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Cindy Huang is co-director of migration, displacement, and humanitarian policy and a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. She works on issues related to refugees and displacement, fragile and conflict-affected states, gender equality, and development effectiveness. Previously, Huang was deputy vice president for sector operations at the Millennium Challenge Corporation where she led the strategic direction and technical oversight of a $2 billion portfolio of social sector investments. She also served in the Obama Administration as director of policy of the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, and as senior advisor to the State Department’s counselor and chief of staff. In her latter role, Huang managed the interagency leadership team of Feed the Future, a presidential initiative launched by a $3.5 billion, three-year commitment to agricultural development and food security. Huang has also worked for Doctors Without Borders and the Human Development Center in Pakistan. She has a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, an MPA from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and a BA in Ethics, Politics and Economics from Yale University.
This week, we took a broad look at what could be done to reform our foreign assistance architecture to reduce duplication and to make it more efficient, and we wrote about four steps the US government can take immediately toward those goals. You can read our full piece at Devex. Excerpts below.
The White House, State Department, and US Agency for International Development (USAID) reviews have rightly emphasized addressing duplication and inefficiency. But rather than focusing on a State/USAID merger, as has been widely rumored, the administration should look at something that leads to some of the biggest duplications, triplications, and even quadruplications of capacity that exists in the US government: the severe fragmentation of US development assistance.
Writing as former senior officials in two of the government’s largest development agencies—USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation—we have seen this fragmentation firsthand. The biggest efficiency gap in the US foreign affairs agencies is not the division between State and USAID—it is the diffusion of US development aid’s goals and roles across 20-some federal agencies and offices. State and USAID should remain separate and distinct—they have different missions, represent distinct professional disciplines, and require different organizational cultures. But the development architecture is long overdue for realignment and consolidation. We have just released a paper laying out a path for doing this—starting with a set of immediately actionable reforms, and moving from there toward a more fundamental reorganization plan.
1. Adapt foreign assistance to the realities of operating in fragile states.
The US must adapt as extreme poverty becomes increasingly concentrated in fragile and poorly governed states over the coming decade. By 2030, the share of global poor living in fragile and conflict-affected situations is projected to reach 46 percent. The US government must begin to give its foreign assistance efforts the nimbleness to address rapidly changing situations in fragile states. This means streamlining the procurement process for aid delivery in fragile states by responsibly expanding the use of USAID competition waivers, so that well-targeted development assistance can get there faster. It means allowing funds in the pipeline to be used more flexibly in post-disaster and transitional settings. And it means developing a new USAID mechanism for surging staff toward emergent crises and opportunities.
2. Focus on inclusive growth as a development objective.
Fostering more inclusive growth is a core development challenge for this decade and beyond, because growth in developing countries does not necessarily help their poorest citizens. Aid is not always the main tool in doing this. In relatively stable developing countries, development engagement should move toward catalyzing private finance and a country’s own domestic resources, rather than financing needs directly. A major step in this direction would be to expand the Overseas Private Investment Corporation into a full-fledged development finance institution, with a toolkit that is better suited to helping developing countries access private investment funds.
We should also embrace a longer-term role for the MCC, which works explicitly to foster economic growth. MCC’s default setting is to complete its engagement through one, or at most two, five-year compact programs, which is too short a timeline relative to the development trajectories of well-governed states. Eventual major reforms should expand MCC’s role over time so it has a more prominent leadership and coordinating role in promoting inclusive growth in better governed nations.
3. Reinforce—and grow—existing global health leadership.
Third, the US should reinforce its recognized leadership in global health as the world’s largest single investor. Programs such as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief have achieved historic results, attracted bipartisan support, and shaped the global health landscape. But more can be done to align PEPFAR funding streams with US government agencies’ core capacities in conjunction with greater rigor and accountability for results.
