Thursday, December 04, 2008

Modernizing Foreign Assistance

Yesterday, in an attempt to utilize the opportunity a change of executive administration presents, Save the Children sponsored a panel entitled “Modernizing Foreign Assistance: Insights from the United Kingdom.” Panelists included Richard Manning, Chair of the Institute of Development Studies and 35 year Department for International Development veteran, Bill Andersen, former USAID Mission Director and career foreign service official, and Caroline Sergeant, Senior Civil Servant at the Department for International Development. Ambassador Michael Klosson who currently serves as Associate Vice President and Chief Policy officer at Save the Children moderated the panel.
The panel looked at the ways the US policies and institutions for foreign assistance to adapt best practices and effective approaches from Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID). All members of the panel spoke candidly about their experiences and opinions, all with the genuine desire to bring about positive change to the currently understaffed, ineffective way the US currently plans and administers development aid. Several recommendations were made in order to hopefully make foreign aid reform a top priority for the 111th congress and the incoming Obama Administration. Richard Manning and Caroline Sergeant pointed out the many characteristics and policies that make DFID so effective: the existence of a Cabinet level Minister in charge of DFID, control of a large portion, 83%, of UK foreign assistance funding, increased degree of autonomy over assistance policy and goals, ability to sign longer term contracts, emphasis on built in monitoring and evaluation, and the ability to adequately explain needs and results for development aid to the British voters. By law, the motivation and objective of all DFID must be poverty reduction.
Bill Anderson drew attention to the so-called “gutting” of US foreign assistance, namely USAID and the Department of State, which are both tremendously understaffed and lacking in clear global objectives and overly constrained by external direction and expectations. All panelists agreed that these US institutions, or whatever institution may be created to replace them, must be significantly better staffed and funded, taking important lessons from the British model.

Date: December 3, 2008
Sponsor: Save the Children
Location: Rayburn HOB 2200
Attended by: Sarah Shebby

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