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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)

Foreign Assistance: A Vital Investment in Our Nation’s Future

Ambassador Randall L. Tobias, Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance & USAID Administrator
Remarks to members of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce attending the 2006 Washington Conference
Washington, DC
June 27, 2006

Thank you, David (Holt, Director of Federal Relations for the Indiana Chamber) for that kind introduction. And thank you all for being here. It’s always nice to start the day in a room full of fellow Hoosiers.

Many of you may know that after nearly 4 decades in the corporate world, I had made a happy transition to spending less of my time on airplanes and in hotels around the world and a great deal more time mostly home in Indiana, enjoying my children and grandchildren, serving on a number of corporate boards around the country, and working on behalf of issues and institutions that are important to me.

And then the White House called! As a result, over the past 3 years, there have been a number of occasions when I have awakened in some unfamiliar hotel in some remote corner of Asia, or Latin America, or Africa, and thought to myself, this is not quite what I had planned for this stage in my life.

But the truth is I feel enormously privileged that the President of the United States asked me to come to Washington 3 years ago to lead the creation, development and implementation of his extraordinary $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and then asked me to stay on in my current expanded role.

Prior to the launch of the Emergency Plan, there were only 50,000 people in all of sub-Saharan Africa receiving antiretroviral drugs. Today, still in the early stages of the Emergency Plan’s implementation, the U.S. is already supporting nearly half a million people on life-saving HIV/AIDS drug treatment.

I believe that one of the important reasons the Emergency Plan has achieved such extraordinary early success is because our approach to the delivery of HIV/AIDS assistance around the world represents a much needed paradigm shift in the delivery of U.S foreign aid. And I believe it represents what is possible through a broader transformation of the way this country, and indeed the world, should approach the issue of foreign assistance.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the terminologyas I was not 3 years agointernational development assistance (sometimes called foreign aid) is the money the United States Government provides to the world’s developing nations. This money promotes such things as economic growth; health; education; famine relief and food security; democracy; good governance, and disaster assistance. In short, foreign assistance is an investment in opportunity.

We, as Americansboth in the public and private sectorsmake this investment because it is the right thing to do. We do it because we believe that peace, prosperity, health, education, and the freedom to provide for themselves and their families are the aspiration of human beings regardless of ethnicity, faith, or geographic location. We also make this investment because our future is inextricably linked to those we seek to assistbecause hope is the antithesis of fear and hatred.

But how do we truly create hope? In other words, how do we get the best return on our investment? The short answer to that question in the world of foreign assistanceas I learned through my experience leading the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Reliefis remarkably similar to what it might be in the corporate world. For starters, you take a strategic approach.

In the private sector, to get a return on investment, you focus on performance, results, accountability. In foreign assistance, that means ultimately defining success as the ability of a nation to graduate from aid and become a full partner in international peace and prosperity. Under Secretary Rice's leadership, the United States is now reforming its organization, planning and implementation of foreign assistance in order to achieve this objective.

We are doing this, in part, by better leveraging the strengths and the contributions of our foreign assistance institutions toward the accomplishment of shared goals. To do so, we have developed a new strategic framework to focus foreign assistance policy, planning and oversight at the State Department and USAIDwhich are responsible for 75-80% of all U.S. foreign assistanceon the Secretary’s overarching 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 have raised concerns that the words "poverty alleviation" do not appear in the goal. I’ve heard others say 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. I strongly disagree.

In many ways, our foreign policy is now recognizing what has been best practice in the development arena for at least a decade. Empowering human potential and achieving transformational development requires more than short-term charityor even the long-term provision of services.

Citizens must understand that their governments are responsible for their health and safety, for educating a critical mass, and for creating the conditions needed for economic growth. We must support citizens to make demands of their governments, and reject excuses for failure. The fact is the assistance and policies of the United States can and must play a vital and catalytic role. That’s why our strategic framework focuses on achieving a well-functioning and accountable state that responds to the needs of its people. In other words, when it comes to investing in people, the majority shareholders in the future of any nation must be its own leaders.

Our framework explicitly identifies end goals for U.S foreign assistance that focus on graduating from assistance. It also focuses assistance on sustainability.While we may be achieving great progress in some areaslike HIV/AIDSwithout a coordinated, comprehensive, mutually supportive foreign assistance program 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.

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 a strategy is merely words on paper if we cannot mobilize employees to implement it effectively. As the Director of Foreign Assistance, it is 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. It focuses Washington and the field on their respective strengths and responsibilities.

Washington will set integrated, coherent strategic direction and priorities across agencies. The field will focus on developing integrated, coherent tactical plans for the achievement of results based on strategic direction from Washingtonrecognizing that those in the field are best placed to understand the specific country circumstances, best partners, and best avenues for change. We also want to support the field in focusing on implementationas opposed to responding to constant and sometimes conflicting requests from Washington.

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. Now, with common indicators to assess performance, we will be able to compare country progress, partner performance, and programs in a way that we have never before accomplished.

Not only will this new strategic approach help us tell the story of what we are trying to accomplish, and provide the basis for evaluating our progress it will allow those in the private sector looking for the best way to partner with us to gauge where their resources are likely to have the greatest impact.

As a distinguished group of people who know and understand the importance of sound investment, I hopeas we move forward on reformthat we will be able to count on your support. Together, we can get the return on investment that the American people expect and all human beings deserve.

Thank you very much.

Released on October 25, 2006

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