Papers Recently Published By USAID Alumni

New! Desaix (Terry) Myers : “The US Agency for International Development, More Operator Than Policy Maker,” a chapter in the National Security Enterprise, Navigating the Labyrinth, 2nd Edition, Roger George and Harvey Rishikof, editors, Georgetown University Press, 2017

Georgetown University Press has recently made this chapter available to UAA members.  It appears in a 2017 book, The National Security Enterprise, which describes the institutions, interests and relationships involved in making and implementing national security policy.  It argues that USAID, historically, has been an inconsistent player in the national security community.  A field-oriented agency responsible for producing transformational change through development assistance, its structure and culture have bent the Agency toward field operations and program implementation rather than policy analysis and advocacy.  There has been a natural tension between the long-term nature of USAID’s development aims and the urgency of national security political and policy goals.  As a result, USAID has been ambivalent about playing a role in the national security community, and other agencies, while eyeing USAID’s resources enviously, have been disappointed by the time it takes to get results.  This tension has only increased with the new demands arising after September 11, 2001.  The chapter explores the nature of the new environment and what it might mean for USAID.

The chapter begins with a review of USAID’s history.  It looks at its structure and culture and the evolution of the political and policy environment in which it operates.  Finally, it ends with a description of USAID’s response to the changed environment and offers suggestions as to how its role in the national security enterprise might be more effective.

Read the full chapter here.

Jim Michel: Institutional Integrity: An Essential Building Block of Sustainable Reform

The work, written by Jim Michel and sponsored by TetraTech,  is a report on institutional integrity that examines a promising approach for addressing a particular aspect of change—the fundamental need for competent, fair, and accountable public institutions to achieve good governance.

Societal change is a long-term process that requires participatory analysis to establish goals, the capacity to communicate those goals, and persistent effort by a broad range of stakeholders with continuous monitoring of progress and flexible adaptation to respond to lessons learned and changing conditions.

The report examines the concept of institutional integrity, describes how it has been applied in practice, presents a case study of experience in Latin America, and offers recommendations for international cooperation to contribute to sustainable progress in public integrity.

Read the full report here.

Kiertisak Toh: Assessing Macroeconomic Volatility on Economic Growth: The Case of Sub-Saharan African Economies

As in most low-income countries, sub-Saharan African (SSA) economies tend to have a higher degree of macroeconomic volatility and are likely to be more vulnerable when exposed to external shocks. This paper uses the pre-global financial and economic crisis of 2008-2009 and the recovery since 2010 to create a pooled cross-sectional dataset to explore and assess macroeconomic volatility on economic growth, taking into account economic vulnerability and policy responses and resilience of SSA’s economies. A number of relevant macroeconomic variables are used to develop an index of macroeconomic resilience. The empirical results confirm that volatility in growth negatively affects growth of SSA’s economies. It supports the view that initial economic conditions before adverse external shocks matter and macroeconomic resilience is positively correlated with economic growth. Read the full paper here.

Barbara Crane and Elizabeth Maguire – First: Aid

This article is a commentary on the threat to foreign aid posed by the Trump Administration, with special attention to what is at stake in policies affecting women’s reproductive health and rights. It was recently published in Conscience Magazine. You can read it here.

Kiertisak Toh: Emerging Growth Economies in Sub-Saharan Africa 

The turning point for the recent growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) began in the mid-1990s. It, however, has not been uniform across the region. There are countries that have experienced sustained high growth, rivaling those of rapid-growth, emerging economies in Asia. However, more than one third of the countries in Africa still experience low growth, and their economies remain fragile. The article analyzes patterns of long-run, country-level growth. It identifies a group of SSA’s emerging economies that are associated with strong growth. The empirical evidence suggests that this group of emerging growth economies is different in terms of economic fundamentals and quality of institutions and governance from the non-emerging slow-growth group. You can read the full report here.

Jim Michel: “Beyond Aid: The Integration of Sustainable Development in a Coherent International Agenda”

On September 25, 2015, world leaders adopted a new post-2015 development agenda, The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The centerpiece of this new agenda is a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) intended to transform the world. This report by Ambassador Jim Michel provides basic information about the new agenda – its content, aspirations, and global partnership approach. It describes the complex challenges to the agenda’s effective implementation, including the multiplicity of participants, the growing diversity of financing, the need for better knowledge, and the persistence of state fragility. Throughout, the emphasis is on the importance of new thinking and new behavior that will shift the focus of development from aid to a more comprehensive paradigm. It stresses the need for development partnerships that integrate sustainable development in coherent efforts to preserve our planet and enhance the well-being of all its inhabitants. The author concludes the report with suggestions about priorities for implementation of the 2030 Agenda. You can read the full report here.

