Thursday, February 25, 2010

Secretary Clinton and...the Incredible Shrinking International Affairs Budget?

Secretary Clinton is on the second of her two-day stint on the Hill, outlining the $52.8 billion international affairs budget request for FY 2011 to Congress.  On Tuesday morning, she went before the Senate Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.  The research department at The Big-Push has not been able to find that testimony as yet, though you can follow the live tweets (almost certainly texted from a Blackberry) from the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, representatives from which were present at the hearing.  That afternoon, Secretary Clinton went before the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee (link to full prepared text from RealClearPolitics) to give what would appear to be essentially the same testimony.  Today, Wednesday, she presented before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

At the outset, I should say that I am generally very pleased with her testimony and with the budget.  Sarah Jane Staats, the director of policy outreach at the Center for Global Development, Washington's leading development think-tank, expressed a similar level of approval when the budget proposal was released earlier this month.  It is a robust, development-friendly budget that includes net increases in food security, global health, climate change, and humanitarian assistance.  Wait a second - net increases during a spending freeze?!  That's right - foreign affairs spending is exempt from Obama's spending freeze due to its being identified as a "critical national security investment."  This might be the first time that development stakeholders have been thrilled to have development so inextricably tied to defense.

However, the budget would appear to have been reduced slightly since it was initially proposed.  The figure proposed by the administration in early February and discussed in the above-referenced Center for Global Development post was $58.5 billion, whereas Secretary Clinton's proposed figure is $52.8 billion.  Confusing matters more, the Office of Management and Budget's factsheet on the budget shows a combined figure of $56.8 billion.  Readers should bear with me as I'm new to federal budgeting, but I am going to go ahead and state, tentatively, that it would appear as though the budget has gone through at least two rounds of revision and has been reduced. 

I’ll follow up with a breakdown of the numbers, and, if indeed the budget request has been reduced by $6 billion, a look into which programming areas will experience reductions.  Surely, somebody with more of a budgeting background will post some analysis that will help to clarify this issue.  Additionally, I’ll look into what, if any, take-away can be gleaned/inferred from Secretary Clinton’s rhetorical cues.  Finally, based off of the live tweeting from the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, it looks as though lawmakers have peppered Secretary Clinton’s testimony with some, err, legitimate and quasi-legitimate concerns.  With foreign assistance reform bills in the House and Senate and the approval of the FY 2011 budget still on the horizon, it is important to gauge the temperament of Congress, because no matter how development-friendly the Obama administration and the budget request are, Congress holds the purse strings.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Eric Goosby on PEPFAR's next Five Years

Here is an excerpt from a blog post by Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, on PEPFAR's new Five-Year Strategy (follow the link for the complete text of the Strategy), which explains how the U.S. plans to change the ways in which it engages in the effort against HIV/AIDS in PEPFAR countries. The gist of the strategy is a shift from an "emergency response" to one that is more "sustainable" and long-term.

Reflecting the principles of the GHI, under our new PEPFAR Five-Year Strategy, PEPFAR is transitioning from an emphasis on an emergency response to a sustainable one. To accomplish this, PEPFAR is working with partner governments to increase their ownership of, and capacity to lead, HIV/AIDS responses in country. Achieving this outcome requires a heightened effort to improve health systems at the country level. PEPFAR will deepen our work with countries to expand their capacity to deliver the health interventions they designate as priorities. As we build health systems, PEPFAR will also use these systems as a platform to directly support treatment for more than four million individuals living with HIV/AIDS, prevention of more than 12 million new infections, and care for more than 12 million individuals affected and infected by HIV/AIDS, including 5 million orphans and vulnerable children.

Cultivating a sustainable response to the range of global health issues is no easy task. The Administration is dedicating unprecedented funding -- totaling $63 billion over six years -- towards the GHI. This figure is nothing short of remarkable: compared to the preceding six-year period from 2003-2008, this resource commitment for 2009-2014 represents more than a doubling of funds. Included in this in an increase in funding for PEPFAR, allowing us to expand the reach and maximize the impact of our HIV/AIDS programming.

