State Department Reveals New Development and Diplomacy Plan

December 17, 2010
by John Fawcett, Legislative Director

After many months of delay and anticipation, yesterday Secretary Clinton released the final report of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which seeks to revise and restructure U.S. diplomacy and development — the first such comprehensive effort in half a century. It has been a two-year process with the end-goal of making U.S. aid and diplomacy more effective and supportive of our national interests. Among other objectives, the QDDR outlines a development and diplomacy framework in which: USAID is recognized as the lead development agency; USAID is strengthened and modernized; there is a greater focus on high-impact development programs and stronger support for the principle of country ownership; monitoring and evaluation of aid programs is revamped; and the principle of results-based aid is embraced. There are six specific areas of focus, including a concentration on women and girls: food security, global health, climate change, sustainable economic growth, democracy and governance, humanitarian assistance.

Country ownership — the principle that countries should lead their own development — is infused throughout the QDDR. But a recent Associated Press analysis of U.S. disaster relief to Haiti reveals the yawning gap between principle and practice. Out of every $100 of U.S. contracts now paid out to rebuild Haiti, Haitian firms have successfully won just $1.60. Much of the $267 million in contracts has gone to firms in Virginia ($45.3 million), Maryland ($44.6 million), and D.C. ($31.7 million). Haitian-owned companies have gotten just $4.3 million.

Even as the QDDR was still being conceptualized, Haiti was supposed to be the test case for a new country led approach. Speaking at a conference of donor countries shortly after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, Secretary Clinton said of the rebuilding effort: “we cannot any longer in the 21st century be making decisions for people and their futures without listening and without giving them the opportunity to be as involved and make as many decisions as possible.”

We clearly have a long way to go before that vision is a reality. Let’s hope the QDDR is a meaningful step in the right direction.

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