Articles

Below are articles on development happenings, issues, etc. If you have articles that you believe would be of general interest to the UAA membership, please submit them here:

  • They are preparing for war,” by K.K. Otteson (The Washington Post, March 8, 2022).  Prof. Barbara F. Walter, political science professor at the University of California at San Diego and the author of How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them, explains the two factors that have been found to explain fragility in the sense of likelihood of armed insurgencies.
  • The New Global Context for Development,” by J. Brian Atwood (The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Spring/Summer 2022, Volume XXVIII, Issue II).  “…transnational issues and the global economic outlook are now overwhelming local development progress. … we must comprehend how global challenges relate to a development policy perspective. Then, we can employ development diplomacy to achieve the coordination needed to define the solutions and scale up the effort to meet the threat that these issues represent.”
  • How Americans Think About Trade: Winners, Losers, and the Psychology of Globalization by Diana C. Mutz (Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania), in Foreign Affairs, July 30, 2021: 9 pages.  Surveys show that Americans think about government-to-government commercial treaties in anthropomorphic terms of human interaction.  “Willingness to [sign agreements] with a country, as with another individual, depends on trust. … The more similar to the United States a given country is — whether in terms of religion, language, standard of living, form of government, or culture — the more positively Americans will evaluate it as a potential trade partner.”  This article is interesting for what it may mean for UAA’s public outreach.  (June 28, 2022)
  • Do Americans know who their diplomats are? Or what they do? by Michael S. Pollard and Charles P. Ries, in The Hill.  The authors, from RAND, report on a survey of U.S. residents about State Department diplomacy, finding that the respondents have “limited understanding” but are “generally favorable.”  The article includes a link to the full report.  (June 18, 2022)
  • The abortion debate is weakening an already strained American democracy by J. Brian Atwood, in The Hill, May 9, 2022.
  • Democracy in Africa is Like a Flashlight without Batteries by Mark G. Wentling, in American Diplomacy, May 4, 2022.  
  • The Power Of Partnerships Start here (by Skoll World Forum, April 7, 2022) — Dear Partners, We invite you to listen to a discussion featuring USAID Administrator Power with NPR’s Scott Simon at the Skoll Foundation’s 2022 Skoll World Forum. During the conversation she reflects on events happening around the world, along with her vision for working with more local organizations. You can also read the transcript of the interview here
  • The US Foreign Affairs budget and what comes next (by Devex, Adva Saldinger, March 14, 2022).  Last week, the U.S. Congress passed a budget bill with an unexpectedly small increase to the foreign affairs budget and without any supplemental funding for the global response to COVID-19.
  • Funding requests on the Hill for Ukraine and Covid response (by Devex, March 7, 2022).  It’s a big week for Ukraine funding. The U.S. Congress, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund are set to consider major assistance packages for the country, while U.S. President Joe Biden’s funding proposal for the global COVID-19 response has left some experts thoroughly underwhelmed. 
  • UN allocates $20M from CERF to humanitarian response in Ukraine (by UNOCHA, February 24, 2022) — The United Nations today allocated US$20 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to immediately scale up life-saving humanitarian assistance and protection to civilians in Ukraine following the recent increase in hostilities.  The funds will support emergency operations along the contact line in the eastern oblasts of Donetska and Luhanska and in other areas of the country.  For further information, please contact:In New York, Jaspreet Kindra, kindra@un.org, + 1 929 273 8109
    In Geneva, Jens Laerke, laerke@un.org, +41 79 472 9750
  • World Development Report 2022 (World Bank, February 15, 2022) — The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the largest global economic crisis in more than a century.  In 2020, economic activity contracted in 90 percent of countries, the world economy shrank by about 3 percent, and global poverty increased for the first time in a generation.  Governments enacted a swift and encompassing policy response that alleviated the worst immediate economic impacts of the crisis.  However, the government response also exacerbated a number of economic fragilities.  World Development Report 2022:  Finance for an Equitable Recovery examines the central role of finance in the economic recovery from the pandemic.  It highlights the consequences of the crisis most likely to affect emerging economies, and advocates a set of policies to mitigate the interconnected financial risks stemming from the pandemic and stern economies toward a sustainable and equitable recovery.
  • Localisation only pays lip service to fixing aid’s colonial legacy (The New Humanitarian by Maha Shuayb in Beirut, February 8, 2022) —“Localisation” has become a ubiquitous term among humanitarians in recent years, used to refer to putting more power and funding in the hands of “local responders”. The term is simple, it feels good, and is a convenient response to increasing calls for the aid sector to decolonise.  But instead of shaking the whole temple of power, which is what a sincere attempt at decolonisation requires, the international sector attempts a gentler approach, tip-toeing around the heart of the issue: the deep-rooted racism and ongoing legacies of colonialism. 