This initiative represents a new and innovative way of doing business for the U.S. Government, promoting coordination among agencies and programs to avoid duplication of efforts and maximize the impact of each dollar invested. As part of GHI, PEPFAR will work closely with other United States Government programs to build the efficiency and effectiveness of national health systems, strengthening their ability to meet the variety of health needs individuals face, including HIV-related needs.

The GHI prioritizes a woman- and girl-centered approach. Over the long term, improving the health of women acts as a positive multiplier, benefiting not only the health but the social and economic development of future generations. PEPFAR also embraces this approach in our strategy, recognizing the disproportionate impact of HIV on women and the centrality of women to the health of their families and communities.

The GHI principles also reflect the reality that improving global health outcomes is a shared responsibility, and emphasizes collaboration with country and international partners. To sustain the gains made on HIV, we will strengthen our partnerships with the multilateral community, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

OECD and Center for Global Development resources on aid effectiveness

As the response to Haiti turns from acquiring funds to absorbing the money on the ground into meaningful reconstruction work, you might be wondering how effective your country’s response is. While many of us have donated to non-governmental organizations, wonderful groups such as Partners in Health who have labored to improve socio-economic conditions in Haiti since well before this earthquake, the high-level organization and often the actual implementation of reconstruction work is the province of donor governments, generally under the supervision of the United Nations. My previous post provides a link to an excellent article about the challenges all of these stakeholders are facing in implementing the humanitarian response in Haiti, but what about efforts in other developing countries? Who is measuring up, serving as strong program managers and implementers that bring about sustainable socio-economic change, and who is coming up short?
This question is really more the theme of this blog than a question I, or anybody else, could answer in a single blog post. Certainly, I will not attempt to provide an answer to this question here, but I think it is important to know where to look for some answers.
Here are two good resources available online for those interested. If you have a lot of time on your hands (or, like me, find yourself needing to research this stuff), this site provides links to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) periodic peer reviews of the 23 donor countries who are members of its Development Assistance Committee (the OECD-DAC). Each review provides roughly 100 pages of analysis on issues such as 1) a donor’s organizational effectiveness (the institutional structures and legislative accountability of aid agencies such as the US Agency for International Development or the UK’s Department for International Development) and 2) the donor’s “policy coherence,” meaning the extent to which the donor is committed to development through its domestic and foreign policies. The analysis in these peer reviews is generally very strong and lends itself well to comparison since each report is structured similarly.
For those of you looking for some quick answers and/or are perhaps interested in disaggregated rankings for performance on issues such as migration and environmental sustainability, issues the OECD reports do not tackle, the Center for Global Development’s yearly Commitment to Development Index is very useful. It provides a rank-order listing of donors, with Sweden topping off this year’s list. The U.S. does not perform particularly well in this index - this blog will delve more into why this is in subsequent posts.

Photo Essay: Vertical Slums, by Giulio Di Sturco

Mumbai, the symbol of Indian miracles, will become the most populated megalopolis in the world by 2020. Over 40 percent of its inhabitants live in various slums which define the urban landscape of the city. In Mumbai, the most widely known slum is the Dharavi slum. It has one of the highest population densities in the world. In these “villages” within the city, the most disparate ethnic and religious groups live together in harmony, bound by the instinct to survive. In 2008, Dharavi inhabitants began to move to municipal residences and the land of Dharavi was put up for sale with the intent to build shopping malls and residential areas for the new Mumbai middle class.

Prospect - How slums can save the planet

Sixty million people in the developing world are leaving the countryside every year. The squatter cities that have emerged can teach us much about future urban living.

