result of four years of hostility from the White House toward U.S. foreign assistance. President Donald Trump sought to slash funding for diplomacy and development in budgets he proposed and signaled disregard for the very idea of addressing long-term international development challenges. Career USAID staff have held the world’s largest development agency together despite attacks by some political appointees. Certainly, a new administration will want to take swift action to right the ship and put its own mark on America’s lead development agency, so that it may once again serve as a vital tool to promote shared prosperity, stability, and collaboration on problems that no nation can solve alone. As the new administration contemplates forward-looking strategies to strengthen USAID and get global leadership back on track, we recommend taking a close look at two specific areas of reform that already enjoy strong bipartisan support.
- New! Four Steps to Restore Global Democracy (Mike Abramowitz and Alex Thier, The Bulwark, December 9, 2020) — President Trump’s dangerous refusal to accept the U.S. election results calls to mind the behavior of authoritarian rulers around the globe who cling to power at all costs. It also complicates one of the most urgent tasks facing President-elect Joe Biden when he takes office on January 20: confronting a steady rise in authoritarianism and a parallel erosion of democracy, both at home and around the world. The deterioration of democracy is not a new phenomenon. Freedom House has documented 14 consecutive years of decline. But the downward slide looks likely to continue in the wake of a pandemic that is prompting many governments to restrict human rights and trample democratic norms. Important stars in the democratic constellation are dimming—from Brazil and India to Poland and the Philippines, not to mention the United States itself. This follows the earlier reversal of hopeful transformations in places like Hungary, Turkey, Lebanon, and Kyrgyzstan.Meanwhile, the leaders of the unfree world—in countries such as China, Russia, and Iran—are not only repressing their own people but also exploiting the openness of democratic societies, attacking them through disinformation, corruption, technological infiltration, and election interference. The weaker the international democratic order, the easier it is for these kleptocrats and dictators to abuse their citizens, steal resources, intimidate their neighbors, and escape accountability. It also means the United States will increasingly face regimes that do not share our fundamental values, many of whom, emboldened by the president’s attacks on democratic norms, pose an increasing security risk. If there is a tipping point for global democracy, we may be nearing it.
- New! Mark Green: Next administration should address ‘fragmentation’ in foreign aid (Devex – Michael Igoe, December 10, 2020) — The U.S. Agency for International Development is the “only entity” in the U.S. government that has the capability to lead on an international response to COVID-19, according to Mark Green, executive director at the McCain Institute for International Leadership and former administrator at USAID. “We can’t conquer this pandemic simply by focusing here at home. We’ll always be vulnerable. … USAID, with its fantastic field presence, is the only entity that I think can help get that job done,” he told Devex Editor-in-Chief Raj Kumar at Devex World on Thursday. That assessment has been challenged by decisions made by President Donald Trump’s administration about how to organize the international components of its pandemic response. The USAID administrator was not given a seat on the White House Coronavirus Task Force — though the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation was — and the administration has considered proposals that would give leadership over global pandemic response to the Department of State.
- New! Trump orders all U.S. foreign aid to be branded ‘American aid’ (Washington Times – Dave Boyer, December 10, 2020) — President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday requiring all U.S. foreign aid such as disaster relief goods to be branded with the logo “American aid.” The White House said the move will consolidate the aid under a single logo, instead of the current use of more than 20 federal agencies’ individual logos. “The lack of a coherent branding policy has diminished the recognition of the American people’s generosity,” said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “Many beneficiaries of our aid do not realize the life-saving products, programs, services, goods and materials they receive are paid for by citizens of the United States.” The president said he issued the order because “it is essential that recipients of United States foreign assistance be aware of the manifold efforts of American taxpayers to aid them and improve their lives.” “The single logo shall be prominently displayed on all materials related to United States foreign assistance programs, projects, and activities; on all communications and public affairs materials; on all foreign assistance goods and materials, and all packaging of such goods and materials; and on all rebranding of export packaging,” his order states.