  • Senior director for global health security leaving the NSC ( Devex by Erin Banco, 02/08/2022) —  One of U.S. President Joe Biden’s top global health officials is leaving the administration. News broke Tuesday that Beth Cameron, the National Security Council senior director for global health security and biodefense, will step down this month. Cameron is one of the architects of the Global Health Security Agenda and a key adviser on global pandemic preparedness. She will reportedly be replaced by Raj Panjabi, currentlythe global health malaria coordinator at the U.S. Agency for International Development. The shake-up comes as the Biden administration is looking to secure funding from Congress for a major scale up of a USAID-led initiative to increase global vaccine uptake — particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.  The shake-up comes as the Biden administration is looking to secure funding from Congress for a major scale up of a USAID-led initiative to increase global vaccine uptak — particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • MFAN Applauds USAID Local Capacity Development Policy (MFAN, February 7, 2022) — This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs Lester Munson, Larry Nowels, and Tessie San Martin. The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) commends USAID for its draft Local Capacity Development (LCD) Policy, released for public comment on Dec. 8, 2021.
  • USAID Distributes Aid To Prevent Corruption in Indonesia (Tempo, Source United States/Indonesia Society Daily Bulletin, January 27, 2021) — The United States through USAID announced on Monday a $9.9 million program to help Indonesia prevent corruption by boosting civic engagement and promoting integrity in public and private sectors.
  • Women who reached USAID’s top ranks allege gender pay discrimination (Devex by Michael Igoe, January 24, 2022) —A group of women who have served at the highest level of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s foreign service has been waging a five-year legal battle with the agency over what they argue is gender-based pay discrimination.  The women leading the case say that they were hired by USAID decades ago at salaries lower than those of many of their male peers. While they were promoted quickly through the agency’s foreign service ranks, their pay increases never corrected for starting salaries that consistently placed them at the lower end of their compensation brackets — something they only realized after reaching the pinnacle of their careers.
  • USAID Contractors denounce Agency’s betrayal of thousands of Afghans who carried out its mission (The Intercept.com, January 23, 2022) — For two decades, the agency has been the face of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. To tens of thousands of Afghans employed on USAID projects, it was the agency they had believed in and worked for, often at enormous personal risk, that ultimately betrayed them.
  • Review Essay of the Enduring Struggle with Historian Mary Jane Maxwell  (www.wbynamics.com)-– Does international development work and how? Is it worth it and why? These are the perennial development questions John Norris addresses in his book, The Enduring Struggle: The History of the U.S. Agency for International Development and America’s Uneasy Transformation of the World.
  • USAID staffers disgruntled over back-to-office plans (Devex by Teresa Welsh, December 10, 2021) — The U.S. Agency for International Development this week presented employees with a “reentry” plan that will govern its return to in-person work. But staffers say it failed to provide them with information they sought on how often they would be required to work from the office.  
  • Janet L. Yellen and Samantha Power:  To uphold democracy, the U.S. must fight global corruption (Washington Post by Secretary of the Treasury,Janet Yellen, and USAID Administrator, Samantha Power, December 6, 2021) — For the past 15 years, the number of people living under authoritarian regimes has been rising, while leaders of many democratic countries have been chipping away at fundamental rights and checks and balances.  Corruption has made this possible.
  • After six decades of US foreign aid, our future must be guided by the past (The Hill by J. Brian Atwood, November 15, 2021) — U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power was in the forefront last week as the agency she leads celebrated its 60th anniversary. Power used the occasion to set forth an impressive strategy for the modern era, an approach she called “inclusive development.” Power’s eloquent tribute to a mission that hasn’t always been embraced by the American polity caused me to think back to six distinctive epochs of our relationship with the world and its neediest nation-states. 
  • MFAN Welcomes USAID Administrator Power’s New Vision for Global Development – Placing Locals in the Lead (MFAN by Lester Munson, Larry Nowels and Tessie San Martin, November 12, 2021 )–The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network commends USAID Administrator Samantha Power on the vision  for USAID she outlined on the 60th anniversary of the agency during a speech on November 4 at Georgetown University.
  • The Enduring Struggle:  The History of the U.S. Agency for International Development and America’s Uneasy Transformation of the World (Rowan and Littlefield, July 2021, Reviewed by UAA Member Desaix Myers)John Norris’ book comes at a most opportune time. We need a fresh look at the ways we prioritize national interests and the institutions in our national security triad—defense, diplomacy, and development–responsible for protecting them. No agency involved in national security is more overlooked or less understood than the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the country’s lead agency for development and the foreign assistance programs to deliver it.  Norris fills the void.
  • USAID slow to make diversity promises come true, staff fear ambitious goals won’t trickle down to the rank and file (Foreign Policy by Amy McKinnon and Robbie Gramer, October 29, 2021) — After winning office in no small part thanks to Black voters, U.S. President Joe Biden promised to put racial equity at the heart of the administration’s ambitious agenda, incorporating it in everything from the COVID-19 pandemic response to climate change and his goals for the federal workforce, aiming to diversify Washington’s conspicuously un-diverse national security establishment.

