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The President’s New Approach to Development

Nearly two months after the draft Presidential Study Directive (PSD) on development was leaked, the White House is showing a strong commitment to reforming the U.S. foreign assistance system. At the G8 summit in Muskoka, Cananda, President Obama issued a statement outlining his objectives in reforming the U.S. global development strategy entitled “a New Approach to Advancing Development.” Like the draft PSD, President Obama’s new approach would place a greater emphasis on research and innovation, tailor development strategies to specific conditions in the field, and hold all aid recipients accountable for results.

Unlike the leaked PSD draft, this new development approach explicitly exemplifies all four of Global Washington’s Principles of Aid Effectiveness; consolidation and coordination, transparency and accountability, targeting to those most in need, and local ownership. By strengthening multilateral capabilities, the U.S. can consolidate resources and increase donor coordination. Using data and analysis from strong monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to guide policy will help to make the process more transparent and will increase both donors’ and recipients’ accountability to results. President Obama’s new development strategy will also target aid to select countries, regions, and sectors and emphasize local ownership of development projects.

Missing from this strategy, however, is any mention of institutional reform of the U.S. foreign assistance structure. Without addressing the tangled and unwieldy web of U.S. departments and agencies charged with carrying out U.S. development programs, the goals of President Obama’s new development strategy may not be met. Such reforms will most likely be taken up by the highly anticipated development policy directive to be released in the near future. Until the official policy directive is released, “a New Approach to Advancing Development” acts as a strong framework of objectives to be met by a new U.S. foreign assistance strategy.