The First Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review
October 14, 2011
With the promulgation of four documents—President Barack Obama’s National Security Strategy of 2010; his September 2010 speech on the UN Millennium Development Goals; his simultaneous Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD); and the December 2010 State/USAID Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR)—the Obama administration has put its stamp on development policy and strategy, including heralded departures from predecessor administrations, especially that of George W. Bush. Essential details remain to be provided. Only when they are will it be possible to understand the proposed changes announced in the QDDR, let alone draw any conclusions about them. Yet, despite the two-year gestation period and the expectations it engendered—the surprise is not the degree of divergence in policy and approach but the extent of the continuities.
As a general matter, the documents are disappointing in at least two respects. First, they lack the elements of a true strategy: objectives; impediments; priorities; central plan; and consequent resource allocations. Second, and perhaps as a result, they dwell far too much on internal organizational and procedural issues and too little on what should be done abroad and why. There is nothing wrong with an internal review of organization and process. An unvarnished review and reform could be very welcome, especially given the fractured quality of both foreign assistance and (less) in diplomacy. But a review of organization and process should not be confused with a new approach—and a strategic one at that.