- New! Strategic Reset: How Bilateral Development Agencies Are Changing in the COVID-19 Era (CGD, Mikaela Gavas, December 8, 2020) — Development agencies have some hard choices ahead. COVID-19, overlaid on existing global challenges, is the biggest stress test that official bilateral development agencies have ever faced. With alarming speed, the pandemic has delivered a global economic shock of enormous magnitude resulting in the deepest global recession in eight decades. Global human development is on course to decline for the first time since 1990, and we can assume the indirect effect will dominate in many developing countries and particularly the poorest communities over the long term. At CGD, we recently co-hosted a two-day conference to bring together the heads of development agencies, to discuss the most pressing challenges at hand. This blog summarises the main messages of an analysis I presented at this year’s Development Leaders Conference, outlining some of the changes in development agency strategic direction brought about by the pandemic. I put forward three fundamental questions to heads of development agencies, the answers to which will define development cooperation for the foreseeable future.
- New! Making foreign aid work for the Heartland (The Hill by David Harden, December 02, 2020) — American farmers have provided food for millions of people in crisis around the world for more than 65 years. By feeding the hungry, American farmers gave mothers the strength to care for their babies, helped young children stay healthy, and encouraged students to remain in school. For less than one percent of our national budget, foreign assistance also provides outsized American global influence. There is rare bipartisan consensus that foreign assistance is critical to our national security — effective diplomacy and development equates to a stronger American defense with fewer troops deployed abroad. In the emerging era of great power competition, American ingenuity, innovation, and generosity demonstrate unique advantages unmatched by Russia and China. The value-added national security benefits of foreign assistance substantially outweigh the costs to the taxpayers. Yet, championing foreign aid is a tough sell in the heartland — particularly these days. Americans face a raging COVID pandemic, economic collapse, social injustice, extreme political partisanship, accelerating consequences of unchecked climate change, and massive debt. For many Americans, there is little appetite to spend tax dollars to help foreigners in faraway lands. Given this reality — coupled with the growing calls for isolationism — how can the Biden administration make foreign aid work for Peoria, Youngstown, Jackson, and the many other “forgotten” communities of America? During this political transition, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), America’s lead foreign assistance agency, should connect the heartland to global development while unleashing its international expertise to help Middle America solve some of its most pressing problems at home.
- New! Biden Eyes Humanitarian Experts to Lead U.S. Agency for International Development (Foreign Policy, November 30, 2020) —A former senior United Nations executive and food security expert is among several people in the running to lead to the U.S. Agency for International Development under President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, according to people familiar with the matter. Ertharin Cousin, a former executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, tops the narrowing list of people favored to take the the helm of the leading U.S. aid agency. Other names that have been floated for the job in Democratic foreign-policy circles include Liz Schrayer, president and CEO of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a nonprofit group; Frederick Barton, a former senior U.N. envoy and U.S. diplomat in the Obama administration; and Jeremy Konyndyk, a seasoned humanitarian expert who was a senior USAID official during the Obama administration and is a member of the Biden transition’s teams for the State Department and Department of Health and Human Services.
- New! Transition Memo #1 to Incoming USAID Leadership in the Biden Administration (Bonnie Glick of CSIS, November 30, 2020) —Welcome to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)! During the first 100 days, leaders will face a learning curve as USAID underwent the largest transformation in its history as a federal agency over the past four years. While there may be some elements of the Trump administration’s policies that the Biden team chooses to change, the “bones” of the transformation are good, have bipartisan support in Congress, and were led by the Agency’s career staff, both in Washington, D.C., and in the field.
- In the The First 30 Days: On day one, leaders will be confronted with managing the Agency under Covid-19 conditions and the operational requirements for addressing the pandemic and its aftereffects worldwide. Vaccine distribution will figure prominently into the administration’s decision-making. Gradual return to work will figure in as well—USAID in Washington currently is in the first phase of opening, with approximately 5-10 percent of staff in the buildings each day. Missions overseas are under chief-of-mission authority and decisions are being driven by the Department of State. Further information on Global Vaccine Distribution, Economic Impacts of Covid-19, Humanitarian Crises.