In its early years, PEPFAR scaled up rapidly to respond to the urgent HIV/AIDS crisis, and as programming scaled up, an inconsistent division of labor emerged between the main implementing agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and USAID. The current division of labor is out of step with the two agencies’ distinct comparative advantages. The government should take a hard look at the roles and responsibilities now that the epidemic is moving to the stage of management and control versus emergency response—and recognize that more of the management, coordination, and day-to-day work should be led by the host countries themselves.
4. Streamline existing humanitarian aid efforts.
As the world contends with the highest level of displacement and humanitarian need in decades, the US should streamline and enhance its humanitarian aid efforts. The US funds roughly one quarter of the world’s humanitarian relief every year, providing the financial backbone of global crisis response. In 2015, USAID provided lifesaving support to 109 million victims of humanitarian emergencies around the world. But there is room for improvement.
USAID has long had two parallel offices responsible for humanitarian assistance: the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Office of Food for Peace. In today’s world, food versus non-food is no longer a meaningful organizing principle for relief aid. To be fully effective, food aid programming depends on integrated water, nutrition, livelihoods, and health programming—and vice versa. These two offices should be merged and elevated.
By implementing changes that enable greater value for money, the US will be able to better maximize its impact within a flat or declining resource environment. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the reforms that could be undertaken, but these would be important first steps toward an aid system that is ready to confront present and future challenges.
As we mark World Refugee Day, it is increasingly clear that there is a desperate need to fill the gap between short-term humanitarian response and long-term development need. Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury and CGD senior policy fellow Cindy Huang join the CGD podcast to discuss an innovative solution: refugee compacts.
“Twenty percent of our population is made up of Syrian refugees,” Jordan’s Planning Minister Imad Fakhoury tells me in this edition of the CGD Podcast. His estimate is twice the official count from UN agencies, and is based on his country’s last census. “There are villages and towns in the north and the center where the number of Syrians is higher than the number of Jordanian citizens living there, so it makes it very difficult to maintain social cohesion.“
Jordan’s response has been to innovate, through piloting a more integrated approach to refugee response called a compact—an agreement between host and donor governments and humanitarian and development actors. Compacts acknowledge that traditional short-term approaches to humanitarian crises—for example, refugee camps and emergency hand-outs—are no longer appropriate when 65 million people have been forcibly displaced, and the average duration a refugee stays away from home is ten years.
As we mark World Refugee Day, it is increasingly clear that there is a desperate need to fill the gap between short-term humanitarian response and long-term development need. CGD senior policy fellow Cindy Huang, along with IRC’s Nazanin Ash, are authors of a joint report between the two organizations that looks at how compacts of the type pioneered in Jordon, and in Lebanon, can be used more widely to address this gap.
Minister Fakhoury and Cindy Huang join me for this podcast. Click below to hear some results from Jordan’s refugee compact experiment.
Policy guidance issued recently by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney on “Reforming the Federal Government,” along with Secretary of State Tillerson’s plans to streamline and reorganize the Department of State and US Agency for International Development (USAID), have set off rampant speculation across the development and foreign aid community. Many aid watchers fear this process will be used as cover for a pre-cooked outcome: perhaps providing an opportunity to subsume USAID into the State Department, retroactively justify plans to slash the foreign aid budget (already proposed in the Trump administration’s FY2018 budget blueprint), or wipe out a range of development tools and agencies.
These fears are probably premature. The announcement of President Trump’s intent to nominate Mark Green to be USAID administrator is a hopeful sign that the administration does not intend to do away with the agency (Green was reputedly seeking assurances to this effect before taking the job). And at the recent confirmation hearing for President Trump’s pick to fill the role of deputy secretary of state, the nominee, John Sullivan, spoke thoughtfully about the distinct missions and cultures of USAID and State. Looking past the OMB reform memo’s aggressive tone, the practical guidance it provides is actually quite sensible: agencies are to review their functions to identify any that are duplicative, non-essential to their mandate, inefficient, or provide a poor cost-benefit ratio. Additionally, they are to seek ways to maximize employee performance. These are reasonable requests, and not that different from prior reform efforts under past administrations.
