Obama’s Development Reforms: From Charity to Growth

Our guest blogger is Andrew Sweet, a Research Associate at the Center for American Progress.

Last Wednesday, President Obama outlined his global development strategy in an address to the United Nations General Assembly. This was the result of an intensive review process that began last summer and involved nearly 20 agencies and departments. The process took longer than hoped, in part because at times it became entangled with the State Department’s first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR.

The new global development policy — laid out in a Presidential Policy Directive — looks to provide clear policy guidance to the current archaic development architecture where United States Government agencies are pursuing over 1,000 different development goals, objectives, and priorities and are governed by legislation first passed in 1961 and amended frequently — and often without much coherence — since that time.

The initial reviews of the new approach to development are in, and they have been strongly positive. Global development experts have said the policy has “exceeded expectations” and that President Obama showed “bold leadership” in announcing his new policy.

Some of the key policy outcomes of the PPD include:

• Formulation of a U.S. Global Development Strategy approved by the President every four years.

• Creation of a Global Development Council of leading figures from civil society and private and philanthropic sectors

• Establishment of an Interagency Policy Committee on Global Development to set priorities and coordinate development policy across the executive branch

Congress has also been supportive of the new reforms. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman, John Kerry, called the President’s development policy “bold and transformational.” Both Senator Kerry and his colleague, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Howard Berman, stated that they are looking forward to translating the proposed policy reforms into law. (How this plays out on the Hill will be crucial, and some members have grumbled that they were not well briefed as the global development review and the QDDR moved forward.)

The challenge will come in the implementation of the new development policy. As CAP’s John Norris has written, there are some important tensions to resolve to make a good policy effective on the ground.

This new policy will be the focus of attention at today’s U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. Secretaries of State, Defense, and Treasury, the USAID administrator, and CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation will expand upon the development policy rolled out at the United Nations last week.