Below are articles on development happenings, issues, etc. If you have articles that you believe would be of general interest to the UAA membership, pleaseNew submit them here.
- New! A global tax on corporations must consider developing nations (The Hill by J.Brian Atwood, March 24, 2021) — As the global economy begins to emerge from the effects of a pandemic the search is on for tax revenues that will support the rebuilding process. One area of focus is the system for taxing multinational corporations, currently a mishmash of fuzzy guidelines, abuse and negative competition. Last week in Washington, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen took a second important step toward rationalizing and stabilizing the international taxation system. Having already agreed to drop U.S. objections to taxing digital transactions where profits are made (a European effort to tax Silicon Valley companies for profits made in the EU), she announced support for a “global minimum tax on multinationals,” a plan being negotiated under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Calling the competition to attract multinationals by lowering their tax burden “a destructive global race to the bottom…” Yellen signaled a willingness to reach an agreement that would reach beyond the OECD to more than 140 countries.A key part of the OECD negotiation reportedly would set the minimum tax floor at 12 percent of a company’s profit margin. The US recently lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and the Biden administration is now considering raising that rate slightly. However, given the many loopholes in the global system the real rate is much lower. The issue here is tax avoidance and the opportunities have been growing despite soft law guidelines and national efforts to capture tax resources from global companies. “Transfer pricing” rules designed by OECD to govern transactions within and between enterprises under common ownership have limited opportunities to distort taxable income. However, that hasn’t closed all the loopholes and many corporations have managed to avoid paying anywhere near the official percentage rate. Working out how a minimum rate would affect trade and investment in individual OECD countries will be complex and national parliaments will quite naturally focus on the benefits and debits that will affect their home constituencies.
The first step will be reaching agreement among the strongest global economies, the 37 members of the OECD plus China, India and the rest of the G-20. But if a way can be found to smooth out the inequities among this disparate grouping, what then will be the impact on the middle income and poorest economies? Such an endeavor will require a detailed understanding of the reach of multinational corporations, their continuous search for tax havens and supply chains that produce adequate quality at the lowest wage. Developing nations that desperately need employment opportunities find themselves competing by keeping their workers’ wages and benefits low in another, even more debilitating, race to the bottom. (Click here to continue the article.)
- New! What would Samantha Power’s NSC role mean for USAID?(Devex by Michael Igoe, March 19, 2021)–Samantha Power, U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development, will finally have her confirmation hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week — more than two months after her nomination was first announced. Power is considered the highest-profile nominee to lead USAID, and will likely face difficult questions from lawmakers, given the prominent role she has played in Democratic foreign policy for years. In nominating her, Biden acknowledged Power’s unique standing — and signaled his administration’s emphasis on development — by announcing that the USAID administrator would have a seat on the National Security Council. U.S. development experts have largely welcomed this decision. But they also point out that it brings new challenges to an agency that has often operated on the margins of U.S. foreign policy. Participation in the NSC is not new for USAID. Even while repeatedly proposing to slash USAID’s budget, former President Donald Trump established a formal role for the agency’s deputy administrator within the NSC’s deputies committee. Under Trump, the USAID administrator was invited to cabinet-level meetings — known as the “Principles Committee” — for discussions related to development and the Agency’s work. A former senior USAID official, speaking on condition of anonymity to share sensitive information, told Devex that was part of the agreement that brought former USAID Administrator Mark Green to the agency.“She is already a respected member of this team, and so that means that [US]AID is going to start in this new permanent role with a very respected voice expressing the development point of view.” — George Ingram, senior fellow, Brookings Institution
- New! Biden to restrict US aid to Central American governments, set new conditions for money. (Los Angeles Times by Tracy Wilkinson, March 10, 2021) — Weeks after earmarking $4 billion in U.S. aid for Central America, the Biden administration is fine-tuning its plans and sharply limiting how much money will go directly to the governments of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, a senior administration official told the Los Angeles Times. Roberta Jacobson, Biden’s senior official for southwest border affairs and an expert on immigration, said in an interview that the $4 billion will be subject to strict — but untested — conditions on recipients, based on measures of anticorruption efforts and good governance. The adjustments follow a push by some lawmakers to place limits on the U.S. aid and warnings from foreign policy experts concerned that in the rush to stem illegal immigration, President Biden would go down the same path he followed as vice president, when U.S. assistance, with few effective strings attached, ended up empowering corrupt regimes. Biden plans to ensure that as little aid as possible goes to the notoriously corrupt central governments of the three countries until he is satisfied criteria are met, Jacobson said. Goalposts include transparent accounting and proof of good governance, such as fair elections and respect for human rights, she added. The U.S. had long endorsed such goals in Central America, but they are difficult to quantify. But the prospect of stricter accountability is panicking