One might not usually expect to find an indoor auditorium packed to capacity on a beautiful sunny, Seattle summer afternoon. But on July 6, Seattle University’s Pigott Auditorium was filled to capacity as Senator Maria Cantwell and Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Operator of USAID headlined the release of Global Washington’s policy paper; “Global Development through Trade, Aid, Education, and Partnerships: Recommendations from Global Washington.” This paper was designed to provide policy makers with the knowledge and tools with which to reform a broken foreign assistance system.
After an introduction by Stephen Sanborg S.J., president of Seattle University, Senator Cantwell highlighted the importance of Global Washington’s activity in a state that is deeply connected with the world around it. With a culture of unbridled generosity, caring, and innovation, Senator Cantwell believes Washington State is well positioned to provide recommendations to the policy makers in Washington DC on issues of development. As Senator Cantwell recognized, it is very uncommon for constituents to provide their elected officials with clear policy recommendations and a plan to enact those policies. Thus Senator Cantwell committed herself to play her part in promoting these recommendations. To raise awareness of the need to reform the foreign aid system, Senator Cantwell promised that she and Senator Patty Murray would work together to ensure policy makers such as President Obama, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and important Congressional leaders consider these recommendations.
Senator Cantwell noted that with only 1% of the federal budget, foreign aid funding must be spent as efficiently as possible to ensure development objectives are met. Development projects must be crafted to ensure aid reaches the intended targets, that aid is measurable and that future development strategy is formed on results. Given President Obama’s understanding and commitment to strengthening development alongside diplomacy and defense, Senator Cantwell believes there is no better time than now to reform foreign aid. Referencing a local Native American saying, “Alki,” Senator Cantwell ended by saying “Global WA is giving hope for everyone in the future.”
After Senator Cantwell’s speech, a panel of leaders in the development community convened to discuss the main recommendations of the policy paper. Jennifer Potter, President and CEO of the Initiative for Global Development, opened the panel discussion by noting the need to make foreign aid a main priority of the U.S. government. To accomplish this task, Ms. Potter offered several primary recommendations of the policy paper. Most notably, Ms. Potter expounded the need to create a national development strategy that would incorporate various policy sectors such as trade, aid, and agriculture. Ms. Potter also voiced the importance of targeting aid to those most in need and ensuring the local ownership of aid projects, a central tenet of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Steve Crane, president of Crane International, focused on trade as it relates to development policy. While noting there is still much to be done to achieve the goals of development, Mr. Crane believes trade is an important factor in achieving development. As such, Mr. Crane highlighted the need to target aid to build the capacity of local entrepreneurs as a means to achieve sustainable economic growth. Mr. Crane also noted the need to grant the poorest countries duty-free access to U.S. markets.
Given that education correlates to positive trends in society such as improved health, higher levels of economic growth, and increased democracy, Steve Hanson believes global education policy must be incorporated and coordinated with development policy. Scott Jackson, of the Rural Development Institute discussed the need to improve public-private partnerships in the development community. To ensure partnerships work as effectively as possible towards achieving development goals, Mr. Jackson offered the recommendation that a directory of all opportunities to work with the government be created. Such a tool would clearly delineate the roles of all organizations and facilitate a stronger public-private partnership.
The panel discussion ended with a speech by Maura O’Neill, the Chief Innovation Officer at USAID, calling on Washington State to harness its bountiful sources of innovation to work towards achieving development objectives. For local ownership of aid projects to work with sustainability, Ms. O’Neill believes a dialogue must be in place between donors and local leaders in which a free exchange of ideas exists. Simply fulfilling the requests of the locals can often be counterproductive to the goals of the development project. Ms. O’Neill also informed the audience of the current administration’s policy shift from a focus on basic education, to a focus on higher education. Another important concept of development Ms. O’Neill discussed was scale. The development community must learn how to build development models that can be scaled-up and apply to a larger population.
With such a large turnout from Washington State’s development sector, it is apparent that the issue of foreign aid reform is of paramount concern to the global development community. Hopefully, as this policy paper makes its way to the political arena of Washington, DC, policy makers will awaken to the pressing need of reforming the bloated and fractured U.S. foreign assistance structure.
To read the full version of our policy paper and other publications of Global Washington, please visit our website.