    On his first day in office, Biden overturned a ban imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump on diversity and inclusion training for government employees, and in June he signed a sweeping executive order to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion in the federal workplace. But at lower levels, among rank-and-file federal workers at the U.S. Agency for International Development, the State Department, and other federal agencies, those lofty promises have confronted the realities of reforming unwieldy bureaucracies.

    In a microcosm of the wider challenges faced by the Biden administration, nine current and three former USAID officials told Foreign Policy that despite initial excitement about the administration’s focus on racial equity, they had become frustrated by the slow pace of change at their agency.

    They point to a lack of enforcement of existing policies and complex systems for deciding promotions and assignments that have left staff of color feeling like they are being unjustly held back and have disincentivized people from speaking out. While the State Department has tapped a senior former diplomat to be the department’s first chief diversity officer, USAID has no analogous envoy with the same level of clout, although it is working to create a similar role. Government data shows that employees of color at USAID are promoted at significantly lower rates than their white counterparts, and some offices and bureaus are less diverse than they were more than a decade ago. The aid agency also lacks diversity in who leads its key geographic and functional bureaus, at the heart of the agency’s substantive policy and work abroad.  USAID, much like the State Department, has been a laggard on diversity and inclusion, a state of affairs that long predated both the Biden and Trump administrations.

