As USAID awaits its fate, Clinton lays out new U.S. development agenda

As USAID awaits its fate, Clinton lays out new U.S. development agenda

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just began giving what’s being touted as a major speech on development today, only a day ahead of the swearing in of new USAID administrator Rajiv Shah.

Her speech and the Shah ascendency come at a crucial time for the development community, which is holding its breath waiting to learn its fate in the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review and the NSC’s Presidential Study Directive on Global Development.

Clinton has made it clear that she wants the elevation of the development mission to be a key part of her legacy as secretary, but it remains to be seen how that will be implemented bureaucratically and whether USAID will enjoy the policy and budget independence that was stripped away from the organization during the Bush administration.

Clinton spoke to that in her prepared remarks, saying that she wants to “integrate” development with defense and diplomacy in the field. And she addressed the fear of many in the development community that integration, particularly with soldiers and diplomats, risks linking development with other government policies in just the way that development organizations are trying to avoid.

“I know that the word “integration” sets off alarm bells,” Clinton said. “There is a concern that integrating development means diluting it or politicizing it — giving up our long-term development goals to achieve short-term objectives or handing over more of the work of development to our diplomats or defense experts.”

“That is not what we will do,” she said. “What we will do is leverage the expertise of our diplomats and military on behalf of development, and vice versa. The three Ds (defense, diplomacy, development) must be mutually reinforcing.”

She also pledged to restaff USAID and shift the responsibility and leadership positions away from contractors.

“For too long, we’ve relied on contractors for core contributions and diminished our own professional and institutional capacities. This must be fixed,” she said. “Contractors are there to support us, not supplant us.”

Below are some other key excerpts from Clinton’s speech.

On the link between development and national security:

We cannot stop terrorism or defeat the ideologies of violent extremism when hundreds of millions of young people see a future with no jobs, no hope, and no way ever to catch up to the developed world…

We cannot rely on regional partners to help us stop conflicts and counter global criminal networks when those countries are struggling to stabilize and secure their own societies.

We cannot advance democracy and human rights when hunger and poverty threaten to     undermine the good governance and rule of law needed to make rights real.

We cannot stop global pandemics until billions of people gain access to better health care, and we cannot address climate change or scarcer resources until billions gain access to greener energy and sustainable livelihoods.

On Shah’s commitment to increase accountability and evaluation of development programs:

A new mindset means a new commitment to results. Development is a long-term endeavor; none of the changes we seek will happen overnight. To keep moving in the right direction, we must evaluate our progress and have the courage to rethink our strategies if we’re falling short.

We must not simply add up the dollars we spend or the number of programs we run, but  measure the results-the lasting changes that those dollars and programs have helped achieve. And we must share the proof of our progress with the public.

On the limits of development aid:

We must also be honest that, in some situations, we will invest in places that are strategically critical but where we are not guaranteed success. In countries that are incubators of extremism, like Yemen, or are ravaged by poverty and natural disasters, like Haiti, the odds are long. But the cost of doing nothing is potentially far greater.

On the difference between aid and investment:

Through aid, we supply what is needed to the people who need it-be it sacks of rice, cartons of medicines, or millions of dollars to fill a budget shortfall. But through investment, we seek to break the cycle of dependence that aid can create by helping countries build their own   institutions and their own capacity to deliver essential services. Aid chases need; investment chases opportunity.

This is not to say that the United States is abandoning aid.  It is still a vital tool, especially as an   emergency response. But through strategic investments in programs like the Millennium Challenge Corporation, we hope to one day put ourselves out of the aid business, because countries will no longer need this kind of help.

You can read the entire speech here.

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