David Bathrick: Helping Advance President Obama’s Vision to Substantively Reduce African Poverty: “New Era” Inclusive Agricultural and Rural Development 

Until the USG’s re-entry to agricultural development a few years ago under Feed the Future, during a quarter century this once pillar sector drifted to woebegone status. While Washington Consensus macro and fiscal reforms and WTO agreements robustly advanced, this earlier heavily protected, but little changed system from the previous import substitution structure, became increasingly challenged to stimulate sustained, broad-based growth. For many reasons, the sector’s response to globalization’s realities that most agrarian-based small and medium economies confront, became less focused and inadequately addressed. Building from experiences in over 25 countries, this paper–requested by the African Journal of Food , Agriculture, Nutrition, and Development, incorporates key points from invitations last year from USAID’s Bureau for Food Security, APLU/BIFAD, and the Brookings Institution. It presents a seldom-linked analysis of ever-worsening sector and structural related dynamics over time, from which, concomitant strategic programmatic and operational interventions are offered. To see the full paper, click here.

Stephen Klein: Climate Change Negotiations in 2015 – The UN Framework

International negotiations are intensifying in 2015 as the world’s national governments attempt to develop under a UN framework a successor approach to the Kyoto Protocol to address the threat of climate change and its projected dramatic impact on the civilizations of the planet earth. This paper provides a short primer on the ongoing preparations leading up to the meeting of national governments in Paris in December, 2015 designed to come up with an international consensus on how to limit greenhouse gas emissions into the earth’s atmosphere. See the full paper here.

Kiertisak Toh: Rethinking Foreign Aid for Fragile States

Many fragile states experienced conflict and its adverse impact on poverty and development at the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s. The conflict-trap on development and global security concern spawned empirical research on how policies should be distinctive in the conflict-affected and post-conflict recovery to avoid the recurrence of conflicts. The literature on aid effectiveness in fragile states is relatively limited in comparison to a much larger body of literature on aid effectiveness for all aid recipients. In this paper, we apply cluster analysis and robust regression to a set of OECD-DAC-designated fragile states to explore the effect of aid on development, measured by income, per capita income and by the UN Human Development Index, taking into account the interaction of weak institutional factors, and low absorptive capacity of aid associating with state fragility. The empirical results suggest positive relationship between aid and indicators of development, such as income and human development index. To read the full paper, click here

Jim Fox: Economic Support for Developing Countries

Economic Support for Developing Countries is a paper by alumnus Jim Fox. It was published as a chapter in a three-volume book on the use of economics by US government agencies. The paper attempts to identify the major economic concepts that have influenced the extent to which economists have played a role in shaping USAID programs over the past 60 years. During some of these periods, economists dominated USAID thinking; in others they were marginal. The paper attempts to assess the ebb and flow of the influence of economic thinking in the Agency through the decades as external and internal factors shaped the direction of USAID policies.*

John Holley: Consulting in International Development: a Primer

By definition, all consultants in International Development have a technical skill, but few have been systematically exposed to consulting skills, concepts, behaviors and tools required to get the job effectively done. Most learn at least some of these things by observation and trial and error. This book has been written to reduce the learning curve well as expand the skill set to enhance productivity and the quality of results.

This is not a text book, but the introduction to all the aspects of becoming an excellent consultant in International Development, with ideas related to a wide variety of topics. It is divided into three sections. The first is an introduction to the life-style and basic elements of finding a job, and getting started working in International Development as a consultant. The second section is Consulting 101: the various roles which consultants are often asked to play; the skills required to allow them to effectively play those roles; and the attitudes and behaviors which can make or break a consulting practice. The rest of the book covers a wide range of topics to expand the tool box and skill set. They include an introduction to problem-solving, creativity, study design, planning tools and simulation models, organizational development and group behavior, psychology and beyond.

To illustrate and expand on the concepts and ideas discussed, the book is peppered with examples, diagrams, anecdotes, and even poetrywhich enhance the application and readability. Suggestions for further exploration of topics are also provided.

The book is available from the publisher, Infinity Publishing, at and Amazon. It will also be available in electronic form.

Mark Wentling: Africa’s Heart: The Journey Ends in Kansas

This is the final book in an African trilogy. It may be purchased on

Fascinated by a mysterious novella, aspiring journalist, Robin Fletcher, is determined to discover more about the man described in the book…a man known only as JB. His quest leads him from the small town of Gemini, Kansas to a small, disadvantaged country in Africa.

Thousands of miles from Kansas, in the rural village of Ataku, half-caste chief, Letivi, grapples with his village’s problems. The villagers’ main source of income, subsistence cocoa farming, cannot compete with global competition. Young people are leaving the village, and the village’s only store is under the control of a foreigner.

Letivi also has personal problems. Wifeless and childless, his ability to understand the family struggles in his village is being questioned. His supernaturally sensitive mother is dying, a tragedy coinciding with the death of the enormous baobab tree into which Letivi’s father disappeared years ago.