  • Trump funding cuts hurt 80% of USAID Central America programs (By Teresa Welsh, October 26, 2021) — Over 80% of U.S. Agency for International Development programs in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala experienced adverse effects due to the suspension of aid to the region in March 2019 under former President Donald Trump, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report released publicly Monday.  
  • Opinion: The U.S. government is rushing to resume risky virus research. Not so fast. (Washington Post by Josh Rogin , October 21, 2021) — Although we don’t know how the covid-19 pandemic started, it’s now clear there were serious gaps in oversight of U.S.-government-funded projects around the world that focused on digging up dangerous viruses in the wild. Why, then, is the U.S. government barreling forward with a new, huge project to expand this very research, before those problems have been properly addressed?
  • World Bank says globe seeing ‘tragic reversals in development’ due to COVID-19  (The Hill by Joseph Choi, 10/11/21)–  World Bank Group President David Malpass gave his assessment at a media roundtable in Washington, D.C., for the 2021 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group, saying some countries are being set back by several years. 
  • Ending Covid once and for all has to be a global fight (by J. Brian Atwood and William Fischer, 10/11/21) —The United States has now surpassed 700,000 deaths in the COVID-19 pandemic and the vast majority of the more recent fatalities occurred among unvaccinated people. The challenge in the United States is no longer vaccine supply. Americans are now dying from a preventable illness due to a plague of misinformation and mistrust. At the same time many in under-resourced countries around the world are dying because they cannot access vaccines and COVID-19 therapeutics. This inequality in access represents a shared global public health threat.
  • 2021 Climate Readiness Plan (Devex, October 8, 2021) — On Thursday, the U.S. Agency for International Development released its 2021 Climate Readiness Plan — a move required by U.S. President Joe Biden’s executive order on tackling the climate crisis.  The readiness plan includes: “four priority adaptation actions USAID will implement on various timelines in the coming years, an assessment of the five biggest climate change vulnerabilities USAID faces related to its management functions, and a discussion of how USAID will enhance the climate literacy of its management workforce, ensure climate-ready sites and facilities, and ensure a climate-ready supply of products and services.”  Still in the works is the agency’s new climate strategy, planned for release during COP 26 next month.
  • Exclusive:  Two Board members resign over transparency concerns  (Devex by Michael Igoe and Shabtai Gold, September 27, 2021) — Two longtime board members of Pathfinder International — and descendants of the organization’s founder — have resigned from their positions, alleging a lack of transparency, high staff turnover, and low morale at the organization.
  • John Nkengasong, of the Africa C.D.C., Will Lead PEPFAR (New York Times by Apoorva Mandavilli, September 21, 2021) —The Biden administration plans to nominate John Nkengasong, a virologist and director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to lead the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, according to several sources familiar with the matter.
  • Rejoining UNESCO is a Critical Step for Regaining Global Influence (The Hill by Brian Atwood, September 18, 2021)The United States’ relationship with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been a troubled one for decades. The U.S. has left and then rejoined the organization twice since the 1970s. The Trump administration pulled the U.S. out in 2018.
  • Gates Foundation Calls for Worldwide Health Investments (Devex, by Stephanie Beasley, September 14, 2021) —The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is pushing for more long-term investments in health infrastructure worldwide — including vaccine research, development, and manufacturing capacity — in a new report, which highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.  In the fifth annual Goalkeepers report, released Monday ahead of the United Nations’ General Assembly, the foundation said investments in building and expanding health systems can serve as “the foundation for emergency disease response” in low-income countries, where millions continue to be disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19 and a lack of access to vaccines.
  • House bill boosts US foreign aid funding, removes abortion restrictions (Devex by Adva Saldinger, August 2021) — The U.S. House of Representatives passed its foreign state and foreign operations budget bill last week, approving a roughly 12% foreign aid spending increase for fiscal year 2022 and making a few policy statements — most notably about family planning and funding abortion. The legislation appropriates about $62 billion for foreign affairs, with big boosts to global health security, climate change, and multilateral assistance.
  •  Biden administration releases plan to tackle ‘root causes’ of migration (Devex by Teresa Welsh, July 30, 2021) — As the United States increasingly uses development assistance to deter migration, the U.S. Agency for International Development will be “integral” to implementing the Biden administration’s newly released Strategy to Combat Migration from Central America, Michael Camilleri, executive director at the USAID Northern Triangle Task Force, said Thursday.
  • Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships ( The Hill by Rafael Bernal, July 28, 2021) —Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Wednesday introduced a bill to fund a Trump-era program designed to diversify the number of groups that partner with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
  • What is DFC’s mandate? Debate over a bill turns up many answers (Devex by Adva Saldinger, July 27, 2021) –The debate over a recent piece of congressional legislation illustrates the tension that the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation faces between its development mandate and the desire of politicians and policymakers to use it as a tool for their foreign policy objectives.
  • Biden revives Trump’s Africa business initiative; focus on energy, health. (Reuters by Doyinsola Oladipo and Andrea Shalal, July 27, 2021) — The Biden administration on Tuesday announced a new push to expand business ties between U.S. companies and Africa, with a focus on clean energy, health, agribusiness and transportation infrastructure on the continent.
  • Power Play: USAID’s Administrator Makes the Case for Global Engagement, More Focus on Effectiveness  (CGDev by Erin Collinson and Sarah Rose, July 21, 2021) —USAID Administrator Samantha Power appeared before House and Senate authorizing committees late last week to discuss the agency’s FY22 budget.
  • Opinion: USAID must protect the integrity of its humanitarian aid programs (Devex by Bill Steiger and Max Primorac, July 19, 2021) — USAID provided over $7 billion in humanitarian aid in 2020, often going to regions where groups designated as terrorists by the U.S. government control large swaths of territory, including in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and Nigeria. In these chaotic places, terrorist, criminal, and corrupt actors view foreign aid as an opportunity for patronage, kickbacks, and financing illicit activities.
  • Biden nominates surgeon, author Atul Gawande to senior job at USAID (Washington Reuters by Andrea Shalal, July 13, 2021) –– U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated writer, surgeon and public health expert Atul Gawande to lead global health development at the U.S. Agency for International Development, including for COVID-19, the White House said.  Gawande, author of four New York Times best-selling books and a professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, would serve as the assistant administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
  • Opinion: The US should place development outcomes at forefront (Devex by Jim Richardson, July 7, 2021) —  Every four to eight years, a new U.S. administration comes to power and believes it needs to clean house of all previous ideas and initiatives. I hope they don’t abandon USAID’s guiding principle, called the Journey to Self-Reliance, or J2SR, which places development outcomes ahead of newspaper headlines.