- Under and the First 100 Days: Components of J2SR, Great power competition and countering China, Digital Transformation, Energy, Abraham Accords, 2019 NDAA Section 889(B), Climate Change, and Passing the Baton.
- New! The Guardian view on cutting development spending: little Britain (The Guardian – Editorial Board, November 29, 2020) — What’s another broken promise? Boris Johnson’s government has doubtless lost count of all those left strewn in its wake. So the news that Britain is abandoning its pledge to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid, enshrined in law by David Cameron and reaffirmed in the Conservative manifesto only a year ago, is not as surprising as it should be. The dismantling of the Department for International Development, now folded into the Foreign Office, demonstrated where things were heading despite denials that funding would suffer. The almost 30% cut is highly unlikely to be, as some hoped, a temporary measure. The moral case for preserving the promise was clear. Even putting aside for a moment the historical rationale, or the extraordinary current levels of global inequality, the effects of reneging on a commitment to some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people will be devastating. Lady Sugg, a Foreign Office minister, resigned over the decision. Andrew Mitchell, a Conservative MP and former international development secretary, has called it outrageous, laying out its likely impact: a million fewer girls receiving an education; 3.8 million people left without access to clean water; 5.6m fewer vaccinations – and 100,000 preventable deaths, mainly among children.
- New! USAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 (The Hill, November 25, 2020) — John Barsa, the acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), tested positive for COVID-19. Acting USAID spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala told The Hill in a statement that Barsa tested positive on Wednesday for the coronavirus after a rapid diagnostic test. “The Acting Deputy Administrator has been isolating since he began exhibiting symptoms late Monday, November 23, and will continue to until a retest is conclusive,” Jhunjhunwala said. Barsa reportedly informed senior staff on Wednesday of his positive test, two sources familiar with the call told Axios. Staffers told the news outlet that Barsa rarely wears a mask in their office. Jhunjhunwala said in the statement that USAID “has prioritized the health and safety of our employees and taken seriously the guidelines for safety protocols and physical distancing issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).” Barsa is the latest senior administrator to test positive for the virus, following Donald Trump Jr., senior White House aide Andrew Giuliani and others. President Trump and first lady Melania Trump also tested positive for COVID-19 in early October. The acting USAID administrator was scheduled to travel to Honduras this weekend after the country was hit by Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota, but administrators told Axios they believe the trip will be canceled after the test results.
- New! Trump’s outcasts in the civil and foreign service may get a second chance under Biden. (CNN News, November 25, 2020) — It’s been a hard four years for many career government servants. Their expertise was set aside for President Donald Trump’s flashy political appointees, and their fellow professionals were marginalized, derided as “Deep State’ interlopers and even fired. But President-elect Joe Biden’s early picks for top positions are giving hope to career professionals throughout government — and maybe also to some who left in scorn. Some of the names Biden is floating right now are merely trial balloons, meant to gauge how much fire he can expect from Republicans and from the ranks of his fellow Democrats. Fundraisersand key supporters will have their say in the decisions, too. And government bureaucrats, however qualified, are a political constituency Biden and the Democrats have courted. Already, Biden has summoned one such alienated professional, when he announced Linda Thomas-Greenfield as his choice for United Nations ambassador. She’s a 35-year veteran of the foreign service who departed after her pro-forma resignation was accepted by Trump and then wrote about the hollowing out he was inflicting on the State Department. Senior Biden advisers aren’t talking about any particular individuals yet as likely candidates for open jobs, but they do point to his promise to respect the experience and expertise of the civil service and diplomatic corps.