As Letivi and the villagers plan the development of a cocoa processing plant, Fletcher traces JB to Ataku, prompting a spontaneous trip to Africa with Molly, a ravishing but erratic woman with family ties to the elusive JB. When Letivi, Molly and Robin meet, events are set in motion that change their lives and Ataku forever.

Jim Michel: Shaping the New Development Agenda

This September 2014 paper provides in-depth background on the emerging post-2015 development agenda and addresses implications of this new agenda for development cooperation.

Ludwig (Lu) Rudel: Memoirs of an Agent for Change in International Development

Alumnus Ludwig (Lu) Rudel has recently published a book, “Memoirs of an Agent for Change in International Development; My Flight Path into the 21st Century.” The book has been selected for inclusion in the “Memoirs and Occasional Papers” series by The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. You can find it at:…..velopment/. The printed version is listed for purchase on Amazon as well. It also is available for downloading at Amazon as an e-book for the Kindle – at the modest price of $3.08.

This short description of the book’s contents appears on the back of the book cover:

“Lu Rudel describes his unique experiences with US foreign economic aid programs during some of the most dramatic international events since World War II. These include Iran after the fall of Mosaddegh (1956-1960); Turkey after the military coup of 1960 to the start of the Cuba Missile crisis; India after the death of Nehru (1965-1970); and Pakistan following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988. Rudel’s firsthand observations on Iran differ markedly from the description of events commonly espoused by some historians and journalists.

“He also provides a firsthand account of the political metamorphosis over the past half-century of the “Group of 77” nations as they attempted to employ the UN’s economic development agencies to press for a “New International Economic Order.” These experiences lead him to draw important lessons about the conduct and effectiveness of foreign aid.

“After retirement in 1980 he launched a second career, applying lessons learned from his work in international development to creation of a thousand-acre land development and resort in rural Appalachia. His experiences over the following thirty years as an entrepreneur track the relentless growth of government regulations and the disappearance of community support institutions such as local banks, now being replaced by mega-banks.

“Finally, he examines global trends of the past eighty years in four critical areas of change affecting our lives – population growth, science and technology, economic systems, and political structures – to draw some surprising conclusions and projections.”


Rob Thurston: Devil’s Breath

Robert Thurston lived and worked in Latin America for over 15 years. During that period, he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Peace Corps Associate Director, US Agency for International Development program manager, and as a development consultant. His assignments took him to remote back-country places where he met and worked with all kinds of people, many commendable but a few of dubious character. Hailing from Oregon, Rob’s ancestors ventured west by wagon train, thus passing along a sense of adventure, a curiosity about new frontiers, and accounts of frontier personalities. The author drew from all of these elements and experiences to weave together the extraordinary twists and turns in Devil’s Breath.


The story takes place in recognizable Latin American settings and brings to life a panoply of characters, some inspiring, some despicable, yet all engaging. But nothing is as it seems. Matt Bolls’ well-intentioned volunteer service in Latin America turns into a nightmare of deceit, rape, murder and international intrigue. His insertion into a remote village and alien culture quickly challenges his naïve notions and assumptions, indeed, his very existence. Matt, aka Gringo Mateo, desperately flees from the many who wish to see him dead, a flight immersing him into a dark world of shadowy figures and events, all in dangerous, violence-plagued locations. Unexpected allies provide him and his agonizing father, a US Congressman, windows of hope. Diamonds, cocaine and smuggled arms are the stock in trade along Matt’s underground trajectory. Anyone who has been a Peace Corps volunteer or staff, development worker, or served in a diplomatic or other overseas agency, will laugh, cry and be riveted by this tale.

Devil’s Breath by Robert Thurston is now available at in both paperback and Kindle editions. A non-fiction account of Rob Thurston’s professional and family experiences abroad are recounted in Life’s Treks and Trails: My Journey from Vale to Kathmandu, by Robert V. Thurston, which is also available in paperback on


Mark Wentling: Africa’s Release

Journey to another time and place in USAID alumnus Mark Wentling’s magical new novel, “Africa’s Release.” The second book in his African Trilogy.

The residents of Gemini, Kansas have grown used to the odd man called J.B. who roams their neighborhood in a befuddled state. But when he abruptly disappears one night, the townspeople find themselves facing uncomfortable questions about J.B. when dark discoveries in his ramshackle home are made public. Little do they know that J.B.’s ramblings have all been for a purpose: to transport him back to the African village he left years ago. Now he has returned to the old baobab tree that had years ago swallowed him up…an event that elevated him to demigod status in the eyes of the villagers.

This sequel to the popular “Africa’s Embrace” is sure to enchant readers once more. It is available in hardback on Amazon and electronically for Kindle.