As former senior officials at USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), we—like most supporters of US foreign assistance—agree that there is room for improvement in the system (some of our colleagues at CGD have proposed specific reforms). But the devil is in the details. There is extensive evidence that development aid has saved lives and improved standards of living (nicely summarized by Steve Radelet here). And when deployed effectively, US assistance can be an important tool for addressing a range of global challenges: state stability, pandemics, urbanization, violent extremism, climate change, the youth bulge, and record levels of displacement and humanitarian suffering. Any review of the US foreign assistance structure should focus on how to enable that assistance to be deployed as effectively as possible.
So, how to judge whether this process is truly focused on improving effectiveness, rather than just justifying cuts or rationalizing a predetermined re-org? We have our eyes on six key elements to watch:
Does it address the changing global context? The world has changed dramatically since the passage of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, and the US foreign aid apparatus needs to keep pace in order to remain relevant. In the coming decade, extreme poverty will be increasingly concentrated in fragile states, while the poor-but-stable states will become decreasingly reliant on aid. US assistance will be most needed in the difficult and risky environments that have traditionally been consigned to humanitarian relief flows. In these countries a more “expeditionary” development approach will be required: one that is more rapid, nimble, and risk-tolerant than traditional USAID programming. The rising economies, meanwhile, will need less US money but will still need our partnership, technical support, and private sector facilitation. In an era of rising private flows to developing countries and constrained donor budgets, there is need for greater coherence across the USG’s array of financial tools—grants, risk-sharing tools, lending, and equity—to better mobilize private finance. A serious review should focus on adapting US development capabilities to this new landscape—and equipping government experts and institutions to operate effectively within it.
Does it roll back aid fragmentation? The biggest structural question on US foreign aid is not whether USAID and State should fully merge (short answer: no. Development and diplomacy are distinct disciplines, requiring differing timelines, expertise, training, and experience). Rather, it is how to streamline a badly fragmented US development architecture. There has been an awful lot of uncoordinated tweaking of the core aid architecture since 1961. While diplomacy is relatively unified under the State Department, development functions have evolved across 20-plus USG entities. The result is a messy spaghetti bowl of objectives and organizations, with a whole that is less than the sum of its parts. There is scant efficiency to be gained from folding USAID into State (and, the record shows, a lot of potential waste when assistance is focused on political deliverables rather than development results). But much could be gained by tackling the dilution and duplication of development policy authorities and resources across an alphabet soup of federal entities and initiatives. A serious review should take a hard look at these issues. There is no inherently correct number of agencies, but the test should be whether agencies and offices have clear and distinct roles, tied to clear capacities and comparative advantages, with an efficient system for coordinating efforts among them.
Does it engage the full State/USAID team? Any meaningful government review process depends on the interplay between seasoned career staff who know their institutions, and political appointees who can provide leadership, framing, and overall policy guidance. Get this wrong and it’s likely that this effort will be among the 70 percent of change management projects that fail. The fact that there are no senior political appointees in place at either agency apart from Secretary Tillerson himself does not augur well on this front (nor do media reports of tense relations between Tillerson and State’s career leadership). Online surveys, word clouds, and outside consultancies won’t do the trick here—meaningful reform can only flow from a sincere and substantive partnership between career staff and appointees. Deep involvement of the career teams at State and USAID is critical on two fronts. First, these are the people who know their institutions inside and out. They can see around corners, and draw on institutional memories, that the appointees simply can’t. (We say this as former appointees!) If they are engaged in a sincere and substantive way, they can provide a wealth of knowledge on potential improvements. A brand new (and still very thin) team of political appointees will struggle to generate serious reform ideas—or to have any realistic gauge of feasibility—without this input. Second, the career staff will ultimately be the frontline implementers of any changes. Without their buy-in, the reforms are less likely to have staying power.