- New! Say Goodbye to the Mexico City Policy (National Review – November 19, 2020) — The incoming Biden-Harris administration has already unveiled its plan for what the new Democratic White House will do policy-wise in its early days. Unsurprisingly, among the action items is a pledge to reverse a pro-life policy that President Trump enacted and then expanded during his first year in office. The Mexico City policy, first established by President Ronald Reagan, prohibits U.S. international-aid money from underwriting groups that promote or perform abortion overseas. Since Reagan, every Republican administration has enacted the policy, and every Democratic administration has revoked it. The Biden-Harris administration will be no exception. “Yes, Biden will use executive action on his first day in office to withdraw the Mexico City ‘global gag rule,’” a Biden campaign spokesperson told the Washington Post during the Democratic primary campaign. Undoing the policy is among the action items in the new administration’s plan for the first 100 days after inauguration. As a result of such a move, several billions in U.S. aid will once more be made available to abortion groups that operate around the world.
[NOTE: Cancellation of the Mexico City policy means that private overseas organizations that use their own funds to promote or provide abortions will again be eligible to receive USAID funds for family planning or other health activities but not for abortions.]
- New! Under Biden, State Department needs to be rebuilt. But better. (Christian Science Monitor, November 18, 2020) — Advocates for the State Department say it has been hollowed out and demoralized. But is it enough for President-elect Joe Biden to just repopulate its ranks? Some problems have been brewing for much longer. Under two Trump secretaries of state, large numbers of key senior positions and ambassadors’ chairs have gone unfilled in the nation’s diplomatic infrastructure. But the challenge for the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden is not just a matter of staffing back up.Calls for significant reform and revitalization of the State Department have been around for at least a decade. Junior and mid-level career officers – particularly women and minorities – have left the department in an unprecedented wave, and much needs to be done to recreate an attractive career path in the foreign service. The State Department’s growing politicization and falling diversity have been turning off “young people who want to make a difference in the world,” warns Rachel Kyte, dean of Fletcher, The Graduate School of Global Affairs, at Tufts University. Says Barbara Bodine, a former ambassador to Yemen: “The State Department is like a town that gets hit by a strong earthquake, and you realize it didn’t take long to destroy it. But then you use that [realization] to ask, ‘How do we come back better, and stronger?’ “It’s about transformation, not just a reset. We need an organization and diplomats to meet the global challenges of this century.”
- New! Bonnie Glick is moving on after being fired from USAID (Jewish Insider, November 17, 2020) —Bonnie Glick had some unfinished tasks on her agenda as she anticipated the final months of her brief stint as Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) under President Donald Trump. Among the items atop her list were stopping China from leading the 5G mobile technology competition around the world and building upon the recent Middle East agreements — including the Abraham Accords between the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Bahrain and a more recent deal with Sudan — as part of the agency’s primary focus of distributing resources to poor and developing countries. The agency’s acting administrator, John Barsa, was supposed to hand over the reins to Glick and return to his previous role as assistant administrator at the bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at the end of the 210-day legal limit on his appointment. But three days after the November election, Glick, who became the second highest-ranking official at USAID in January 2019, was fired in a move to extend Barsa’s term as acting administrator. The maneuver came after Glick was unwilling to say, in public or in private, that she would not transition to the incoming Biden administration, an official in the current administration, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told JI. In a letter delivered to her on Friday afternoon, John McEntee, the director of the Presidential Personnel Office, wrote that “pursuant to the direction of the president,” she was immediately terminated. In an interview with Jewish Insider on Friday, Glick refused to discuss the reason for her firing in what she described as a “little bit of a topsy-turvy week,” but acknowledged that there was “general consensus” that her termination was “without cause.” Glick told JI she will not be joining the Biden administration, but expressed hope that the issues she worked on while at the agency will be picked up by the next administration. “And one of the things that I’m committed to is ensuring, to the extent that I’m able, that there’s an orderly transition from the Trump administration to the Biden administration, and I’m hopeful that the career staff who are there will be allowed to proceed with transition-planning,” she added.
