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Remarks at Nordic+ Roundtable

Randall L. Tobias, Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and Administrator of USAID
Washington, DC
April 13, 2007

Thank you, Carol for that nice introduction. We have created this “dual-hatted” role, as you just heard, in which I serve simultaneously as our nation’s first-ever Director of Foreign Assistance as well as the 14th Administrator of USAID. And we’ve done this because of the unprecedented attention being given to foreign assistance and poverty right now, and – quite frankly—to what was a growing recognition of the fact that our foreign assistance, as previously structured, was inadequate for dealing with the exceptional challenges and opportunities that the world faces in the 21st century.

Since 2000, this Administration has more than doubled its commitment to foreign assistance. Yet, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted, the way America's foreign assistance had been traditionally structured risked undermining aid effectiveness through incoherent policies and dispersed programming. She charged me with refocusing foreign assistance toward one overarching goal.

To: "Help build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty, and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system."

The reform we are implementing is designed to provide a comprehensive foreign assistance strategy for the U.S. against which to measure success and upon which the U.S. Government will be able to report to all stakeholders both at home and abroad. The President’s Fiscal Year ’08 Budget, now before Congress, is the first budget that reflects our full reform efforts.

The new foreign assistance framework was built around a number of objectives that support our overarching goal. Its aim is to drive country progress through strengthened partnerships that bring to bear the respective strengths of development experts in the field and in Washington, as well as across government agencies – and indeed to better coordinate with host countries and the entire donor community.

Detailed Operational Plans, implemented in the field, are designed to meet the agreed upon country-based objectives. I want to emphasize that it is our first fully country based strategy. It was born out of the recognition that different countries are differently situated.

They have different needs we must help them address if they are to move along the development trajectory and sustain further progress on their own. I want you to know that I welcome the opportunity today to meet with you, our development partners, because we are in this together.

As I have told our many implementing partners, we need to have one united front to combat poverty. If we, collectively, really want to be successful—and I know that we do—then we are in this together. And through all these changes, I also want you to know that this government’s commitment to aid effectiveness and the Paris Declaration is unchanged.

Quite frankly, the declaration’s “roadmap” to improve the quality of aid is completely consistent with the road the U.S. government has traveled this past year and a half. In fact, the key principles of the declaration—ownership, alignment, harmonization, managing for results, and mutual accountability—are the hallmarks of our own reform efforts. So you will get no argument from me over the worthiness of the Paris Declaration objectives and the importance of us traveling the same development road together.

We will be hearing about innovative approaches to coordination in Bosnia, Ghana, Zambia, and Pakistan. We will also discuss the experiences of working together in post-conflict situations in Sudan and Afghanistan. These countries represent a broad range of development needs in circumstances of varying urgency, but in all cases they are based on a solid foundation of buy-in from donors and host countries.

It is incumbent on us to build on these experiences to establish appropriate mechanisms for country assessments, programming, and monitoring that can be more broadly adapted to similar situations. As Carol mentioned, before I wore the “two hats” I wear today, I wore the hat of Global HIV/AIDS Coordinator. The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is the largest international commitment ever made by a single nation to combat a single disease—$15 billion over five years. There, I directed our staff to implement a model initiated by UNAIDS with the support of the U.S. and the U.K.--the Three Ones. That is: One Host-Country Led Strategy; One Country Coordinating Mechanism; and One Monitoring and Evaluation System.

I would like to offer the Three Ones for your consideration today as an appropriate framework to guide our common development efforts under the Paris Declaration. If we are really to move forward on making aid more effective, our goal today should be to identify ways that we as partners can work collaboratively in each country.

Key donors and our host countries must agree on a common framework, a clear division of labor and financial commitments, and a common assessment and monitoring effort. This will help us reduce transaction costs and maximize harmonization and alignment.

In whatever time we have available, I would be delighted to answer any questions you might have and look forward to your ideas and suggestions during the discussion period. Thank you very much.

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