Does it set clear targets and emphasize cost-effectiveness? As the saying goes, form should follow function: look out for clear targets vis-a-vis agency goals and units. It sounds basic, but a shockingly low number of government re-orgs (8 percent) have set detailed unit-by-unit targets. These are essential in the public sector, where benefits like pandemics halted and youth employed cannot be easily captured in dollar terms. Over the past 10-plus years, foreign assistance agencies—especially the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), MCC, and USAID—have increasingly focused on setting measurable targets, tracking progress and impact, and incorporating cost-benefit analysis into decision-making. Notably, this progress contrasts with much of the aid delivered by State and the Defense Department, where objectives may be more difficult to quantify and monitoring and evaluation policies and implementation have lagged. While there is still significant room for improvement at USAID and elsewhere, any proposal should recognize recent advances in measurement and accountability—and emphasize evidence of results and cost-effectiveness over simple cost-cutting.
Does it have buy-in beyond the administration? Recent history shows major structural changes to US foreign assistance need buy-in from key external constituencies and from Capitol Hill in order to endure. President George W. Bush’s tenure illustrated both scenarios. In launching both PEPFAR and the MCC, his administration did the hard work of cultivating strong stakeholder buy-in from NGO and faith leaders, who could continue advocating for the programs long after he left office. He also worked with Congress to build ownership on the Hill, leading to legislation that enshrined the programs into law. As a result, the initiatives are still going strong two presidencies later. On the other hand, the Bush administration’s “F process” reforms, which consolidated USAID budgeting in a new State bureau, were initiated with little outside consultation and scant support from the Hill. Thus, the reforms were vulnerable to reversal, and when President Obama jettisoned most of them after taking office, no one in Congress was inclined to defend them. There is strong bipartisan support for increased aid effectiveness and accountability, so the critical question is whether the administration will engage champions and build broad support for whatever reforms it decides to pursue.
Does it seek reasonable efficiencies or debilitating cuts? The FY2018 “skinny budget” released by the Trump administration in March envisions dramatic cuts in US foreign aid and diplomatic spending. These cuts were proposed well before any strategic review was underway, much less completed. This is cart-before-the-horse budgeting—letting an arbitrary budget level set strategy rather than matching resources to strategic aims. At less than 1 percent of federal outlays, the foreign aid budget has a comparatively negligible impact on overall US spending, and rolling it back by a third is a rounding error in the broader budget context. There are certainly efficiencies that can be gained, and there may be plausible arguments for cutting budget and staffing levels (though our own view is that both remain too low). But a re-org plan that proposes major changes to budget or staffing should have a correspondingly robust strategic rationale explaining how those cuts would affect US foreign policy objectives.
In the next few weeks, we’ll propose some ideas that respond to these principles and have strong potential to increase efficiency and effectiveness . . . stay tuned!
At a recent G20 dialogue in Berlin, Angela Merkel unveiled plans for a new fund—spearheaded by Ivanka Trump—to promote women’s entrepreneurship. The fund will be managed by the World Bank and include contributions from governments and businesses. As some of us at CGD proposed last October, the United States and donor partners can do much more to improve economic opportunities for women and girls. Among the different components of women’s economic empowerment, from closing gaps in education and labor force participation to reforming laws, this new fund focuses on one important pillar: increasing women’s access to capital while breaking down other barriers to growing their businesses. Greater support for women entrepreneurs is a potentially welcome move.