  • USAID’s Sharon L. Cromer to be U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of The Gambia (Diplopundit by Domani Spero, June 24, 2021) — On June 15, President Biden announced his intent to nominate senior FSO Sharon L. Cromer to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Gambia.  Cromer, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Career Minister, currently serves as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director at the U.S. Embassy, Accra, Ghana. Previously she was the USAID Mission Director at the U.S. Embassy Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and she has also been USAID Mission Director at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria.
  • The New Climate Narrative (Op-Ed by Kemal Dervis at Brookings on June 7, 2021) As the Nobel laureate economists Robert ShillerAbhijit Banerjee, and Esther Duflo have argued eloquently in recent books, political debate and economic policy are driven much more by simple “narratives” than by complex and nuanced theories or models. What counts are plausible “stories” that have broad intuitive appeal and can thus sway public opinion.  This is certainly true of climate policy.
  • Biden’s First Budget: What the FY22 Request Could Mean for Development Policy (CGDEV by Erin Collinson and Jocilyn Estes, June 7, 2021) — With the end of the fiscal year only a few months away, the Biden-Harris administration finally submitted its first budget request to Congress.
  • Russian hack targeted USAID, human rights groups (MSN News/Aljazeera, May 28, 2021) — Russian hackers behind the SolarWinds cyberattack, a huge campaign that saw the widespread hacking of several United States federal agencies, have launched a new round of attacks targeting “government agencies, think tanks, consultants, and non-governmental organizations”, according to Microsoft.
  • Senate hearing addresses broad USAID funding goals, few details. (Devex by ,May 27, 2021) — USAID Administrator Samantha Power made her first appearance since taking up her post before the Senate appropriations committee to discuss the administration’s priorities. The hearing was a bit light on specific details since President Joe Biden’s administration is not expected to release a full budget request until later this week.  
  • Blinken announces $110M in new Gaza funding. Now comes the hard part (by Ryan Health, May 25, 2021) — The race to help innocent victims of the Israel-Hamas conflict is on. The actual flow of dollars will prove more difficult.
  • US to Pull El Salvador Funds, Has ‘Deep Concerns’ Over Recent Dismissals (By Reuters,
    May 21, 2021) —The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is pulling aid from El Salvador’s national police and a public information institute and will instead redirect the funding to civil society groups, the agency’s head said in a statement Friday.
  • USAID’s Big Contracts Don’t Pay Off (By Walter Kerr and Maya Guzdar of Starling Strategy, May 18,2021)USAID needs a procurement renaissance. It must break its dependence on large and inefficient government contractors
  • Lawmakers push US officials for details on global pandemic response (By Adva Saldinger, May 13, 2021)U.S. government officials laid out the Biden administration’s global COVID-19 response framework at a congressional hearing Wednesday where lawmakers pressed for more clarity around plans for vaccine distribution, broader pandemic relief, and global health security efforts.  Gayle Smith, the coordinator of the global COVID-19 response and health security at the State Department, outlined the U.S. framework and its five “planks” at a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing. 
  • A Policymaker’s Guide to the Global Fragility Act (By Erol Yayboke, Daphne McCurdy, Annie Pforzheimer and Janina Staguhn, May 2021).  It is time to refocus on preventing violent conflict and mitigating the adverse effects of fragility.
  • Intellectual property restrictions hamper the fight against COVID-19 (By J. Brian Atwood, May 4, 2021) — The COVID pandemic has exposed one very serious deficiency in our global response: the limits created by the set of international laws designed to protect intellectual property (IP).
  • Making COVID-19 Aid Effective by Doubling Down on USAID Reforms (Brookings by George Ingram and Justin Fugle, May 3, 2021) — Along with overseeing USAID’s $35 billion annual budget, a new and daunting challenge and exciting opportunity facing Administrator Power and her USAID colleagues is implementing some $5 billion for USAID’s global COVID-19 response. This should allow development professionals closer to the ground to decide how and where the funds would be used most effectively and wider use of local organizations, procurement innovations such as co-creation, and the implementation reform of adaptive management. (Please read on this excellent article which emphasizes locally-led development, co-creation, adaptive management, and the arc of development effectiveness by clicking on the article title above.)
  • Time to Rethink Development Assistance in the Sahel (By American Diplomacy, Mark Wentling, May 2021) —Does USAID continue spending its limited funding on keeping poor people from becoming poorer or does it invest in supporting activities that have the potential to lift the country’s development ranking?
  • Civil society should anchor Biden’s democracy agenda in Africa (Brookings by Rebecca Rattner and Bjorn Whitmore, April 23, 2021) — America’s past democracy-building interventions in sub-Saharan Africa have often been marred by consistent and preventable shortcomings: choosing leaders, rather than supporting societies; short-term interventions that build a façade of democracy, rather than its foundations; and surface-level diplomatic efforts, rather than earnest partnership building.
  • Harris moves forward with new Central America strategy (The Hill by Rafael Bernal, April 23, 2021) — The Biden administration’s policy toward Central America is starting to take shape as Vice President Harris takes the lead on a potentially treacherous portfolio that straddles diplomacy and migration.
  • Biden Administration Seeking $300 Million in Aid to Afghanistan (VOA News, April 21, 2021)–U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that the Biden administration is working with Congress to provide nearly $300 million in additional aid for Afghanistan in 2021.  “The funding will be targeted at sustaining and building on the gains of the past 20 years by improving access to essential services for Afghan citizens, promoting economic growth, fighting corruption and the narcotics trade, improving health and education service delivery, supporting women’s empowerment, enhancing conflict resolution mechanisms, and bolstering Afghan civil society and independent media,” Blinken said in a statement.
    The move comes as the United States and NATO have announced they are withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan. President Joe Biden has said U.S. military forces will be out of the country by Sept. 11.  Blinken made a  surprise visit to Afghanistan last week to reassure officials there that Washington would still be committed to the country, where U.S. troops have been stationed since 2001 following the September 11 attacks when terrorists flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, outside Washington. Another hijacked plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
    When Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, was in office, the U.S. reached an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. forces by May 1. Biden’s pushing back the deadline angered the insurgent group, which said the move was a violation of the agreement.
    Over the course of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, more than 2,200 U.S. troops have been killed and 20,000 wounded. It is estimated that the U.S. has spent more than $1 trillion on the war, America’s longest.  According to the World Bank, more than half of Afghans live on less than $1.90 a day. It is also considered one of the worst countries for women’s rights, according to the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.
  • A global tax on corporations must consider developing nations (The Hill by J.Brian Atwood, March 24, 2021) As the global economy begins to emerge from the effects of a pandemic the search is on for tax revenues that will support the rebuilding process. One area of focus is the system for taxing multinational corporations, currently a mishmash of fuzzy guidelines, abuse and negative competition.