some of the Central American leaders who were hoping to remain on the receiving end of American assistance after four comfortable years under President Trump.Jacobson, a former ambassador to Mexico and assistant secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, said that instead of pouring most of the money into national treasuries, greater amounts will go to nongovernmental organizations and programs for single mothers, youth training and similar groups, “so that in the end, you are strengthening the societies and not enriching these governments.” The shifting focus comes as Biden and others in his administration are realizing that Central America is in far worse shape than it was when they were last in charge, despite the 2015 U.S. injection of nearly $1 billion, which Biden oversaw as vice president. “The president will be the first to admit he’s learned things,” said Jacobson, who is now part of the National Security Council. “He is fully prepared to do both the hard work of insisting on those conditions and commitments and is fully prepared to not convey funds if he doesn’t get what he thinks is necessary.” (…)
- New! Missing link: Can USAID unite budget and policy? (Devex by Michael Igoe, March 5, 2021) –The U.S. Agency for International Development has undertaken nearly all of the reforms included in the reorganization plan begun by former Administrator Mark Green, with one big exception: A proposal to create a new bureau meant to bring together USAID’s budget, policy, and program performance is still stuck in limbo. As USAID’s other reorganization plans moved forward during former President Donald Trump’s administration, the proposed Bureau for Policy, Resources, and Performance was hung up on a technical issue. Members of the U.S. Congress, who must sign off on major changes such as the creation of a new bureau, believed the head of PRP ought to be a Senate-confirmed assistant administrator, while USAID had already used up its allotted number of Senate-confirmed positions. That should be a relatively easy fix if President Joe Biden’s team — including Samantha Power, the nominee for USAID administrator — chooses to move forward with the previous administration’s proposed structure. What is less certain is whether the creation of a new bureau at USAID would get to the heart of long-standing challenges related to the agency’s budget authority, strategic planning, and independence from the Department of State.The proposed PRP Bureau is meant to consolidate foreign aid management responsibilities that are currently scattered among at least five different bureaus and offices. Advocates for the change see it as an important step toward building greater coherence among USAID’s strategies and policies, the resources it allocates to countries and programs, and the way it measures what those resources achieve. “It makes eminent sense,” said Susan Reichle, president and CEO at the International Youth Foundation and former assistant administrator at USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning. “By having these separate entities, with their own responsibilities and authorities, things just get slowed down,” Reichle said.A PRP Bureau, advocates say, would allow USAID to better align its country strategies and sectoral policies with the funding that lawmakers appropriate for the agency so that discussions about strategy are happening at the same time and place as discussions about resources. Bringing those pieces together could also strengthen USAID’s policy, budget, and performance capabilities, putting the agency on stronger footing with the U.S. Congress and other executive agencies in conversations about programs and funding. “PRP is really an effort to try, within the existing framework, to bring a certain level of budget autonomy back to AID, but also explicitly linking that with policy … and with performance,” said Conor Savoy, executive director at the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network. Some warn that while the new bureau might look good on paper — and might be an improvement over the current arrangement — it does not address some big underlying issues that have hindered USAID’s ability to think strategically, align resources with its plans, and then measure the performance of those resources in achieving them. (The article continues with a focus on avoiding State micromanagement of AID’s budget.)
- New! USAID clarifies $42M Myanmar funding shift (Devex by Michael Igoe, February 19, 2021) —The U.S. Agency for International Development announced on Feb. 11 it would redirect $42.4 million in assistance to Myanmar after carrying out a review to determine whether any U.S. funding would likely benefit the military junta. It was not immediately clear how USAID would determine which aspects of its work might benefit the government, especially since the agency does not provide direct budget support to Myanmar. So Devex sought clarification. The $42.4 million that is being redirected “includes funds that were intended to provide technical assistance, training, and capacity building to government ministries, departments, and commissions,” according to Pooja Jhunjhunwala, acting spokesperson at USAID.“USAID will cease activity components that risk benefitting or supporting the government, while redirecting program implementation to support civil society and advocacy organizations working on governance, human rights, and trafficking in persons,” Jhunjhunwala wrote to Devex. The shift away from technical assistance, training and capacity building applies “except in some cases such as health and humanitarian assistance where limited coordination with or work through the government is necessary and unavoidable for life-saving activities,” she added.
How it works: USAID’s assistance to Myanmar is directed through implementing partners, including United Nation’s organizations, private sector contractors and grantees, and local and international nongovernmental organizations. Asked how existing contracts and grants would accommodate the redirection of funding, Jhunjhunwala wrote, “USAID builds adaptive management approaches into its award instruments such that they can be adjusted as circumstances may dictate.
Why it matters: The U.S. government is trying to apply pressure to Myanmar’s military while avoiding actions that could harm people in need. Since USAID typically works in close cooperation with its counterpart governments, that is a difficult balance to achieve.