- New! We Need More Scientists in the U.S. Diplomatic Corps (Scientific American – Nick Pyenson, Alex Dehgan, November 16, 2020)– Even with a richness of talent, we still need more opportunities for integrating scientists on the front lines of U.S. embassies and missions abroad. Programs such as the AAAS fellowships already place postdoctoral scientists throughout the State Department and USAID for pressing problems in diplomacy and development. Scaling up this type of program would have a real impact on global diplomacy and development. At USAID, the Partners for Enhanced Engagement for Research have built hundreds of collaborative research programs to date, in conjunction with American scientific agencies, aimed at building long-term engagements and connections across the global scientific community.
- New! Top Trump appointee at USAID tells colleagues not to support Biden transition — (Washington Post, November 9, 2020) — The top political appointee at the U.S. Agency for International Development told officials during a phone call Monday that the Agency will not cooperate with the transition to a Biden administration until a Trump appointee signs paperwork ascertaining the winner of the presidential election, three officials with knowledge of the conversation told The Washington Post. USAID officials were also told on the call that three Trump loyalists are being elevated to top positions at the agency, even as the administration enters its waning days, according to the officials, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment on internal discussions. The shifting leadership and the stance on the transition are causing some alarm within the agency, given President Trump’s refusal to concede the election to President-elect Joe Biden.
- New! How President Biden can reinvigorate global development and diplomacy (George Ingram, Brookings, November 9,,2020) — American diplomacy and development are poised for reinvigoration. Coming to town in January are the 46th President and the 117th Congress, so at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue will be policymakers with a history of deep commitment to the central role of diplomacy and development in advancing U.S. interests in the world. On day one, President Biden and the Congress will confront a range of difficult transnational challenges. A few, like ongoing wars in Syria, Yemen, Libya, are security issues that must first be addressed by the Department of Defense. But the wider range of issues—COVID-19, global economic contraction, climate change, retrenchment in democracy, historic levels of refugees and migration, humanitarian crises, social and economic inequities, terrorism—can be addressed only by the two D’s of diplomacy and development—with a heavy responsibility on the latter. I presented many of these ideas in a recent paper entitled Making US Global Development Structures and Functions Fit for Purpose: A 2021 Agenda.
- New! USAID deputy leader ousted in staff shakeup amid vote counting (The Hill, November 6, 2020) — The second-highest ranking leader of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was ousted Friday night in an effort to continue the leadership of the acting administrator whose tenure expired at midnight. USAID said in a statement Friday night that today was Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick’s last day and her position would be filled by John Barsa, the current acting administrator of the agency, whose tenure expires at midnight under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. Barsa, who was confirmed by the Senate as administrator for USAID’s Latin America and Carribbean bureau, assumed the acting administrator position in April following the departure in March of USAID administrator Mark Green. Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Barsa’s term was expected to end as of midnight on November 6, approximately 210 days from the time the administrator’s position became vacant.Glick, as deputy administrator, was expected to assume leadership of USAID with Barsa’s termination. Yet the Friday night shake-up removed Glick as deputy administrator and inserted Barsa into the acting deputy role, and likely to allow him to lead the agency for an additional 210 days. USAID’s ethics attorney Jack Ohlweiler had earlier warned Barsa in an email that his term as acting administrator was ending at midnight as of November 6 and the leadership of the agency would fall to Glick, according to a report by DEVEX. While USAID did not provide a reason for Glick’s departure in their statement, DEVEX reported that the veteran global development official was forced out, receiving an email from the Director of the White House Presidential Personnel OFfice John McEntee that she was terminated. “Pursuant to the direction of the President, your appointment as Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development is hereby terminated, effective immediately,” the note said, according to DEVEX.Glick’s biography page on USAID’s site was down as of Friday evening with a note that said it was last updated on November 6.
