QDDR: Similar Focus, New Approaches

More noteworthy than the “sweeping reform” language in the U.S. Department of State’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) are its continuities with the past several administrations. For example in the section on Transforming Development to Deliver Results, the administration will “focus our development efforts in six specific areas that build on our strengths: sustainable economic growth, food security, global health, climate change, democracy and governance, and humanitarian assistance.” Gender equality is a crosscutting area. But, except for the addition of education in the past, these are precisely the same six areas (in slightly different language) that have been the “focus” of USAID since at least the Clinton administration. Indeed “focus and concentrate” has been a leitmotif of every USAID administration. Harder to do, it seems, than to say. Similarly, the commitment to manage for and deliver results has been a USAID commitment since Vice President Al Gore’s “reinventing government” program and the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, both key initiatives of the Clinton administration. There are others as well that are more continuities than reforms. And that is not surprising, given the continuity of American interests and the obvious, and continuing, need for improving strategy and performance.

Several new approaches are also noteworthy, however. First, the U.S. ambassador is to be the CEO of the multiagency work in any country and will “direct and coordinate” the civilian efforts there. The question is the extent to which the agencies working with funds not controlled by the State Department will be “directed and coordinated” or, if not, what levers the ambassador will have and what the procedures will be for implementing coordination. The National Security Council has clear interagency authority, but it is hard to imagine that the small NSC staff will be mediating every such problem. Second, the United States will work more through multilateral and multidonor mechanisms. Third, “country ownership” will be key to what programs the United States delivers in that country and how. Fourth, the U.S. government will now work much more closely with nongovernmental organizations, both U.S. business and other U.S. NGOs. To do so, the U.S. government, including the ambassadorial CEO, will need to compromise with these other stakeholders. The U.S. government will presumably no longer decide on its own what programs it will fund. Fourth, at least in conflict prevention, “the State Department will lead for operations responding to political and security crises, while USAID will lead for operations in response to humanitarian crises.” That is a new division of labor and new assignments of leadership and followership: in effect, USAID will lead only on humanitarian efforts and State will lead on everything else. As the document says, “execution is everything,” the equivalent of “the devil is in the details.” Indeed it is.

Gerald Hyman is
both a senior adviser and president of the Hills Program on Governance at CSIS.

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Gerald Hyman
Senior Associate (Non-resident), Office of the President