- New! What new US Congressional leadership means for foreign aid (Devex by Adva Saldinger, February 18, 2021) — The roster is finally set as a new cadre of U.S. congressional leaders has taken the helm of the committees with the greatest role in determining policy and providing funding to the United States’ development priorities. In the Senate, some key leaders merely switched from ranking members to chairs of their respective committees. But in the House of Representatives, election losses and retirements have resulted in a new set of leaders. The leadership changes across the board might not have a huge impact on development issues, many of which are traditionally bipartisan, said Bill O’Keefe, executive vice president for mission, mobilization, and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services.While some development advocates hope the new leadership could lead to a more robust agenda, many caution that Congress and the Biden administration are contending with a number of domestic challenges — including, of course, COVID-19. So expectations should be kept realistic, they told Devex. Even when former President Barack Obama was elected with even bigger Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress, hopes of big action on these issues didn’t come to fruition, they said. Some of the policy priorities of the new leaders aren’t yet clear. So far, it seems Africa may be more of a priority in the House than before, global health security may be taken on in the Senate, and a lack of diversity in U.S. foreign policy and foreign aid may be examined by both. Devex spoke to a number of development experts and advocates about the new leadership. Here’s a look at who’s in charge:
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Chairman: Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey
Senate Committee on Appropriations, Chairman: Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, Chairman: Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware
House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Chairman: Rep. Gregory Meeks, a Democrat from New York
House Committee on Appropriations, Chairwoman: Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut
House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, Chairwoman: Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California
- New! Making USAID a premier development agency (Brookings by George Ingram, February 17, 2021) — Two challenges uppermost on the agenda of the Biden administration, COVID-19 and climate change, are issues of both domestic and international import. The international elements—help for countries in mitigating the health and economic impact of COVID-19, ensuring access to vaccines, and preventing future pandemics, and help in mitigating and adapting to the impact of climate change—are inherently matters of global development. International progress is imperative for success on these issues domestically. Addressing the international aspects of these transnational crises must be grounded on sophisticated analysis and deployment of resources that strengthen countries long term while reducing the impact of the crises. This requires ensuring that the development mindset is given full consideration as the U.S. develops its strategy and policymaking, but security considerations and diplomatic short-term interests often hold sway, because the short-term political gains are more certain and apparent and the bureaucratic structure works to their advantages. To elevate the U.S. contribution to global development, the authorities and capabilities of the lead development agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), must be strengthened and the agency assigned the prominence that has always been implied by the concept of national security resting on the three-legged stool of defense, diplomacy, and development. Further, USAID must adopt strategies and policies that reflect the priorities of the administration, relevant programs and responsibilities should be assigned to USAID, and the agency personnel system must be rebuilt. (Read George’s excellent analysis of the challenge, the limits of historic and existing policies, policy recommendations, and conclusion.)
- New! Rep. Lee wants to bring greater racial equity to foreign aid— Barbara Lee will be the first Black lawmaker to chair the panel that oversees foreign aid and the State Department (RollCall.com by Rachel Oswald, February 16, 2021) — The new chairwoman of the House Appropriations foreign aid subcommittee is well known for her longtime advocacy for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs, women’s access to reproductive health care, and prescient and early opposition to expansive and indefinite military interventions after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Because of this track record, many progressive foreign policy groups have been eagerly anticipating California Democrat Barbara Lee’s ascension to the top of the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee ever since the panel’s former chairwoman, New York Democrat Nita M. Lowey, announced in late 2019 that she would retire at the end of the 116th Congress. The subcommittee is charged with allocating annual funding to the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other smaller aid and global affairs entities. In the current fiscal year, Congress appropriated a total of $55.5 billion for diplomacy and foreign aid programs.
“I’m really excited as the first African American woman to chair the subcommittee, I hope to really show the country how, once again, we can help make our country stronger in global affairs” by bringing “an added lens of equity, racial equity” to U.S. global engagement, she said. Lee has been a longtime member of the subcommittee and had the most seniority on the panel after Lowey. She is generally regarded as more skeptical than Lowey about the benefits of continuing military assistance to some partners in the Middle East such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Lee has also been willing to sign statements criticizing Israel’s settlement policies in the West Bank and treatment of the Palestinians. That has caused some consternation with more conservative pro-Israel lobbyist groups.
In an interview with CQ Roll Call, Lee said it was too early in her tenure as subcommittee head for her to have reached any major decisions about things she wants to change in the annual State-Foreign Operations bill, including security assistance programs, which received $9 billion in fiscal 2021. (Read further for information on her views on the Pro-Choice Caucus, opposition to the Helms Amendment, repealing the Mexico City “global gag rule”, and more aid for the Caribbean countries.)
