Aid Reform Alphabet Soup


October 9, 2009
John Fawcett

Eighteen months ago this week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009 (H.R.2139) as a “down payment” on a more comprehensive re-authorization.

QDDR. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has launched her own aid reform effort, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). Modeled after the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, this ambitious review will seek to create the “short-, medium-, and long-term blueprint for our diplomatic and development efforts.” The QDDR has been organized into five working groups with promising if somewhat opaque headings like “Building a global architecture of cooperation” and “Investing in the building blocks of stronger societies.”

PSD. Not to be outdone, President Barack Obama has signed a Presidential Study Directive (PSD) ordering a government-wide review of U.S. global development policy to be conducted by the National Security Council. Significantly, the PSD will extend beyond just foreign assistance and examine other development tools such as trade, debt cancellation, economic policy (via the IMF, for example) and agricultural policy.

Encouragingly, each of these efforts has solicited input from NGOs and civil society. How and whether these separate initiatives come together to form a coherent and meaningfully reformed development strategy is unclear. The Foreign Affairs Committee will apparently wait to release a draft of the FAA rewrite until it can be informed by the initial results of the QDDR and PSD in January. This may be an encouraging sign that these various efforts will complement rather than compete.

In this aid reform alphabet soup recipe, Congress, the White House and the State Department should all remember one key ingredient: the MDGs. Nearly a decade after their creation, the Millennium Development Goals are still the most comprehensive framework the world has for ending extreme poverty. With specific, time-bound goals to improve the health and well-being of the world’s poorest, the achievement of the MDGs should be the objective of any comprehensive development strategy.

For more, check out RESULTS foreign aid reform campaign page.

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