White House Document Leaked Outlining a “New Way Forward” on Development

Ronald Reagan Building, home of USAID

In an interesting twist, a White House document outlining a new paradigm for development policy has been leaked this week.  The document is a draft of the White House review of U.S. development policy, known as the PSD-7 (Presidential Study Directive).  We were not expecting to see anything from the White House until after the release of the State Department’s review, the QDDR (the Quadrennial Diplomacy & Development Review).

Real development policy change may be on the horizon.  According to this document, the “United States will pursue a new approach to global development that focuses our government on the critical task of helping to create a world with more prosperous and democratic states…”  This approach will be built on three pillars:

1)      “A deliberate development policy that places a premium on economic growth and democratic governance, game-changing innovations, and sustainable systems for meeting basic human needs;

2)      A new business model that positions the United States to be a more  effective partner and to leverage our leadership and;

3)      A modern architecture that elevates development as a key pillar of U.S. foreign policy and harnesses the development expertise now spread across government in support of common objectives.”

Overview of Proposed Changes:

  • Implement a national development strategy, to provide explicit policy guidelines on competing objectives (such as the trade-off between real-time national security challenges and creating the conditions for long-term economic growth).
  • Increase investments and engagement in development-focused innovation.
  • Tailor development strategies to the unique challenges of the individual situation: no one-size fits all approach to similar problems in different countries.
  • Hold long-time recipients of assistance accountable for achieving development results, even in countries where efforts have been driven largely by national security or foreign policy imperatives.
  • Include the USAID Administrator in National Security Council (NSC) meetings as appropriate, though he/she will still report to the Secretary of State.
  • Assess the development impact of other major policies affecting developing countries, such as trade policy, intellectual property, immigration, etc.
  • Seek greater flexibility from Congress: fewer earmarks, and the ability to reallocate funding from less to more effective programs.

All of Global Washington’s Four Principles of Aid Effectiveness are accounted for in this document, with the exception of any explicit reference to local ownership.  It is somewhat strange that there is no mention of local ownership, at least as a preference over supply-side solutions.  Our three other Principles, including targeting the poor, consolidation & coordination, and transparency & accountability, are  at least in some way addressed in this document.  Click here for more information on Global Washington’s Four Principles of Aid Effectiveness.

One important fact to keep in mind is that this is a draft document that was written a few weeks ago- it is possible that changes have been made already, and that the final study may reach different conclusions.