- New! Rebuilding the State Department from the Ground Up (National Interest by Robert D. Kaplan, February 14, 2021) — America’s standing in the world can now be improved in quite a number of ways from the top down. The government can be made to work. The State Department can be renewed. But this transition should begin from the ground up; it should start with the human element.It’s always a challenge for those who lead a great power like the United States to see the big picture. At the same time, they require access to in-depth, granular knowledge of every country in the world. It is a matter of looking up-and-out and at the same time down-and-in. Rebuilding the State Department is not only a matter of repairing the devastation of the Trump era with its politicization of everything at Foggy Bottom. It doesn’t only mean reducing the number of political appointees as ambassadors and replacing them with career diplomats, or even raising the department’s budget. It also means re-emphasizing the reporting function of the foreign service, and thereby underlining the development of area expertise. The Cold War-era Arabists and China hands might have gotten certain things wrong, but they represented the foreign service at its best: merging linguistic and cultural knowledge that made them indispensable to policymakers. Good policy rests on understanding the material at hand in distant places: all the nuances and distinctions that, for example, separate one Baathist head of state in Syria from another in Iraq; that separate one Cold War-era proxy insurgency in Angola from another nearby in Mozambique; that separate the ideological evolution of Turkey’s current ruling Islamists from the generation of Turkish Islamists which preceded them. Henry Kissinger once told me that while he was the one to make the policy decisions, he could not have executed his diplomatic agreements in the Middle East without the advice and granular knowledge of the Arabists.
I concentrate on the Cold War because it was an era when political differences within the State Department were muted compared to today when realists worked well with neoconservatives, and vice versa. It was an era when realism and human rights were not enemies, as humanitarian considerations fit more easily into calculations of national interest because the Cold War was a contest over which system of political values—the United States’ or the Soviets—was best. This ability to synthesize opposing positions constitutes an intellectual virtue that should not be lost. Alas, the bane of Washington today has often been the tendency to see the world in opposing, unreconcilable archetypes: democracies and dictatorships, moderates and radicals, friendly states and enemy states. But it is the job of the foreign service to break down those formulaic categories and to depict a world of subtle shades: in which progress can be made even with adversaries because some dictatorships are enlightened and some democracies illiberal. The foreign service through its field reporting is the networker par excellence for the U.S. government. It creates opportunities where none have thought to have existed. Having studied the foreign service for several years in the course of writing a biography of a State Department humanitarian, I can attest that what makes a good foreign service officer is sometimes not that much different from what makes a good newspaper correspondent: a willingness to escape from the embassy and explore beyond the capital city; to explore alone so as not to be influenced by groupthink; to listen for hours to people in the field without asking leading questions; to employ anxious foresight, that is to know the worst about a place so as to warn policymakers about avoidable bad outcomes; and most of all to avoid letting the perfect be the enemy of the good since policymaking is often a world of tough choices. In other words, it takes a highly unusual individual to become a successful foreign service officer. And that is the way it always should be. If we compromise on innate talent, the quality of the foreign service will suffer, no matter how much money is thrown at it.
- New! Four Ideas for Samantha Power’s USAID (Devex by Charles Kenney, February 1, 2021) — President Biden has nominated Ambassador Samantha Power to lead USAID. If confirmed, Power is likely to bring significant change and newfound focus to an agency in sore need of direction and leadership. A large and bipartisan group of supporters on and off Capitol Hill who back US assistance but believe it could do more will be rooting for her success. The agency is already engaged in vital development efforts covering global health and humanitarian assistance, but it could do more, especially in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath.
I have four suggestions for new or expanded directions and initiatives:
- A focus on sustainable industrial policy,
- Universal mobile Access,
- Responding to the threat of zoonotic disease, and
- Providing support to civil society to strike down laws that enforce discrimination on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation or religious belief worldwide.
- New! Foreign Aid Is Having a Reckoning–The Black Lives Matter movement has given leaders from the Global South new traction for change. (New York Times by the Editorial Board, February 13, 2021) — Sending aid to Africa became popular in the 1980s, when a famine in Ethiopia prompted some of the most famous singers in the world to raise money for food aid with concerts and songs like “We Are the World.” Images of malnourished children with distended bellies primed an American public to support some of the most ambitious humanitarian relief efforts on record: airlifts of supplies to Sudan, which ran from 1989 to 2005, and a military intervention that aimed to deliver food to war-torn Somalia in the early 1990s. Such efforts have helped shaped outsiders’ perceptions of a diverse continent that is home to 54 countries and 1.3 billion people. Generations of American children were told to eat their vegetables “because there are starving children in Africa.” Today, a rising African middle class on a continent that is home to nearly two-dozen billionaires is challenging previous assumptions about foreign aid, from who donates money, to who should get paid to deliver aid, to whose metrics ought to be used to determine whether it was a success. A growing group of intellectuals, aid workers and civic leaders from Africa say the “white savior” mentality of the world’s foreign aid system can end up doing more harm than good.They point out that planeloads of free American corn can help famine victims in the short term, but they can also put local farmers out of business, making the food supply in the long term more precarious. Relief efforts in Sudan may have saved countless lives, but they also emboldened combatants who controlled access to food, prolonging a brutal war. The international efforts in Somalia to stand in for the government have sometimes harmed attempts by Somalis to create governing structures of their own, fostering long-term dependency. The images of starving children used to raise money for famine relief are now decried as “poverty porn” that portrays Africans as helpless victims so that American and European organizations can collect funds. Degan Ali, executive director of Adeso, a Nairobi-based organization that works in Somalia and Kenya, is among the most outspoken African activists demanding an overhaul of the way foreign aid works. The daughter of a Somali military officer who moved the family to Washington when Ms. Ali was a child, she returned to Somalia as an employee of the United Nations but quickly grew disillusioned. She watched her mother, an award-winning environmentalist in Somalia, struggle to raise funding, while big grants went to international organizations led by white Americans and Europeans who made influential decisions far from the places they were trying to assist.…Just when the aid sector seemed impervious to change, an opening came. In the protests that followed last year’s police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a flurry of private foundations and international humanitarian organizations put out statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. That prompted calls from staff members inside those organizations to demand self-reflection. USAID, Britain’s aid agency and Doctors Without Borders all faced allegations of systemic racism in their ranks. Suddenly, more Americans seemed willing to listen to the critiques of people like Ms. Ali.