- New! Slaughter South of the Sahara: No Scope for “Business as Usual” (Foreign Service Journal–Mark Wentling– November 2020) — Comprehensive strategies—and contingency plans if they fail—are needed urgently to deal with the complex and rapidly deteriorating situation in the Sahel. Why? The deteriorating security situation in West Africa’s vast Sahel region defies any simple description. Its complexity is exacerbated by numerous extremist groups, which seek through violent means to achieve their selfish and inscrutable objectives. Recent acts of violence by members of these groups serve as an urgent call to national governments and the international community to take additional steps to counter the groups and protect vulnerable communities from the worst consequences of the increased instability brought about by mounting violence across the Sahel. Of special concern are three Sahelian countries: Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger (Central Sahel). Since the military’s overthrow of an elected government in Mali in 2012 and the substantial outflow of arms and extremist fighters following the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya 2011, the level of instability and violence in the Sahel—and the number of incidents in these countries, in particular—has skyrocketed.The growing waves of violent extremism have introduced drug trafficking, corruption and criminality; collapsed local economies; undermined local and regional institutions and governance; exacerbated ethnic divisions; and prompted extensive displacement and migration. Without renewed engagement by the international community and a reasoned strategy to take on and defeat extremist violence, this scourge threatens to shatter the centuries-old traditions and social fabric of Sahelian society and could spread to envelop the entirety of West Africa.
- New! Would Biden’s foreign aid approach be progressive, or bipartisan? (Devex – Michael Igoe, November 2) — “In a lot of other areas of policy, the left has set some big priorities and organized themselves effectively to push the Democratic party to either pay attention to specific issues or adopt more progressive stances,” said Andrew Albertson, Executive Director of Foreign Policy for America, which advocates for “strong, principled American foreign policy.” Many of those priorities have emerged from the “unity task forces” that brought together progressives who supported Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and moderates who support Biden. Foreign policy — let alone foreign aid policy — was not among the six policy areas that progressives sought to influence through those discussions. “It is a real open question to what degree [progressives] will in fact prioritize international development,” Albertson said. Biden’s detailed policy platform, as well as his own track record, offer clues about what his approach to development might entail. Most seem to agree that core elements of a Biden foreign aid policy would be reestablishing development as a core pillar of foreign policy, alongside defense and diplomacy, and returning to a more supportive relationship with multilateral institutions. Many expect that for a Biden administration, particularly one faced with responding to a global pandemic, that would mean increased funding for global development, global health, and humanitarian assistance. “It’s not like Republican internationalists don’t exist.”
- New! How Trump undermined US aid – but still spent billions in ‘transactional’ approach (The Telegraph – October 31) When Donald Trump became president in 2016, his victory was based on an “America First” platform. In the administration’s debut budget in 2017, that looked like catastrophic news for those who came in second: the rest of the world, particularly low- and middle-income countries. The budget initially proposed a cut of around 30 percent to foreign assistance, a slash-and-burn approach that left those in the sector aghast. “It would have eliminated the foreign aid programme in 27 countries. I’ve never seen anything like that in my time,” says Larry Nowels, co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) and a veteran of the US foreign aid sector. Even those working in the administration, such as Mark Green, who led the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for nearly three years until he stepped down in mid-March, admits that it was a little disconcerting. “I’m sure that caused some anxiety and hesitation,” he tells The Telegraph. But in a pattern that has been repeated every year since, Congress – where foreign aid has bipartisan support – rejected the cuts and kept spending roughly where it has been for years, at $52.5bn in 2020. That’s despite attempts every year by the administration to reduce funding by between 20 and 30 per cent. “If you just focus on the numbers, it looks like the US is still there, and still engaged,” says MFAN’s executive director, Conor Savoy. “But the rhetoric from this administration and the actual decision-making – it is just not showing up to provide global leadership.”
- New! USAID Acting Administrator John Barsa launches the Agency’s “Over the Horizon” initiative. At an event hosted by AEI, Acting Administrator Barsa announced the key findings from the Agency’s strategic review which aimed to prepare USAID for a world fundamentally altered by COVID-19. The data-driven report sought input from both internal and external stakeholders in Washington and the field. The report resulted in a set of nonpartisan recommendations to the Administrator that will be used by the Agency in both a second Trump administration and a new Biden administration. The five emerging trends identified are: A new national security imperative; Severe shocks to mobility and the economy; A health crisis unprecedented in scale; Rising pressure on governance, democracy, and stability; and, Devastating impacts on households. Watch the full AEI event here and read USAID’s report summary here.