Last week in Washington, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen took a second important step toward rationalizing and stabilizing the international taxation system. Having already agreed to drop U.S. objections to taxing digital transactions where profits are made (a European effort to tax Silicon Valley companies for profits made in the EU), she announced support for a “global minimum tax on multinationals,” a plan being negotiated under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  Calling the competition to attract multinationals by lowering their tax burden “a destructive global race to the bottom…” Yellen signaled a willingness to reach an agreement that would reach beyond the OECD to more than 140 countries.

A key part of the OECD negotiation reportedly would set the minimum tax floor at 12 percent of a company’s profit margin. The US recently lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and the Biden administration is now considering raising that rate slightly.  However, given the many loopholes in the global system the real rate is much lower. The issue here is tax avoidance and the opportunities have been growing despite soft law guidelines and national efforts to capture tax resources from global companies.

Transfer pricing” rules designed by OECD to govern transactions within and between enterprises under common ownership have limited opportunities to distort taxable income. However, that hasn’t closed all the loopholes and many corporations have managed to avoid paying anywhere near the official percentage rate. Working out how a minimum rate would affect trade and investment in individual OECD countries will be complex and national parliaments will quite naturally focus on the benefits and debits that will affect their home constituencies.

The first step will be reaching agreement among the strongest global economies, the 37 members of the OECD plus China, India and the rest of the G-20.

