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:
- ‘Too big to fail,” How USAID’s $9.5B supply chain vision unraveled, Michael Igoe, Ben Stockton, and Misbah Khan, DEVEX, Nov. 9, 2023
- Over 1,000 USAID officials call for Gaza ceasefire in letter, Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis, Reuters, Nov. 10, 2023
- Another bureau for USAID, Devex, Oct. 20, 2023. USAID’s new Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance began operating on Sept. 12, 2023.
- Will the World Bank Choose Climate Change Over Poverty? By Bjorn Lomborg, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 6, 2023, 6:10 pm ET. A new G-20 report calls for raising $3 trillion and spending only a fraction of it to help the poor.
- A USAID Localization Model Finally Emerges, by Justin Fugle, The Brookings Institution, 10/6/2023. PEPFAR’s budget flowing directly through the CDC to local organizations and governments reached fully 67% by 2012!
- USAID Administrator Samantha Power Visits Ukraine with New Commitments, USAID Strategic Communications, 7/28/2023. Administrator Power traveled to Ukraine to reaffirm the United States’ strong commitment to stand with Ukraine.
A $6 Billion China-Built Railway Is on the Move with a Vast New Network Down the Track. China’s decade-old Belt and Road Initiative has been in retreat in many countries, but in Laos, it is alive and kicking. Felix Soloman, Wall Street Journal, 19 July 2023.
- “Deep budget cuts in House State-Foreign Operations bill will undermine aid effectiveness,” MFAN, 18 July 2023. MFAN is very concerned large budget cuts in House FY24 State-Foreign Operations Bill will undermine aid effectiveness.
- “The Old Consensus on U.S. Foreign Policy is Dead,” by Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post, 15 July 2023, about his interview with President Biden. “…for the first time since the World War II era, the basic issue of America’s engagement with the world is becoming a partisan issue.”
- “USAID’s Policy Framework,” by George Ingram and Susan Reichle, Brookings Center for Sustainable Development, 6/15/2023. On May 3, 2023, the Brookings Center for Sustainable Development hosted a public event on the recently released USAID Policy Framework. USAID Deputy Administrator Isobel Coleman presented the highlights, followed by a panel representing USAID and civil society discussing specific aspects of the framework.
- The June 2023 newsletter from Global Peace Services USA contains two articles of interest: 1) “Putin Attacks Ukraine’s Culture,” by Dr. Robert Muscat, GPS Board Member, explores the subject of cultural destruction, an instrument widely employed by aggressors. 2) “Indigenous Residential Schools in Canada and the United States: Uncovering the Truth and Pursuing Healing and Reconciliation,” by John Eriksson, President of GPS USA, begins with a comparison of the 19th and 20th century experiences of Canada and the United States in implementing a strategy designed to forcibly separate Indigenous children from their families and to relocate them in distant Indigenous residential or boarding schools in order to expunge their traditional languages and values and coercively assimilate them with European languages (English or French) and values. The strategy was often reinforced by harsh and abusive punishment for any deviation by students or parents from the decreed approach. The physical, mental, and emotional impacts of the strategy on Indigenous children and their families have been severe, long-lasting and intergenerational.
- UAA requests your support for a U.S. commemorative coin recognizing the centennial of the U.S. Foreign Service, UAA Board, 20 May 2023
- The Effort to Transform the Aid Business, The Economist, 6 May 2023, pp. 22-23. USAID is changing the way it tries to do good in the world.
Coming to Grips with Poverty in Africa, Mark G. Wentling, American Diplomacy, May 2023. Reducing poverty has been at the heart of U.S. foreign assistance in dozens of low-income countries for more than a half-century. Despite U.S. foreign policy objectives, much work, and hundreds of billions of assistance dollars expended, the poorest of the poor have not advanced. While some low-income countries have made some small progress, after decades of aid most are still in the bottom ranks of absolute poverty. All the countries in the Least Developed Country (LDC) category have more poor people than ever before.
