State’s QDDR vision is compelling yet incomplete

By Oxfam

Washington, DC – International humanitarian organization Oxfam America praised today’s release of the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) as an important step toward a more integrated approach to development by the US government. Taken together with the September announcement of the first-ever US Global Development Strategy by President Obama and the far-reaching internal reforms by the US Agency for International Development, implementation of the QDDR will support effective aid policies that will help people lift themselves out of poverty. Oxfam, however, urged the Administration to build on this momentum and partner with Congressional leaders to ensure the levels of political and financial support of these crucial measures.

“The QDDR is an important step in reaffirming the efforts to modernize USAID and further elevate it as ‘the world’s premier development agency,’” said Paul O’Brien, vice president of policy and advocacy campaigns for Oxfam America. “But the document leaves open the question of how the United States will resolve situations where diplomacy and development will require different approaches and tradeoffs.”

 “The secretary's vignette of a jeep driven by a diplomat with a development expert in the front seat is compelling, but what happens when there is a fork in the road?," O’Brien added. “In too many places around the globe, the way the US government operates fails to live up to this vision, with short-term political imperatives taking the jeep one way and longer-term development priorities going the other. The QDDR will ultimately be judged by whether or not the US government empowers development professionals and priorities to have more influence when our development and diplomatic goals come into tension. To that end, there is still much work to be done to resolve how an integrated approach will be resourced on the ground.”

Oxfam America is pleased that the document embraces conflict prevention and response as core missions of the US government.

 "The wars in Darfur and Afghanistan have shown us that political will is not enough to stop violence and prevent conflicts. It must be coupled with capable institutions, wise prioritization, and international cooperation. The QDDR rightly states that adopting crisis response and prevention as a core mission requires new tools, training, and ways of doing business," said O’Brien.

Many governments would like to protect their people from violence and crime, but have failed to build effective justice systems or capable military and police forces that can provide the security people need.  The report highlights the urgent need to support governments mired in conflict and crisis to live up to their sovereign responsibility to protect their own civilians.

 “Since 9/11 the United States has focused its security sector assistance narrowly on traditional train and equip programs in frontline states in the global war on terrorism and counterinsurgency,” O’Brien added.  “The QDDR expands US efforts by moving well beyond the traditional ‘train and equip’ approach and puts accountability and helping states protect the rights of civilians at the center of US assistance.”  

 Oxfam also applauds the QDDR for immediately placing the Feed the Future initiative at USAID, for supporting the use of local partners and country systems as laid out in the USAID Forward internal reform agenda, and for tripling the amount of USAID mid-level staff making for a more talented and nimble agency. However, Oxfam is disappointed that USAID leadership of the Global Health Initiative has been punted until 2012, three years into the program. In addition, the emphasis placed on addressing climate change impacts as a high priority is welcomed, but clarity is still needed about where leadership of the Global Climate Change Initiative will be located.

 "For too long USAID has been understaffed and overreliant on contractors to adequately support the agency’s mission objectives. Building up USAID’s internal capacity and investing more in Foreign Service Nationals will make US foreign assistance most effective in fighting poverty," said O’Brien. “Now is the time to give USAID the capacity to lead on food security, global health, and adaptation to climate change so it can provide strategic direction and support to the agency’s missions in-country. The success of this effort will be measured in terms of progress toward reducing hunger and food security, helping poor people build resilience to climate change, and saving lives.”

 Oxfam America welcomes Secretary Clinton’s efforts, and calls upon members of Congress to actively support reforms that strengthen US’ efforts to effectively fight global poverty. Putting poor people and local governments in charge of their own development agenda will enable self-sufficient communities to lead their own path out of poverty. 

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