Advancing the Message That Foreign Assistance WorksAmbassador Randall L. Tobias,
Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and USAID Administrator
Remarks at U.S. Global Leadership Campaign
June 27, 2006
Thank you, George [Ingram, U.S. Global Leadership Campaign President and VP of Academy for Educational Development] for that kind introduction.
I also want to thank Representative Howard Berman [D-California] for being here. We appreciate the support of so many in Congress – including 52 Senators who sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee just last month – who understand the importance of foreign assistance. And I appreciate the support that the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign has consistently shown as you encourage policymakers to increase our nation’s commitment to foreign assistance.
I know that I do not have to convince you of the importance of foreign assistance to our nation’s security, or of its contributions to improving the livelihoods of our global neighbors. You in this room have been instrumental in forging a coalition that works to make the public – and their representatives – aware of the vital need for investing in humanitarian, economic, and diplomatic programs to give the U.S. the tools it needs to address the challenges of the 21st Century.
Over the past two days, several of my colleagues have had an opportunity to discuss with you some of the challenges and opportunities facing the U.S. in international affairs. One of the challenges in foreign assistance – during an era when there is competition across the government for ideas, approaches, resources and positions of leadership in the control and implementation of programs – is the need for increased coherence and accountability.
Last year, at your 10th Anniversary Gala, Secretary Rice described America as “a country that is determined not just to leave the world safer, but to leave it better.” She talked about some of the strides we have made with your support in recent years–like the MCC [Millennium Challenge Corporation], and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. And she told you that protecting national security, strengthening humanitarian values, and building economic prosperity are inextricably linked. In short, she described for you her vision of transformational diplomacy.
Two months later, in announcing the most significant restructuring of U.S. foreign assistance in decades, the Secretary put it simply: “We can and we must do better.” The issues related to foreign assistance are so important, and opportunities for impact so great, that I feel very privileged to now be leading this new and significant foreign assistance reform effort. From the highest levels, this Administration has made and Congress has supported an enormous commitment to development and transformation.
President Bush has made–and is keeping–that commitment. In fact, the total official development assistance (ODA) provided by the United States for 2005 came to $27.5 billion – a near tripling of ODA since 2001. But these vastly increased resources have also come with new responsibilities—to focus on performance, results, accountability—and ultimately, to define success as the ability of a nation to graduate from aid and become a full partner in international peace and prosperity.
Under the Secretary's leadership, the United States seeks now to reform its organization, planning, and implementation of foreign assistance in order to achieve this objective. We will do this, in part, by better leveraging the strengths and the contributions of our foreign assistance institutions toward the accomplishment of shared goals. A fundamental purpose of this reform is, in the end, to better ensure that we are providing both the necessary tools and the right incentives for host governments to secure the conditions necessary for their citizens to achieve their full human potential.
The fact is that despite the noblest of intentions, outsiders cannot with sustainability, secure citizens’ health and safety, educate a critical mass, or create the conditions needed for economic growth—all of which are necessary for development, and all of which are the responsibilities of government. Citizens must understand that their governments are responsible, they must make demands of their governments, and reject excuses for failure. This understanding is a prerequisite for true democracy, and for transformation. And the assistance and policies of the United States can and must play a vital and catalytic role.
This is precisely what the Secretary has acknowledged in establishing the transformational diplomacy goal of, “helping to build and sustain well-governed, democratic states that respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.” This is now the overarching goal of all U.S. foreign assistance. From this point forward, all USAID and State Department foreign assistance funds will be planned, allocated and measured against achieving this goal. Those of you who have worked in foreign assistance for years know that this is new – to have one goal against which we will measure the effectiveness of how we spend foreign assistance resources.
As some of you may have heard, I did an analysis of our foreign assistance based on where we are currently focusing our dollars—on the assumption that our strategy IS where we put our dollars, regardless of our rhetoric. It turns out that most of our foreign assistance is focused on five goals. They are:
- Sustaining critical security partnerships in the Middle East;
- Supporting traditional Eastern European partnerships;
- Countering narcotics in the Andean region;
- Fighting HIV/AIDS in critical countries; and
- Responding to humanitarian crises as they occur.
While important, these goals do not of themselves add up to a foreign assistance strategy that supports transformational diplomacy. We may be achieving great progress in some areas—like HIV/AIDS—but a lack of well-coordinated, comprehensive, mutually supportive foreign assistance programs means that we will not be able to sustain the gains of our investments in the long term.
The framework explicitly identifies a comprehensive approach. It recognizes that nations cannot progress without peace, security, and stability. They cannot progress without just and democratic governance. They cannot progress without investments in the human capacity of their citizens. And they cannot progress without economic growth. These now are the objectives of U.S. foreign assistance.
Our strategy is designed to get our program planners and implementers thinking about the right combination of programs, based on country circumstances, that will result in moving that country along a development path. Along with this new strategic approach, we have implemented a leadership and management model that will help us achieve what this strategy intends. We all know that these are words on paper if we cannot mobilize our bureaucracies, here and in the field, to implement effectively.
As the Director of Foreign Assistance, it will be my responsibility to help ensure that USG agencies delivering foreign assistance are not working at cross purposes, that in fact we are taking advantage of agencies’ comparative strengths to create a U.S. Government program that is effective and makes the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars. The process we are now implementing seeks to integrate our foreign assistance planning, budgeting, programming, and results reporting at every level.
One of the most important “lessons learned” by me over the course of my tenure at the Emergency Plan was the incredible impact the USG can have when it speaks with one voice. On a country level, the fact that USG agencies spoke from the same page, implemented one strategy, and monitored results in the same way, vastly increased responsiveness from both government and nongovernmental partners, and therefore vastly increased effectiveness.
That success was never about suppressing one USG agency over another, but about better aligning all of our efforts so none could divide and conquer among us by taking advantage of our own USG fragmentation to get out from under the need to perform.
The new approach strengthens the role of the Secretary and other senior leadership in driving the strategic, budget, and program planning process rather than reacting to the process. Remarkably, the United States has never before had an integrated foreign assistance strategy. We have not had a consistent and comprehensive story to tell to our various stakeholders, including Congress and the American public. This new strategic approach tells the story of what we are trying to accomplish, and provides the basis for evaluating our progress, because progress is essential.
The challenges of our time demand this change not only because our national security depends on it, but because peace, prosperity, health, education, and the freedom to provide for themselves and their families are the aspiration of human beings everywhere. With your help, we will change the perception that foreign assistance is a waste of resources to the understanding that “Foreign Assistance Works.” It would be a great help, indeed, if you would use your grassroots network to consistently relay the message that we are improving our processes to ensure that “Foreign Assistance Works.” We need the American people behind these reforms. Without their constituents’ support – or our ability to transparently report on how tax dollars are being spent – Congress is less likely to support increases in foreign assistance.
As leading advocates, the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign is an important partner in advancing the message that “Foreign Assistance Works.” We are doing our part to make foreign assistance work better than it has before – with a strategic, coordinated, transparent approach across the U.S. government. The changes required to make that happen are sweeping – and they have already begun. Given the Campaign’s goal of “building a broad-based public education campaign to correct common misperceptions about the international affairs budget,” I encourage all of you to stay informed and engaged as we move forward.
Together, we can truly advance the message that effective foreign assistance is an investment in our own future – one that is inextricably linked with the peace, opportunities, and prosperity of those we seek to assist. Thank you very much.
Released on June 28, 2006