Sheila Young, Ph.D., has published two research articles (1) on how “Critical thinking activities in Florida undergraduate biology classes improves comprehension of climate change” (Journal of Biological Education, January 2021) and (2) on “Climate adaptation and risk preparedness in Florida’s East Coast cities: views of municipal leaders,” (Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, October 2022). She also completed a podcast on the same topic for Air University on June 2022. Dr. Young is a retired USAID Foreign Service Officer who served as an Environment Officer in Honduras, an Economic Growth Officer in Azerbaijan, and a Senior Program Officer in Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Mozambique. Prior to the Foreign Service, she was an Energy Specialist with the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory in Albany, Oregon; a Marketing Specialist with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in Washington, DC, and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mauritania, West Africa.
AID Releases A&A Strategy, Omar Mohammed, Devex, 3/13/2023. You’d be forgiven if your eyes initially glossed over the term “acquisition and assistance strategy,” an anodyne description for something that wields tremendous power at the world’s largest aid agency. More commonly (and wisely) referred to as the A&A strategy, it will drive how USAID spends 85% of its multibillion-dollar budget — and it’s finally been released to the public after a long wait. The strategy lays out three priorities: bolstering the workforce, cutting red tape, and making it easier for new organizations to partner with USAID. USAID Administrator Samantha Power described the agency’s workforce as “depleted” at the strategy’s launch, vowing to go on a hiring spree to help overtaxed employees. The agency also said it will try to cut the amount of time it takes to process contracts worth more than $25 million, and it even floated the idea of using artificial intelligence to speed up paperwork. Perhaps most importantly, A&A will be instrumental in realizing Power’s localization agenda amid increasing doubts that USAID can hit its target of diverting 25% of spending toward local organizations by 2025.
- Top 7 Takeaways from the Administration’s Latest Budget for International Affairs, USGLC, 3/10/2023. With global instability continuing to find its way to America’s shores, the Administration’s budget request calls for strengthened resources to “renew and revitalize U.S. leadership in the world, tackle global challenges, and ensure our foreign policy delivers for the American people.” The request for the next fiscal year (FY24) includes $70.6 billion in what is known as “discretionary non-emergency” funding for the International Affairs Budget, which is 14% above the current level. Similar to last year, the Administration recognizes the rising threats and proposes funding increases across a wide range of programs and accounts, from humanitarian assistance to climate change to global health.
As China steps up humanitarian aid to the Pacific, can the US keep up? by Jason Steinhauer, DEVEX, 2/22/2023. “Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief [have been] an effective tool with which Beijing is trying to reshape external perceptions,” wrote scholar Gregory Coutaz in a 2019 journal article. “China, like many other countries,” Coutaz wrote, “seeks to advance its international agenda through humanitarian efforts.” The depths and strategy of these efforts — which began while the United States and its allies were heavily engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan — went largely unappreciated by the U.S. for many years. Now, the United States and its allies are playing catch up.
Resilience must drive USAID’s programs–Illustrations from Afghanistan, by George Ingram and Naheed Sarabi, Future Development blog, Center for Sustainable Development, 2/14/2023. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has under review a draft revision of its 2012 resilience policy for fragile and conflict environments. As reported in the OECD’s “States of Fragility 2022,” fragility has been rising in recent years and is present across a diversity of country contexts. Of the 60 countries identified as fragile, 23 are low-income, and 33 are middle-income. Approximately half of the more than 100 countries in which USAID operates are on the list, highlighting that resilience should be at the core of the agency’s operating procedures.
How Democracy Can Win: The Right Way to Counter Autocracy, by Samanatha Power, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, Foreign Affairs, 2/16/2023. When U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, the United States had just witnessed four of the most turbulent years in recent memory, culminating in the failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Without a doubt, American democracy had been shown to be far more fragile than it was when Biden left the vice presidency in 2017.
What will happen to foreign aid in US Congress in 2023?, by Adva Saldinger, Devex, 3 Feb. 2023. The U.S. Congress this year is likely to share something in common with the roads of Nairobi, Bogota, and New Delhi: gridlock. But even amid the chaos, you’re normally headed somewhere, and for lawmakers, that’s likely a combination of more oversight and a focus on only the most critical global development-related legislation.
7 numbers to watch in 2023, by Liz Schrayer, USGLC, 27 Jan 2023. I’ve been reading the multitude of global risk reports released at the beginning of this year, and you won’t be surprised that each of the numbers below will dramatically impact global stability – which directly impacts American stability here at home. The big question is how America and our allies respond in addressing the stories behind each of these numbers, as the answer will affect the economic and security interests of every American family.
