Reforming and Reorganizing U.S. Foreign Assistance: bolstering democratic governance essential


Democracy, human rights, and governance should be integrated into foreign assistance programs, according to a report by a bipartisan Task Force on Reforming and Reorganizing U.S. Foreign Assistance. A new Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance should be created at USAID that would encompass governance, anticorruption, and rule-of-law programs, says the report, an initiative of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The United States remains the largest provider of foreign assistance in the world, the report notes:

U.S. foreign assistance has achieved many positive results since 1948. At a macro-level, U.S. foreign assistance helped to transform South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and the other “Asian Tigers” …. and it helped to put the communist command-led societies of Central Europe on the path toward becoming thriving free-market, democratic countries…. Historically, the U.S. government and others have cited three main rationales to justify foreign assistance: 1. National security; 2. Economic and commercial interests; and 3. Our values (including democracy, human rights, and humanitarian assistance).

The USAID administrator, in conjunction with other stakeholders including State and DoD, should lead the development of a clearly articulated U.S. development strategy that complements and supplements the U.S. National Security Strategy, the reports adds:

The strategy should ensure that U.S. foreign assistance resources are allocated in a consistent way that rationalizes or eliminates bureaucratic redundancies and inefficiencies that compromise the overall effectiveness of foreign assistance…. Given the complex challenges in our world today, the process should also consider strategies for fragile and failing states, including a focus on reducing extreme poverty, fostering anticorruption efforts, and bolstering democratic governance.

The report’s articulation of the USAID mission should be expanded to include promoting political freedom through diplomatic mechanisms and democracy, human rights, and governance programs, said Larry Garber, a Task Force member.

A market-based approach, consistent with the World Bank’s new Cascade approach, could complement efforts to fight corruption, improve democracy and governance, and clearly measure results, adds Nilmini Rubin, Vice President for International Development at Tetra Tech.

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