Urban density allows half of humanity to live on 2.8 per cent of the land. Demographers expect developing countries to stabilise at 80 per cent urban, as nearly all developed countries have. On that basis, 80 per cent of humanity may live on 3 per cent of the land by 2050. Consider just the infrastructure efficiencies. According to a 2004 UN report: “The concentration of population and enterprises in urban areas greatly reduces the unit cost of piped water, sewers, drains, roads, electricity, garbage collection, transport, health care, and schools.” In the developed world, cities are green because they cut energy use; in the developing world, their greenness lies in how they take the pressure off rural waste.
The Last Forest (2007), a book by Mark London and Brian Kelly on the crisis in the Amazon rainforest, suggests that the nationally subsidised city of Manaus in northern Brazil “answers the question” of how to stop deforestation: give people decent jobs. Then they can afford houses, and gain security. One hundred thousand people who would otherwise be deforesting the jungle around Manaus are now prospering in town making such things as mobile phones and televisions.
The point is clear: environmentalists have yet to seize the opportunity offered by urbanisation. Two major campaigns should be mounted: one to protect the newly-emptied countryside, the other to green the hell out of the growing cities.

From worst to near first- the story of Bihar (Newsweek)

via bibek:
Newsweek explains how India’s most desperate state transformed itself to become “a model” for the rest of the country.

Contractors in Haiti, Readying to Profit from Disaster? - CEPR

Report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research

via bonesarecoralmade:
With the Inter-American Development Bank saying that the reconstruction of Haiti could cost upwards of $14 billion, and with billions in aid already coming in to Haiti, it is vitally important to keep a close eye on where that money is being spent.

The Federal Procurement Data System - Next Generation, has set up a function where you can track contracts awarded for Haiti related work. The list, however, is not exhaustive; there is a message on the site saying that the list only “represents a portion of the work that has been awarded to date.”  For instance the US Agency for International Development lists only two contracts totaling just under $150,000. USAID, however, says that through the Office of Transition Initiatives they have already given $20 million to three companies: Chemonics, Internews, and Development Alternatives Inc. The reality may be that these companies have received even more money than that though. The Miami Herald reported on February 8 that:
The U.S. Agency for International Development has given two assignments for Haiti-related work to two beltway firms involved in international development: Washington, D.C.-based Chemonics International and Bethesda, Md.-based Development Alternatives Inc.

The emergency work assignments, which are worth $50 million each, are likely the first of many the agency will hand out to private firms to help Haiti get on its feet after the devastating quake Jan. 12.
The article also notes that these were non-competitive contracts. Chemonics is a subsidiary of ERLY Industries, also the parent company of Comet Rice. According to a Washington Office on Haiti report, as reported by Food First:
RCH began operations in September 1992 when former World Bank official and post 1991 coup leader Marc Bazin’s regime signed a nine year development aid contract with RCH. RCH’s corporate parent is Comet Rice. Comet Rice has been the largest importer of rice in Haiti for many years. The flood of its imported “Miami rice” in the 1980s, much of it supported by U.S. tax dollars through various AID and USDA programs, drove thousands of small scale Haitian rice farmers out of business. Corn and other grain production also declined due to the importer’s marketing techniques.

"Haiti earthquake aid pledged by country: full data" -- The Guardian

Stay up to date on who is pledging what for what in Haiti.
Tracking the enormous pledges of financial aid and other assistance for quake-stricken Haiti is a difficult business, but the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is attempting to do just that. The OCHA has the tricky task of trying to orchestrate the efforts of the dozens of aid agencies either in Haiti or on their way there.
Its list of donors tracks both monetary sums and donations in the form of assistance and equipment, both from governments and corporations. However, it does not cover the millions of pounds of private donations pouring into appeals such as that launched in the UK by the Disasters Emergency Committee - where you can also make a donation.

"Good intentions gone wrong" - The Globe and Mail

This is a great article about the challenges that the UN is facing in leveraging all of the many well-intentioned, if overlapping, efforts of NGOs and governments conducting the humanitarian response in Haiti.