But given that President Trump’s draft FY2018 budget proposes major cuts across development accounts, including on spending and activities central to women’s empowerment, there are significant questions to ask about what appears to be a major new development initiative championed by his Administration. Here are four core considerations in determining whether the fund delivers on the promise of empowering women and raising their incomes:
1. Will the fund be combined with, or crowd out, other critical investments that advance gender equality?
As Amanda Glassman and Rachel Silverman recently blogged, the new fund might represent two steps forward, but it could easily mean three steps back for women if donor support for other programs, such as family planning, are cut in the meantime. A well-designed approach to empower women must recognize and incorporate the rich evidence base that supports the connections between economic outcomes for women and investments to improve their health and education, decrease gender-based violence and unpaid care work responsibilities, and promote women’s voice and agency in advocating for their own rights. With Trump’s proposed 30-plus percent cut to USAID and elimination of the budget for the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, it’s difficult to understand how this new fund is part of a coherent strategy to advance women’s empowerment. This is not just an issue for the US: Reportedly, Canada, Germany and a few Middle Eastern countries are planning to contribute. The Trump administration and its fund partners should explain how this fund fits into and complements their broader efforts to empower women.
2. Will the fund’s design and programming rest on the best evidence on what works and what is most cost-effective?
While initial reports suggest the fund will emphasize giving “women in developing countries easier access to loans,” presumably in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the World Bank Group’s entity that focuses on crowding in private finance), those designing the fund should take into account evidence on the effectiveness of a range of interventions. Lucky for the fund’s designers, CGD’s Mayra Buvinic and Megan O’Donnell conducted a rigorous review of the evidence on what works to promote women’s economic empowerment. The evidence suggests that access to loans alone is not enough. Women need a range of support including savings, seed and venture capital, training, cash transfers, health and child care, land and property rights, and rural electrification. The fund should operate in partnership with other parts of the World Bank and with US and other development agencies to combine services in a way that ensures real impact on the income of women and their families. The fund should also consider ways to address barriers to women entrepreneurs entering non-traditional sectors like manufacturing and high-value services, and creative solutions to support them, such as giving them advantages in government procurement. The fund should also make significant investments in data and evaluation, including through partnerships with existing efforts like Data2X, to build the evidence base and business case for supporting women entrepreneurs. Indeed, most evaluations of women’s entrepreneurship programs have focused on microentrepreneurs rather than women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the anticipated beneficiaries of the new fund.
3. Will the fund reach poor women?
Women who own SMEs are not among the poorest segments of the population. Typically, SMEs are defined as companies that have between 10 and 500 employees. There are compelling reasons to support women SME owners: they can contribute more to broader growth and job creation, are more likely to hire other women, and can serve as role models and mentors for poorer and less-empowered women and girls. However, given the stark needs among very poor women, limited budgets, and evidence that supporting them with bundled services (e.g., capital, training, cash grant, access to savings, and health information) can be sustainable and cost-effective—it’s important to ensure that some of the resources of the fund benefit microentrepreneurs who represent the vast majority of women business owners. With the right design, the fund could create positive feedback loops between its SME investments and women microentrepreneurs, for example, by investing in inclusive women’s entrepreneurship networks, helping women make the transition from micro to small businesses, and supporting women-owned SMEs to source from women microentrepreneurs. And policies and platforms that help SME owners access financial services, such as mobile platforms and e-invoicing, should be designed and extended to reach microentrepreneurs.
4. Will there be a robust consultative process and governance structure that balances stakeholder voices?
The design of the fund is in its early phases and would benefit from transparent and robust consultation with a range of policymakers, experts, representatives from the private sector and civil society, and women entrepreneurs themselves. There isn’t much time between now and the G20 Summit in early July, when we expect to hear more about the fund, but it would benefit from critical information and improved credibility by setting a schedule for public input and consultation. These consultations should begin as soon as possible and extend past the high-level ceremonies through the detailed program design process. One issue that will likely be determined sooner rather than later is the governance of the fund. Building on the model of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, another fund managed by the World Bank, Steering Committee membership would benefit from diverse representation, including from recipient (not only donor) countries and civil society organizations (CSOs), such as those that work closely with and/or represent women entrepreneurs. Given the focus of the fund and evidence on the benefits of diversity in leadership, the World Bank can break new ground by considering gender balance in representation at Steering Committee meetings and also evaluating the possibility of CSOs serving as voting members, rather than non-voting ones as in the past. The fund should also be designed to coordinate with and complement existing offices and programs, such as the Women’s Entrepreneurship Opportunity Facility, launched as a $600 million partnership between the IFC and Goldman Sachs.