- New! USAID’s Policy Voice Should be Heard (Brookings by J.Brian Atwood and Larry Garber, February 10, 2021) — The nomination of Samantha Power to be the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has excited a demoralized agency and the entire development community. While the mission of USAID has been recognized along with defense and diplomacy as contributing to national security, this is the first time its administrator has been formally given a seat at the National Security Council (NSC) principals’ table. Power, the ambassador to the United Nations during the Obama administration, will now lead an institution frequently mischaracterized as a purely technocratic instrument of foreign policy rather than as a policymaking actor. Yet, we can attest that USAID has always played a policy role not only in devising the U.S. government’s development strategy, but in contributing to deliberations on other critical national security concerns. Power’s appointment to the NSC means that she will not have to be invited on a case-by-case basis. To be sure, some development activists worry that too broad an engagement will distract from USAID’s explicit development and humanitarian mandates. Others express concern that the USAID administrator could intrude on the State Department’s traditional turf. These concerns should not be dismissed out of hand.State and USAID have similar but distinct missions. The perspective of each of the two institutions is complementary and many professional attributes are the same: Intercultural and language skills, for example, are essential. There are differences, however: Development professionals are primarily responsible for managing resources and programs, and their relationships in the field are with multilateral and bilateral aid organizations, sectoral ministries, and nongovernmental organizations. USAID’s policy voice can be vital, especially in a world where the source of many transnational threats is underdevelopment. Ideally, the State Department and USAID interact with each other as civilian partners within the NSC, even as the USAID administrator operates under the foreign policy guidance of the secretary of state. The presumption is that U.S. foreign policy is informed by the development perspective as well as by statecraft considerations. In practice this rarely creates dissonance. President Biden’s national security team is as collegial as any assembled in the modern era. On a personal level, there is great respect and trust, emanating from having worked together on national security matters during the Obama administration. Power, having previously addressed policy from more than one institutional perspective, will no doubt be fully capable of formulating the USAID position on an issue in a constructive and supportive manner. But what is unique about that perspective?First and foremost, there is a long history of evolving development thought. Effectiveness principles have been agreed among donors and their partners. Aid tied primarily to the financial interest of a donor should be avoided. Donors should strive to enhance local ownership and to use local systems whenever possible. Projects should be evaluated to determine that they are not creating dependency. These and other principles are designed to enhance prospects for sustainable development, or self-reliance. Occasionally, the desire for short-term diplomatic or domestic gain conflicts with these principles. Policymakers should understand the trade-offs involved, including the costs to long-term development investments. In the end, the development perspective may well be rejected, but not always. The past offers several relevant examples. (Pls read the full text to gather the important examples given by the authors.)
- New! The Quite Revolution: What Congress should know about foreign assistance today (Brookings by Kristin Lord and Ann Mei Change – February 9, 2021.) America’s next leaders of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) have their work cut out for them. The COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out decades of gains in international development. For the first time since 1998, there will be a rise in global poverty that will push as many as 150 million people into extreme poverty by 2021’s end. The World Bank has estimated that reduced availability of health services and nutrition this year will lead to a 45 percent rise in child mortality. School closures have disrupted education in one form or another for more than 90 percent of the global youth population. Developing countries bear the heaviest brunt of these and other consequences of the pandemic. But wealthier countries also have an enormous stake in helping them address those challenges successfully. We must help not just for humanitarian reasons but also because failing to do so will damage public health, economic well-being, and national security interests worldwide. As President Biden selects a new cohort of leaders for America’s international development agencies, the world is watching closely to see what example America will set. The early nomination of foreign policy heavyweight Samantha Power to lead USAID—and the president’s decision to add the position of USAID administrator to the National Security Council—indicate that the U.S. is thinking seriously about its global development strategy. Eventually, though, U.S. leaders and their counterparts in other wealthy countries will have to contend with the growing gap between international development needs and the political will to address them—especially as domestic needs have ballooned during the pandemic. In confirmation hearings for U.S. government agencies, Congress should ask how they plan to address it. The good news is that a quiet revolution has been unfolding in international development, with new approaches yielding fresh solutions and generating additional resources……Already, governments are embracing financing models that leverage public money to draw in additional resources. And there are still huge amounts of money left to tap, employing mechanisms like the following: (The article continues to explore the mechanisms to leverage development capital including Domestic resource mobilization (DRM); de-risking innovation; development finance; and asset recovery.)