But if a way can be found to smooth out the inequities among this disparate grouping, what then will be the impact on the middle income and poorest economies? Such an endeavor will require a detailed understanding of the reach of multinational corporations, their continuous search for tax havens and supply chains that produce adequate quality at the lowest wage. Developing nations that desperately need employment opportunities find themselves competing by keeping their workers’ wages and benefits low in another, even more debilitating, race to the bottom. (Click here to continue the article.)

  • What would Samantha Power’s NSC role mean for USAID?(Devex by Michael Igoe, March 19, 2021)–In nominating her, Biden acknowledged Power’s unique standing — and signaled his administration’s emphasis on development — by announcing that the USAID administrator would have a seat on the National Security Council.
  • Biden to restrict US aid to Central American governments, set new conditions for money. (Los Angeles Times by Tracy Wilkinson, March 10, 2021) — Weeks after earmarking $4 billion in U.S. aid for Central America, the Biden administration is fine-tuning its plans and sharply limiting how much money will go directly to the governments of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, a senior administration official told the Los Angeles Times.

Roberta Jacobson, Biden’s senior official for southwest border affairs and an expert on immigration, said in an interview that the $4 billion will be subject to strict — but untested — conditions on recipients, based on measures of anticorruption efforts and good governance.  The adjustments follow a push by some lawmakers to place limits on the U.S. aid and warnings from foreign policy experts concerned that in the rush to stem illegal immigration, President Biden would go down the same path he followed as vice president, when U.S. assistance, with few effective strings attached, ended up empowering corrupt regimes.

Biden plans to ensure that as little aid as possible goes to the notoriously corrupt central governments of the three countries until he is satisfied criteria are met, Jacobson said. Goalposts include transparent accounting and proof of good governance, such as fair elections and respect for human rights, she added. The U.S. had long endorsed such goals in Central America, but they are difficult to quantify.  But the prospect of stricter accountability is panicking some of the Central American leaders who were hoping to remain on the receiving end of American assistance after four comfortable years under President Trump.

Jacobson, a former ambassador to Mexico and assistant secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, said that instead of pouring most of the money into national treasuries, greater amounts will go to nongovernmental organizations and programs for single mothers, youth training and similar groups, “so that in the end, you are strengthening the societies and not enriching these governments.”

The shifting focus comes as Biden and others in his administration are realizing that Central America is in far worse shape than it was when they were last in charge, despite the 2015 U.S. injection of nearly $1 billion, which Biden oversaw as vice president.  “The president will be the first to admit he’s learned things,” said Jacobson, who is now part of the National Security Council. “He is fully prepared to do both the hard work of insisting on those conditions and commitments and is fully prepared to not convey funds if he doesn’t get what he thinks is necessary.” (…)

  • Missing link: Can USAID unite budget and policy? (Devex by Michael Igoe, March 5, 2021) –The U.S. Agency for International Development has undertaken nearly all of the reforms included in the reorganization plan begun by former Administrator Mark Green, with one big exception: A proposal to create a new bureau meant to bring together USAID’s budget, policy, and program performance is still stuck in limbo.

As USAID’s other reorganization plans moved forward during former President Donald Trump’s administration, the proposed Bureau for Policy, Resources, and Performance was hung up on a technical issue. Members of the U.S. Congress, who must sign off on major changes such as the creation of a new bureau, believed the head of PRP ought to be a Senate-confirmed assistant administrator, while USAID had already used up its allotted number of Senate-confirmed positions.

That should be a relatively easy fix if President Joe Biden’s team — including Samantha Power, the nominee for USAID administrator — chooses to move forward with the previous administration’s proposed structure. What is less certain is whether the creation of a new bureau at USAID would get to the heart of long-standing challenges related to the agency’s budget authority, strategic planning, and independence from the Department of State.

The proposed PRP Bureau is meant to consolidate foreign aid management responsibilities that are currently scattered among at least five different bureaus and offices. Advocates for the change see it as an important step toward building greater coherence among USAID’s strategies and policies, the resources it allocates to countries and programs, and the way it measures what those resources achieve.

“It makes eminent sense,” said Susan Reichle, president and CEO at the International Youth Foundation and former assistant administrator at USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning.  “By having these separate entities, with their own responsibilities and authorities, things just get slowed down,” Reichle said.

