On July 21, GMF’s Aid Effectiveness Project hosted a roundtable luncheon with key stakeholders from the foreign policy and development community to release a new Economic Policy Program paper entitled The Roadmap for a Grand Bargain: Comments on a U.S. Global Development Strategy. This paper is co-authored by GMF senior resident fellow Jim Kunder and senior program officer Jonathan White and can be downloaded here. During the luncheon, Jim Kunder presented the paper’s key points, making the case as to why the United States needs a comprehensive and quantifiable outcomes-based national development strategy. Sam Worthington, President and CEO of InterAction responded with his comments to the paper, adding his thoughts on how the roadmap fits into the current aid reform processes underway. Senior transatlantic fellow and former Congressman Jim Kolbe moderated the discussion.
The recently leaked draft of the Obama administration’s Presidential Study Directive on Global Development (PSD) coupled with the upcoming release of the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) provide unprecedented fertile ground to work toward the creation of a new strategy for U.S. development that clearly defines what America aims to achieve with its development policy, in outcomes-based and measurable terms. With around $25 billion in foreign aid investments abroad, the United States does not have a single, measurable vision of success, nor a set of objectives that clearly summarizes the end-goal. The U.S. foreign aid program also lacks an effective process for determining: 1) the amount of aid given to recipient countries; 2) the categories of aid in which spending is prioritized – e.g., health, education, democracy promotion, etc; 3) in what sequence foreign aid should be applied in a recipient country (does economic development take precedence over political development, or vice versa?) and finally; 4) the aggregate impact of development aid against the strategic goals that have been set. While U.S. foreign assistance has done an incredible amount of good in the world over the years, it has become non-strategic, outdated and plagued by fragmentation. Furthermore, it lacks a compelling external message for seeking public support.
In his presentation on GMF’s Roadmap for a Grand Bargain, Jim Kunder put forward ideas on how a new visionary strategy for U.S. foreign aid can be forged while accommodating interests across the U.S. Executive, Congress, and civil society. Kunder underlined that the essential elements of such a strategy would include: 1) clarity of mission; 2) measurable impact; 3) systematic focus on development; 4) flexibility partnerships; and 5) viable nation-states and societies. After describing the rationale behind these elements and a possible system for measuring development progress, Kunder proposed that a new, outcomes-based goal for U.S. foreign aid could be: “…to ensure that, by 2025, all “rebuilding,” and “developing” nations achieve “transforming” status, and that 50 percent of those nations achieve “sustaining partner” status.” While acknowledging that the new, quantifiable strategy proposed is not a panacea (as development is complex and variable rather than an exact science), Kunder argued that this roadmap can serve as a step forward in modernizing the U.S. system which is today characterized by an array of duplicative objectives and programs.
During the Q&A session, a number of questions were raised about the quantitative aspects of the strategy and the “power-based” challenges to attempting to strike a bargain between Congress, the administration, and civil society on a new, comprehensive direction for U.S. foreign aid. First, a number of comments focused on the implications of quantifying development goals and outcomes – “countries measure what they value.” Various institutions may assign different indicators to what they value (e.g., the IMF will favor fighting inflation even if this means reduce social spending). On a related point, measurements are often conducted in the short term implying that goals that require a long-term approach may be neglected (and development is a long-term process). Second, the issue of attribution was raised and the resulting challenges in attempting to coordinate the new U.S. approach with other donors who may be pursing different development goals. Third, the emphasis on nation-states can prove to be problematic as a number of today’s challenges are transnational (e.g., HIV/AIDS, global warming). Finally, conversation also focused on the question of how to integrate U.S. resources with recipient countries’ needs – the “headquarters to field” gap.
A GMF podcast between the event speakers, Jim Kunder, Sam Worthington, and Jim Kolbe, is available here.