- New! Restoring US Leadership Abroad, with 60 years of experience, USAID tackles historic crises (Medium by Gloria Steele, February 4, 2021) — Today, our world faces multiple crises of historic proportions: the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis, the devastating effects of climate change, and fundamental threats to democracy, equity, and human rights. These challenges, which see no borders, have a direct impact on U.S. national security, as our health and prosperity are closely intertwined with those of other nations around the globe.
Under President Biden’s leadership, great importance has been placed on development, diplomacy, and defense in order to protect and promote the interests of all Americans. Reflecting this, the President has elevated the USAID Administrator to be a member of the National Security Council.As the world’s premier global development agency, USAID is uniquely poised to lead the U.S. response to many of the pressing challenges we face today. USAID will help achieve the President’s vision of restoring U.S. moral leadership, creating a safer and more prosperous world, and demonstrating American values on the world stage.
With 60 years of experience, USAID will do what we do best, which is improving lives in more than 100 countries throughout the world. We will work with key partners to battle COVID-19 and prepare for future outbreaks, promote an inclusive global economy, bolster resilience to climate change, advance global health, restore global leadership and partnerships, and defend democracy and human rights.
COVID-19. — USAID and our partners must be on the front lines bravely and selflessly battling the virus around the world. President Biden has made clear that the U.S. will help to lead this fight, through partnership and cooperation rather than nationalism or competition. Under the Biden Administration, the United States is proud to join COVAX, a global consortium working to ensure that everyone worldwide has equal access to COVID-19 vaccines.We will continue to build and adapt our COVID-19 response. USAID has committed more than $1.3 billion to save lives by protecting health care workers, strengthening laboratory systems, distributing public health information, and boosting rapid response in more than 120 countries. We will continue to develop new efforts to strengthen the global fight against COVID-19 in the months ahead.
Climate — We will take swift actions to tackle the climate crisis. On day one of the Biden Administration, the United States rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement to work with nearly 200 countries to combat the existential threat of climate change.USAID partners with the international community to build a climate-resilient future for generations to come. USAID programs have been pivotal in helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change and in strengthening community resilience for decades.
Global Health — For more than half a century, USAID has saved lives and protected people most vulnerable to disease, from HIV/AIDS to tuberculosis and malaria. We prevent child and maternal deaths, we strengthen health systems, and we combat infectious diseases. And as the world’s largest donor to reproductive health, the United States has a long history in international voluntary family planning. President Biden issued a presidential memorandum to support women’s health needs globally, including expanding access to reproductive health care and voluntary family planning, which is essential to empowering women and gender equality. Women and girls who can make informed decisions about their lives — decisions to stay in school, delay marriage, and make their own reproductive choices — are often healthier and have healthier families.
Global Health — For more than half a century, USAID has saved lives and protected people most vulnerable to disease, from HIV/AIDS to tuberculosis and malaria. We prevent child and maternal deaths, we strengthen health systems, and we combat infectious diseases. And as the world’s largest donor to reproductive health, the United States has a long history in international voluntary family planning. President Biden issued a presidential memorandum to support women’s health needs globally, including expanding access to reproductive health care and voluntary family planning, which is essential to empowering women and gender equality. Women and girls who can make informed decisions about their lives — decisions to stay in school, delay marriage, and make their own reproductive choices — are often healthier and have healthier families.
Democracy and Human Rights — USAID’s work to advance democratic governance is foundational to everything we do. Citizen-responsive governance is a critical factor in development, and we believe it is not possible for any country to rise to its full potential without it. Democracy is precious and fragile, as President Biden said in his inaugural remarks. That’s why the United States’ ability to lead by example and partner to promote democracy and human rights — both at home and abroad — is so important. We cannot help build resilient democracies without also combating inequity and racism. An unjust and unequal society will never achieve its full potential.
USAID will engage and partner with the international community to build a more stable and just world. As we celebrate our 60th anniversary, we recognize our past accomplishments and significant tasks ahead. We, the dedicated USAID staff, serve the American people to save lives and advocate for those facing hunger and poverty around the world.
