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 You are in: Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance > Office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance: Releases > Office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance: Remarks (2006)

Transformational Diplomacy: Sharing the Vision

Ambassador Randall L. Tobias, Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance & USAID Administrator
Remarks to the Society for International Development
Washington, DC
August 14, 2006

Thank you, Betsy [Bassan, Vice President of Chemonics International] for that kind introduction and thank you all for welcoming me here today.

I appreciate the opportunity to share in the 50th Anniversary of the Society for International Development and congratulate you on your efforts to support sustainable development.

The last time many of you probably heard me speak about the vision behind our new approach to U.S. foreign assistance was about three months ago, at the last public meeting of the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid.

At that time, we had just unveiled the working draft of a new strategic framework for U.S. foreign assistance focused on our transformational diplomacy goal: "helping to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system."

Some initially raised concerns that the words "poverty alleviation" do not appear in the goal. Others said that the goal itself sounds too political, in that it focuses directly on state governance. For some, the goal as stated feeds the fear that "development assistance" is now being overtaken by foreign policy concernsthat short-term goals will overtake our long-term development objectives. As many here have heard me say before, I couldn’t disagree more.

In many ways, our foreign policy is now recognizing what has been best practice in the development arena for at least a decade. As President Bush has said, true development requires far-reaching, fundamental changes in governance and institutions, human capacity and economic structure, so that countries can sustain further economic and social progress without permanently depending on foreign aid.

Empowering human potential and achieving such transformational development requires more than short-term charityor even the long-term provision of services. A crucial element is the role of host governments. Despite the noblest of intentions, we know outsiders cannot with sustainability secure citizens’ health and safety, educate a critical mass, or create the conditions needed for economic growthall 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. I made this point recently to fellow donors at the Stockholm Conference for Lebanon’s Early Relief.

As many of you know first hand, within days of the outbreak of violence in Lebanona team effort, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, UN agencies, and the NGO communitybegan operating in southern Lebanon, providing much-needed medical treatment, evacuating the injured and saving lives under dangerous conditions. With support from the American people, the United States Government was among the donors who provided relief in the early days of the crisis. And we appreciate the brave efforts of implementing partners who literally put their lives on the line to deliver that relief.

Yet, while our engagement in Lebanon began as a humanitarian response in the midst of a crisis, as we turn our focus to recovery and long-term reconstruction, it is vital that donorsand our partnerswork with the Government of Lebanon to identify ways we can support its priorities. You see, in Lebanon todayas was the case when Secretary Marshall launched the Marshall Plan a full decade before SID was foundedit’s not about us, it’s about them. And we must have a way of gauging whether what we’re doing to help them is coordinated, comprehensive, and mutually supportiveso that they will be able to sustain the gains of our investments in the long term.

Whether our engagement in international development is as government employees, contractors, or non-governmental organizations, we cannot gauge the success of our efforts unless we have common indicators to assess performance.

As many of you know, the process we are now implementing seeks to integrate U.S. foreign assistance planning, budgeting, programming, and results reporting at every level. As we move forward on this new process, it does not escape me that the field of international development is so vast that the U.S. government would have to spend many more millions in personnel, research and development, and training to even come close to replicating the breadth of knowledge found among youthe NGO community, government contractors, and those who have dedicated their entire careers to studying or working in one field of development or another. Bearing this in mind, over the last couple of months, my staff and I have met with many leaders in the development community.

We have presented the framework and reform to multiple consortia of NGO groups, including InterAction, the Global Health Council, the Global Leadership Campaign, environmental NGOs, education NGOs, labor NGOs, and gender equity NGOs. Through several follow-up meetings with sector-level groups, we have solicited input from these groups both on the framework itself and the indicators that we will be using to measure our progress.

So far, in refining the framework and indicators, we have placed much focus on setting strategic direction here in Washington. Yet we know that those in the fieldmuch more so than any beltway insidersare best placed to understand the specific country circumstances, best partners, and best avenues for change. This is why the next step in our reform process is so essential.

Over the next few months, the field will focus on developing integrated, coherent tactical plans for the achievement of results, based on the strategic direction we’re providing from Washington. Called Operational Plans, these tactical plans are designed to link planned funding to planned activities, to planned resultsand will answer four key questions:

  • First, who is our partner in putting foreign assistance money to work?
  • Second, how much money are they getting to implement programs?
  • Third, what are they planning to do with the money?
  • Lastly, what have we mutually agreed will be achieved?

The Operational Plan is a tool that will strengthen accountability to ensure foreign assistance resources are used for the achievement of strategic priorities. The plans will provide accurate data on country, regional and Washington-based programs so that the USG can efficiently and effectively tell our various stakeholders, including Congress and the American public, what we are getting in return for our foreign assistance dollars. In addition, Operational Plans will incorporate best practices and lessons learned at country, regional, and global levelsand they will help us identify the essential links between U.S. policy objectives, resource allocation and results.

While this approach will require a lot of work on the front end, it will ultimately allow the field to focus on implementationas opposed to responding to constant and sometimes conflicting requests from Washington. Those of you who have spent time in the field know just how vital this is.

Before I open it up for questions, I’d like to directly address a concern that may be fresh in many of your minds. When change is afoot, it is human nature to assume the worstso in our staff meetings at USAID, I have started to include an agenda item called "rumor of the week." This morning, I learned that the rumor going around today is that I have placed a so-called "stop order" on all USAID contracts. This is simply not true. You should know, however, that strategic alignment of institutional contractor support in Washington is important to the management reform of USAIDand a priority for me. All funding for operational support contracts must be scrutinized to assure that activities funded are essential, efficient, effective and economical. To that end, I am reviewing and making decisions on all requests to fund institutional contracts in Washington.

Agency staffand many of youmay be anxious because it is the end of the fiscal year. Let me assure you that we are handling decisions expeditiously and will allow for transition to implement any changes. As we continue to work toward an integrated U.S. foreign assistance strategy, I intend to continue to work with you closely to achieve our common objective. I also encourage your organizationsparticularly your personnel on the groundto offer their expertise to our country teams as they develop Operational Plans. After all, regardless of our role in international development, all of us hereand those we representshare the belief that peace, prosperity, health, education, and the freedom to provide for themselves and their families are the aspiration of human beings everywhere.

Thank you very much.


Released on October 25, 2006

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