- New! 5 things for the development community to watch in the US election (Devex, October 29, 2020) — Global development might not be at the top of the list of issues voters are considering as they cast their ballots in the U.S. election on Nov. 3, but the outcome could have big implications for America’s approach to foreign aid, global health, and development for the foreseeable future. In addition to determining who will be the U.S. president for the next four years, the election could also reshape the balance of power in Congress, introduce new faces to development leadership roles — or remove some key advocates — or devolve into a bitter power struggle that tests America’s own democratic institutions. From policy and reform to funding and COVID-19 response, the outcome of these elections will change the operating environment for U.S. global development efforts in important ways. A large number of military veterans are running for office this year, and they often have a unique understanding of the importance of these [development] issues. Here are five issues at stake for U.S. global development in this presidential election — and the days, weeks, or even months after that: Global COVID-19 funding; support for development; Congressional committee leadership; foreign aid reform; and US democracy promotion.
- New! A new US President? The Ten Priorities for International Development ( IDS-UK, October 2020) —With just days to go until the US presidential election takes place, there is a collective sense of waiting with bated breath for the outcome. There can be no doubt it comes at a crucial juncture for international development, with only ten years to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals deadline and with the world facing multiple global challenges – Covid-19, climate and environmental change, poverty, inequality and injustice. These are shared global issues that impact us all and require international cooperation and leadership. A new presidential term presents opportunities for the US to re-engage positively on these critical and time-sensitive development issues, at national and international policy levels. If we had the opportunity, we would ask the new President to address ten areas as priorities (see article).
- New! 5 things for the development community to watch in the US election (Devex, Adva Saldinger and Michael Igoe, October 29, 2020) — Global development might not be at the top of the list of issues voters are considering as they cast their ballots in the U.S. election on Nov. 3, but the outcome could have big implications for America’s approach to foreign aid, global health, and development for the foreseeable future. In addition to determining who will be the U.S. president for the next four years, the election could also reshape the balance of power in Congress, introduce new faces to development leadership roles — or remove some key advocates — or devolve into a bitter power struggle that tests America’s own democratic institutions. From policy and reform to funding and COVID-19 response, the outcome of these elections will change the operating environment for U.S. global development efforts in important ways. Here are five issues at stake for U.S. global development in this presidential election — and the days, weeks, or even months after that: Global COVIE-19 funding; support for development; Congressional committee leadership; foreign aid reform; and US democracy promotion.
- New! How the Next Administration can enhance US Engagement in global development (Brookings, George Ingram, October 21, 2020) – In January 2021, U.S. policymakers will be faced with the most complex set of international crises since the end of World War II, creating imperatives to design and implement a coherent set of domestic and international policies to stem the still raging COVID-19, to “build back better” from the pandemic’s worldwide devastation on economic and human well-being, and to restore trust and confidence in America from four years of withdrawal from world leadership and denigration of international alliance and allies. At the same time, they will confront a set of ongoing challenges that have only grown worse—climate change, permanent wars and instability in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya; an Iran and North Korea with growing nuclear capability; state fragility; racial and social inequities that are causing human suffering and political instability, disinformation, and emboldened authoritarianism. Backed by a strong defense capability and coherent domestic policies, the principal tools for dealing with these international challenges are diplomacy and development. Unfortunately, the key means for exercising these tools have suffered from neglect and disparagement: for the State Department, four years of disrespect of diplomacy and the career service, and at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), four years of proposed budget cuts and one year of political appointees with radical social/political views at odds with USAID development knowledge and culture. Fortunately, both agencies are staffed by dedicated, resilient professionals who will respond quickly to new leadership that will bring respect and who will rebuild based on the knowledge and experience of the career staff.