- An Ode to Congressional Staffers, Letter to the Editor, Washington Post, by Desaic Myers, 23 Jan. 2023. There are many reasons to mourn the retirement of Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) from the Senate: the loss of his wisdom, experience, vision, ethics and commitment to human rights. Paul Kane’s Jan. 15 @PKCapitol news column, “From Watergate to Jan. 6, Leahy spanned the nation’s constitutional crises,” highlighted another: Mr. Leahy’s relationship with his remarkably loyal staff, many with him for decades. As he goes, so will his staff. We will miss them. One example: Tim Rieser….
- MFAN Applauds Final Fiscal Year 2023 State-Foreign Operations Bill, by Co-Chairs Lester Munson, Larry Nowels and Tessie San Martin, 22 December 2022. On December 20, congressional leaders released the final bill text and report for the conference agreement on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs appropriations bill. The agreement provides a total funding level of $59.7 billion, a $3.6 billion increase increase compared to the FY22 (non-emergency) enacted level. In addition, the omnibus FY23 bill also includes $16.6 billion in emergency humanitarian, economic, and security assistance funding for Ukraine, countries affected by the situation in Ukraine, and other assistance to vulnerable populations and communities.
- What’s in the US budget for foreign aid? Devex, by Adva Saldinger, 21 December 2022. After six years of flat funding levels and reliance on emergency appropriations to fill critical global development needs, the U.S. Congress is finally close to approving an increase for foreign affairs funding that would see more for global health, innovation, and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. The negotiated omnibus bill released by lawmakers on Tuesday includes a roughly 6% increase for the foreign affairs budget for fiscal 2023.
- Opinion: US staff in high-threat environments need mental health support. Devex, by Beth Cole, Gregg Martin, 20 December 2022. As the 117th U.S. Senate session comes to a close it is time to set up and fund an appropriate and comprehensive mental health treatment system for the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Department personnel serving in high-threat environments. To not do so is to fail staff and their families, and ultimately, those communities they are serving the world over.
- DevExplains: Why the outdated law that created USAID is so hard to fix. By Michael Igoe, 9 December 2022. In 1961, Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, the film West Side Story was released, Roger Maris broke the single-season home run record in baseball, and then-United States President John F. Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act, creating the U.S. Agency for International Development. A lot has changed in the 60 years since. Billionaires are launching into orbit on their own rockets, Maris’ record has been broken and re-broken, and there’s even a remake of West Side Story. But the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 still holds sway as the law that authorizes U.S. government foreign aid programs.
- Rethinking the Constraints to Localization of Foreign Aid, by Patrick Fine, Brookings, Future Development, December 1, 2022. The Biden administration has made localization—generally defined as shifting contracts and grants from U.S. organizations to local non-governmental organizations—a centerpiece of its foreign assistance policy. However, Patrick Fine argues that achieving a more ambitious localization vision will remain out of reach until USAID builds the organizational capacity to work with local organizations.
- Contractors Say USAID Forcing Them into New Jobs with Fewer Benefits, by Michael Igoe, Devex, November 9, 2022. Contractors working inside the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Global Health, or GH, allege that the agency’s leadership approved moving them from one government contractor to another that is planning significant cuts to their benefits. They say these changes were not done transparently — and that a large portion of USAID’s global health workforce is now being forced to quickly accept them if they want to keep their jobs.
- Debunking Myths About Foreign Aid, Harvard Political Review, by Henry Wu, November 2, 2022. Foreign aid is an often-cited example of public misperception of U.S. government operations. A 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation survey asked Americans what percentage of the U.S. budget they thought went toward foreign aid. While the average estimate among respondents was 31%, the actual amount is a mere 1%.
- USAID responds to humanitarian spending, staffing concerns by Michael Igoe, Devex, October 26, 2022). The U.S. Agency for International Development has responded to U.S. lawmakers’ concerns about its ability to deliver record amounts of humanitarian aid to address the global food crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In a letter on Oct. 19, Jodi Herman, USAID’s assistant administrator for legislative and public affairs, outlined how the agency has spent billions of dollars from emergency funding packages provided by the Congress, while working to shore up a short-staffed humanitarian workforce.
- “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, firstname.lastname@example.org, + 1 929 273 8109
In Geneva, Jens Laerke, email@example.com, +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.