A PRP Bureau, advocates say, would allow USAID to better align its country strategies and sectoral policies with the funding that lawmakers appropriate for the agency so that discussions about strategy are happening at the same time and place as discussions about resources.  Bringing those pieces together could also strengthen USAID’s policy, budget, and performance capabilities, putting the agency on stronger footing with the U.S. Congress and other executive agencies in conversations about programs and funding.

“PRP is really an effort to try, within the existing framework, to bring a certain level of budget autonomy back to AID, but also explicitly linking that with policy … and with performance,” said Conor Savoy, executive director at the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.  Some warn that while the new bureau might look good on paper — and might be an improvement over the current arrangement — it does not address some big underlying issues that have hindered USAID’s ability to think strategically, align resources with its plans, and then measure the performance of those resources in achieving them.

Senate Committee on Foreign RelationsChairman: Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey
Senate Committee on Appropriations, Chairman: Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, Chairman: Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware
House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Chairman: Rep. Gregory Meeks, a Democrat from New York
House Committee on Appropriations, Chairwoman: Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut
House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, Chairwoman: Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California

  • Making USAID a premier development agency (Brookings by George Ingram, February 17, 2021) —  Two challenges uppermost on the agenda of the Biden administration, COVID-19 and climate change, are issues of both domestic and international import. The international elements—help for countries in mitigating the health and economic impact of COVID-19, ensuring access to vaccines, and preventing future pandemics, and help in mitigating and adapting to the impact of climate change—are inherently matters of global development. International progress is imperative for success on these issues domestically. 
  • Rep. Lee wants to bring greater racial equity to foreign aid (RollCall.com by Rachel Oswald, February 16, 2021) — Barbara Lee will be the first Black lawmaker to chair the panel that oversees foreign aid and the State Department.  The new chairwoman of the House Appropriations foreign aid subcommittee says “I’m really excited as the first African American woman to chair the subcommittee, I hope to really show the country how, once again, we can help make our country stronger in global affairs” by bringing “an added lens of equity, racial equity” to U.S. global engagement.
  • Rebuilding the State Department from the Ground Up (National Interest by Robert D. Kaplan, February 14, 2021) —  America’s standing in the world can now be improved in quite a number of ways from the top down. The government can be made to work. The State Department can be renewed. But this transition should begin from the ground up; it should start with the human element.
  • Four Ideas for Samantha Power’s USAID (Devex by Charles Kenney, February 1, 2021) — President Biden has nominated Ambassador Samantha Power to lead USAID.  I have four suggestions for new or expanded directions and initiatives:
    1. A focus on sustainable industrial policy,
    2. Universal mobile Access,
    3. Responding to the threat of zoonotic disease, and
    4. Providing support to civil society to strike down laws that enforce discrimination on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation or religious belief worldwide.
  • Foreign Aid Is Having a Reckoning–The Black Lives Matter movement has given leaders from the Global South new traction for change. (New York Times by the Editorial Board, February 13, 2021) — Sending aid to Africa became popular in the 1980s, when a famine in Ethiopia prompted some of the most famous singers in the world to raise money for food aid with concerts and songs like “We Are the World.” Today, a rising African middle class on a continent that is home to nearly two-dozen billionaires is challenging previous assumptions about foreign aid, from who donates money, to who should get paid to deliver aid, to whose metrics ought to be used to determine whether it was a success. A growing group of intellectuals, aid workers and civic leaders from Africa say the “white savior” mentality of the world’s foreign aid system can end up doing more harm than good.
  • USAID’s Policy Voice Should be Heard (Brookings by J.Brian Atwood and Larry Garber, February 10, 2021) — While the mission of USAID has been recognized along with defense and diplomacy as contributing to national security, this is the first time its administrator has been formally given a seat at the National Security Council (NSC) principals’ table. 
  • The Quiet Revolution:  What Congress should know about foreign assistance today (Brookings by Kristin Lord and Ann Mei Change – February 9, 2021.) America’s next leaders of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) have their work cut out for them.
  • Restoring US Leadership Abroad, with 60 years of experience, USAID tackles historic crises (Medium by Gloria Steele, February 4, 2021) — Under President Biden’s leadership, great importance has been placed on development, diplomacy, and defense in order to protect and promote the interests of all Americans. Reflecting this, the President has elevated the USAID Administrator to be a member of the National Security Council.

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