- New! Exclusive: 5 potential picks to succeed Deborah Birx at PEPFAR ( Devex By Michael Igoe, February 4, 2021) — President Joe Biden has yet to announce a nominee for U.S. global AIDS coordinator, the role that was previously held by Deborah Birx and includes leadership of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. It is one of the highest-profile positions within U.S. global health and development agencies — particularly given PEPFAR’s role in the global response to COVID-19, as well as Birx’s highly visible departure. Multiple sources with knowledge of internal discussions or external lobbying efforts have told Devex that five names have risen to the surface as potential leaders of the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy: Shannon Hader, Charles Holmes, Chris Beyrer, Vanessa Kerry, and Paul Farmer. Among the group, three are well-known experts within the global HIV community, two are veterans of former President Barack Obama’s administration, and two are prominent global health leaders.Hader is currently deputy executive director at UNAIDS. Hader served under Obama as director of the global HIV and tuberculosis division at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and as former vice president at Futures Group, now known as Palladium. Holmes is director at Georgetown University’s Center for Innovation in Global Health and served as chief medical officer and deputy U.S. global AIDS coordinator for PEPFAR during the Obama administration. Before that, Holmes was CEO at the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia. Beyrer is currently the Desmond M. Tutu professor of public health and human rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and was formerly president of the International AIDS Society. When reached for comment, Beyrer told Devex he would be willing to serve if given the opportunity, noting that he has been “in conversations with some people in the administration about serving in a global health role generally.” “The opportunity to be a part of America’s return to international diplomacy and American soft power — which I think PEPFAR is probably the iconic program for — is compelling to me,” he said.In addition to the three HIV experts, sources told Devex that the search for Birx’s successor has also surfaced two well-known — and politically well-connected — names. Multiple sources told Devex that Vanessa Kerry, founder and CEO at Seed Global Health and daughter of former Secretary of State John Kerry, has been mentioned for the role. Seed Global Health, under her leadership, has established public-private partnerships with U.S. agencies and initiatives, including PEPFAR. One source told Devex that Paul Farmer, co-founder and chief strategist at Partners In Health and a perennial candidate for high-level health and development positions, has also received attention. Multiple sources also cautioned that these names are not necessarily the only ones under consideration by an administration that is still primarily focused on domestic COVID-19 response. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive nomination process.
- New! USAID nominee Power calls for US to lead on global COVID-19 response (Devex by Adva Saldinger, February 4, 2021) — The United States needs to take a leadership role in global COVID-19 response and play an active part in helping address the mounting number of world crises — from the coup in Myanmar to the protracted conflicts in Yemen, Syria, and Venezuela, according to Samantha Power, the nominee to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development. “The only way a collective action problem gets addressed, resolved, is for a catalytic actor to put skin in the game and to leverage what it is doing to get others to do more,” Power said at an online event Wednesday. While some countries have tried, the U.S. — by virtue of its stature and potential funding ability — can make a critical difference in global COVID-19 response, though it will face trust issues with world leaders, Power said.In the Ebola response, U.S. leadership and commitment to deploy troops and other personnel helped mobilize other countries to act and spurred coordination, including with China, she said. The $11 billion in global funding in President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill “desperately” needs to be preserved, Power said. Advocates, including CARE and the ONE Campaign, are calling for $20 billion to fund the mounting needs of the global response. Power, who has been speaking to lawmakers ahead of her nomination hearing — which may come as soon as next week — said she heard agreement on several foreign aid issues from members of both parties. “Everybody just feels these gains that so many countries and communities have … are imperiled in such profound ways,” she said. She credited development advocates — including CARE, which organized the event — with working hard to build bipartisan support for these issues, which Power said “requires kind of fighting gravity.” The challenge both parties face now is how to convey why foreign aid matters to “people who are hurting in our own country in unprecedented ways,” she said. There are two key dimensions in making the argument for robust U.S. engagement in COVID-19 response: the risk of continued mutations and spread if there is unequal vaccine access and response, and the real economic consequences of not having a robust global response — which the International Chamber of Commerce estimated would cost the global economy $9 trillion, she said. (Click on the article title to see the full article.)
- New! Biden repeals the ‘global gag rule,’ but next steps will be ‘huge undertaking’ (Devex by Amy Lieberman, January 28, 2021) —President Joe Biden issued a memorandum Thursday that broadly restored United States funding support for women’s reproductive health services and rights, both rescinding the Mexico City Policy and announcing that the country would reinstate funding to the United Nations Population Fund. The memorandum immediately rescinds the controversial policy, widely known as the “global gag rule,” which withholds all U.S. global health assistance from international organizations that provide or even offer information on abortions. Federal agencies are set to shortly follow by issuing guidance to their grantees, according to experts, though a follow-up explaining the practical next steps for foreign NGOs has not yet been made publicly available.
