A New Way Forward on Global Development: How the Leaked White House Plan Measures up to Global Washington’s Principles of Aid Effectiveness

by Linda Martin, Global Washington Volunteer

As the U.S. government is poised to enact historic changes in foreign aid policy, Global Washington has convened members of Washington State’s global development sector to offer support and recommendations for these changes. Global Washington’s main recommendation is to base reforms on our four Principles of Aid Effectiveness: 1) Transparency and Accountability 2) Consolidation and Coordination of efforts 3) Local Ownership and 4) Targeting Aid to communities most in need.  These principles are presented in Global Washington’s white paper, Making U.S. Foreign Assistance More Effective, which lays out a framework for assessing aid effectiveness.

What do Global Washington’s recommendations and the leaked White House plan for development policy, known as the PSD, have in common?  How does the PSD measure up to Global Washington’s four Principles of Aid Effectiveness?

The recently leaked Presidential Study Directive (PSD) is built on three pillars: 1) A development policy focused on economic growth, innovation and more sustainable, systemic solutions 2) A new business model which better leverages partnerships throughout the foreign aid life cycle; requires greater selectivity in types of aid programs offered and stresses accountability, and 3) A modern architecture which brings together the development skills and experience currently dispersed across government to  support common goals.

The directive also proposes a national Global Development Strategy and intends to “elevate development as a central pillar of our national security strategy, equal to diplomacy and defense”.  Global Washington strongly supports both these proposals.

Transparency and Accountability

The PSD stresses the need for scientific analysis to help guide policy and programmatic decisions, and proposes to empower partner governments which “set in place systems that reflect high standards of transparency and accountability,” by working with their institutions, rather than circumventing them.

We support a national Global Development Policy which stresses transparency and accountability, and would like to see a greater emphasis placed on transparency, to help ensure that “information on strategy, goals and spending is easily available to U.S. taxpayers and international beneficiaries, thereby increasing accountability.”

Consolidation and Coordination

Global Washington recommends “giving USAID autonomy from the Departments of State and Defense so it may effectively oversee the national development strategy”. While the study directive falls short of this proposal, we are pleased with the administration’s decision to rebuild USAID as “our lead development agency” and to incorporate the work of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) with USAID’s efforts.


Overall, the administration is planning a shift from emergency based or basic needs aid, to sustainable solutions, particularly in the areas of health and agriculture.  Global Washington encourages our government to “target aid to countries and communities most in need” and to help the poorest countries meet the challenges of climate change, through increased aid.

We agree with the PSD’s proposal to focus on fewer recipient countries, to concentrate resources where the U.S. expertise can do the most good, and to employ rigorous monitoring to determine the most successful methods for reaching desired outcomes.

Local Ownership

The United States proposes to work directly with partner governments to address local priorities, and to mold U.S. development strategy to respond both to the unique circumstances of those in need. The directive emphasizes the use of in-country staff and local resources to implement programs.

We support these actions and encourage even earlier collaboration, in the planning and design of aid packages. Early involvement can help ensure program success and encourage local ownership. We also encourage the administration to help develop the capacity of local institutions and infrastructure, to ensure adequate delivery systems, and to develop in-country expertise necessary for sustainable, systemic solutions.

Global Education: A Missing Link to Development?

As the administration moves forward with a National Global Development Policy, we strongly recommend global education as a critical policy component with long term funding. Cultural competence is increasingly necessary for the U.S. to be competitive in a global economy. Education has a proven positive impact on health, reduces gender based violence, and boosts economies. We recommend the funding of programs in poor countries, which develop institutional capacity and the infrastructure necessary for children to safely attend school; and U.S. policies which facilitate student research collaborations, ensure flexible visa access for students, improve cross-sector program coordination,  foster language acquisition, and expand student exchange. We encourage the funding of innovative programs from the elementary to university level, which prepare children, youth and adults to embrace global citizenship for a better world.

A New Era

Comprehensive reform of U.S. foreign assistance will not be easy, but we have a great opportunity before us – to redefine our role in alleviating poverty, and to re-establish the U.S. as a leader in delivering a new kind of aid for a new era. We have the opportunity to raise the bar, by developing a framework based on transparency, accountability, collaboration, and local ownership. Through education, we can bring the best expertise worldwide to bear on the challenges the world’s poorest face. Through capacity building, we can help ensure the long term success of the institutions and infrastructures that deliver aid.