- New! U.S. to Offer Loans to Lure Developing Countries Away From Chinese Telecom Gear (Wall Street Journal – Stu Woo, October 18) — The U.S. government is embarking on a push to persuade developing countries to shun Chinese telecommunications equipment, offering financial assistance to use alternatives that Washington says are safer and have fewer strings attached. The U.S. is ready to offer loans and other financing, potentially worth billions of dollars in total, to countries to buy hardware from suppliers in democratic countries rather than from China, said Bonnie Glick, the deputy administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is spearheading the effort. The agency, better known for providing food assistance than technology, will dispatch staff to meet politicians and regulators in the developing world, she said, aiming to persuade them that using telecom equipment from two Chinese giants, Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. is a bad idea. The offer of financial assistance represents a new tool Washington is deploying as it broadens the tech Cold War with China. The Trump administration has been trying to curb Chinese technological advances over what it says are concerns about spying and trade practices.
- New! Trump taps new Western Hemisphere chief (Politico, October 13, 2020) — The White House has tapped Josh Hodges to be the top official focusing on the Americas at the National Security Council, according to a Trump administration official familiar with his hiring. Hodges, 37, was most recently the senior deputy assistant administrator for Latin America at the U.S. Agency for International Development. He started last week as senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs on the NSC staff and a special assistant to the president. He replaces Mauricio Claver-Carone, who last month was elected president of the Inter-American Development Bank, the first American to hold the position. Claver-Carone left the NSC on Sept. 30 and started his new job in early October. The administration official called Hodges “a protégé” of Claver Carone and said he was “well respected across the White House and interagency.” “Josh was a wonderful colleague who spearheaded USAID’s efforts in support of our neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean during the pandemic,” Claver-Carone said in a statement. “He will be key to expanding those efforts once a vaccine becomes available, and I look forward to working with him in his new capacity.”
- New! Q&A: “We cannot wait” — USAID sees urgency in pandemic (Devex — October 2, 2020) — Jim Barnhart returned to Washington from his post in Jordan to head the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security in the middle of a pandemic that threatens to push hundreds of millions of people into hunger. The new bureau, created during USAID’s transformation, brings together a host of disciplines previously scattered across the agency — including food security, nutrition, water, resilience, and sanitation and hygiene — under the same roof to improve efficiency and promote multisectoral collaboration. Barnhart, who served as deputy assistant administrator in the old Bureau for Food Security before he went to the Middle East, also now heads Feed the Future as the global hunger initiative turns 10. “I came back into the role now heading the bureau with a certain set of expectations that I was well versed in the way the bureau was operating,” Barnhart said. “But the transformation that we underwent in adding water, elevating resilience, and nutrition to the bureau has really been something that I’ve had to get up to speed on very quickly because that’s new, and it’s exciting.”
- New! The Payne Fellowship: Boosting Diversity at USAID (AFSA, October 1, 2020)– The Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship program was established in 2012 to attract outstanding emerging leaders from historically underrepresented backgrounds, as well as those with financial need, to international development careers in the USAID Foreign Service. With strong congressional support, the program is funded by USAID and administered by Howard University’s Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center. Since its inception, the Payne Fellowship has opened the door for qualified, educated and diverse young professionals to help USAID leverage their experiences as development professionals and diplomats. To date, 39 fellows have graduated and joined the USAID Foreign Service, and 20 more are currently completing the program. At the same time, over the past few months, several news articles, letters to the USAID Administrator and a Government Accountability Office report have all pointed to the lack of diversity at USAID, particularly in senior leadership positions. Simultaneously, there have been several internal dialogues and “listening sessions” at USAID about implicit bias, institutional discrimination and racism. The civil protests and anti-racism efforts in the United States and around the world highlight the difficult balancing act that Foreign Service officers navigate in terms of the American ideals of freedom and equality, and the implementation of those ideals in the United States and abroad. When coupled with other effective programs and initiatives, the Payne Fellowship is poised to help USAID address some of these issues.