“Again, I’m not initiating any new law, any new aspect of the law. This is going back to what the situation was prior to the president’s executive order,” Biden said during a White House press briefing Thursday afternoon, referring to the decadeslong political tussle surrounding the policy. President Ronald Reagan first initiated the rule, which has been rescinded and reinstated by subsequent Democratic and Republican presidents. Under President Donald Trump, the policy was greatly expanded so that all U.S. global health assistance, not just reproductive assistance, could be withheld — a change that led to a dangerous and even fatal “disintegration” of health services in some areas.The move will free up at least $7.3 billion in U.S. global health funding, making foreign NGOs and partners again eligible for U.S. global health assistance, even if they engage in abortion-related services or acitivites. For UNFPA, it could mean an additional $69 million each year, as well as the reemergence of one of their largest traditional donors — though the agency has largely rebounded from the funding hit over the last several years.
- New! Redefining US leadership with foreign aid—Biden’s focus on aid for his foreign policy will run into trends that require listening to aid recipients (Christian Science Monitor, January 27, 2021) —President Joe Biden plans to renew American leadership in the world and the centerpiece of his foreign policy, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, will be aid for less-well-off countries. That means, for example, more money for empowering women and building democratic institutions in what is called the global south. Mr. Biden has appointed a woman, Samantha Power, as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). She is well known for promoting equality and the protection of individual rights. And, in a first, she will be an official member of the president’s National Security Council. Yet this well-intentioned effort in Washington must also deal with a trend among Western-based aid organizations like Oxfam and Amnesty International. Their work now entails listening more to local recipients of aid rather than operating mostly from the priorities of private donors and wealthy countries. They have moved jobs and offices to the countries where they focus their work. They are putting more emphasis on hiring locally.In other words, motives for foreign aid are under heightened scrutiny. Strategic interests of aid givers still matter, but so now does humility. Leadership itself is being redefined. More aid starts by letting the people on the receiving end build a consensus around the values and goals of a p Numbers illustrate what is driving change. Only 2.1% of global development funding goes directly to local civil society organizations, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The rest is allocated through international organizations to local partners. Because 99.1% of nongovernmental organizations in the global south function as subcontractors, they have little or no say in how projects are designed. Eight wealthy governments and private philanthropic entities account for nearly 90% of all development aid.One critic of the traditional Western approach is Nigerian-American novelist Teju Cole. Writing in The Atlantic, he neatly summarized the frustration of aid “recipients”: “How, for example, could a well-meaning American ‘help’ a place like Uganda today? It begins, I believe, with some humility with regards to the people in those places. It begins with some respect for the agency of the people in Uganda in their own lives.”…… While the people of the global south welcome foreign assistance, they have grown impatient with being passive recipients. The most effective programs now build in mutual respect and partnership. And some countries that have long received aid, such as Bangladesh, now have their own aid groups working overseas. American leadership, with aid as its focus, may need to rethink who is doing the leading.
- New! Mark Green to be New Head of Wilson Center (The Wilson Center Announcement, January 28, 2021) —
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum for tackling global issues through independent research and open dialogue, announced Ambassador Mark Green will take the helm as President, Director and CEO. Green joins Wilson after serving as executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, and before that, as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).“Mark’s experience and accomplishments have prepared him well to be the next leader of the Wilson Center,” said Wilson Board Chair Governor Bill Haslam. “He understands Washington, has had deep involvement in representing the United States around the world, and grasps the challenge in translating policy into action. The board is excited to introduce Mark Green as our new leader.”“While it is difficult to leave the great team at the McCain Institute and the work it’s doing to apply ‘character-driven leadership’ to a range of important challenges, I am excited about the opportunity to join the Wilson Center and to build on the great work of Jane Harman and its world-renowned scholars,” said Green. Green also served in top roles at the International Republican Institute, the Initiative for Global Development, and at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. He was the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania from 2007 to 2009. Green served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives for Wisconsin’s 8th District. “I’m pleased to learn the Wilson Center’s board of directors has recommended Ambassador Mark Green to serve as the next president and CEO. Ambassador Green brings a wealth of diverse experience to this role at a time when we face a multitude of global challenges that require creative thinking, strong leadership, and bi-partisan policy engagement,” said U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I am excited to learn my friend Mark Green is assuming responsibilities as the Director, President, and CEO of the Wilson Center,” said U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE). “Mark brings years of knowledge and experience as a Member of Congress, Ambassador, and USAID Administrator to this important role. With so many pressing challenges facing the United States, I look forward to working with him to enhance the Wilson Center’s reputation as one of the leading authorities on U.S. foreign policy and national security.”Green graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School and the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. He succeeds former Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA), who announced last July she was stepping down on February 28, 2021, after ten years leading the Center. “Mark is a great choice: the right experience, the right personality, and the right energy and passion for the work,” said Harman. “He will soon find out why I call the Center an intellectual candy store, and I will do everything I can to make his transition seamless.”The Wilson Center is ranked one of the top think tanks in the world by the University of Pennsylvania.
- 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.