As Ivanka Trump and Jim Kim recently wrote, women are “an untapped source of growth” and “supporting women’s economic participation has enormous dividends for families, communities, and whole economies.” This new fund can advance this vision, but only if it seriously considers and affirmatively answers these four questions. Hopefully, the fund is an important step forward that world leaders follow by dedicating new resources and energy not only to women’s entrepreneurship, but the full range of investments needed to empower women as equal partners in accelerating growth and reducing poverty.
Of the 21 million refugees around the world today, low- and middle-income countries host more than 80 percent. The strain of refugee flows can threaten stability in these countries, with regional and global consequences. But this is an eminently manageable challenge for the international community. A new report, the culmination of a joint CGD-IRC study group on forced displacement and development, suggests compacts—agreements between host countries and humanitarian and development actors—are a uniquely well-suited approach to address the refugee crisis. Join us for a discussion on how host countries, humanitarian and development agencies, the private sector, and civil society can forge new and stronger partnerships to better meet the needs of refugees and the communities where they seek refuge.
Today, an unprecedented 65 million people—including 21 million refugees—are displaced from their homes. Still, as this report points out, the challenge is manageable—if the international community is able to get its response right. This report offers key principles for closing the humanitarian-development divide and practical guidance for designing effective compacts. We encourage policymakers and implementers alike to carefully consider these recommendations to ensure that humanitarian and development dollars have a real impact on the lives of refugees and host communities.
On Monday March 6th, President Trump signed a revised executive order after a federal appeals court blocked the first iteration. The new order differs in a few substantive ways from the first: first, removing Iraq from the list of countries subject to a 90-day travel ban; second, excluding green card holders from travel restrictions; third, eliminating an exemption for refugees who are religious minorities; and finally relaxing the blanket restriction on Syrian refugees. However, the main principles of the executive order remain unchanged and therefore our analysis does as well.
Among the wave of executive orders being developed by the Trump administration, so far two specifically target US commitments to refugees. They are consistent with Trump’s campaign promises to tighten borders and disengage from the world. And, if signed, they would result in serious harm to vulnerable people and alienate allies the United States needs to fight violent extremism and protect American interests.
What the Executive Orders Would Do
Based on available drafts of the executive orders, two directly impact the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). The first, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals,” suspends USRAP for 120 days to review and strengthen vetting procedures and reduces the overall number of refugee admissions from 110,000 to 50,000 in fiscal year 2017. Since the Obama administration resettled nearly 26,000 refugees between October and December 2016, only an additional 24,000 refugees could be admitted this fiscal year. The draft executive order (EO) also ends admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely, instead suggesting a plan to create safe areas for temporary resettlement in Syria and the region.
A second draft EO, “Protecting Taxpayer Resources by Ensuring Our Immigration Laws Promote Accountability and Responsibility,” directs the Secretary of State to report on the long-term costs of the USRAP at federal, state and local levels. More broadly, it requires that State Department visa policy better reflect the goals of the EO to deny admission to those with the potential to become a public charge, i.e. recipients of means-tested public benefits.
Why These EOs Are Misguided and Their Implications for Refugees and US Interests
National security vetting for individuals seeking a home in the United States is critical. However, these policy proposals fail to recognize the broader costs of these measures—both to refugees and US national security—and do not reflect an understanding of evidence and past experience.
President Trump has consistently highlighted refugees as a group that carries special risk of having terrorist ties. But refugees already undergo more rigorous screening than anyone else allowed to enter the United States. We have resettled almost one million refugees since September 11, 2001; in this time, not one has been convicted for domestic terror threats, nor has any resettled refugee carried out an attack either within the United States or overseas. A Cato Institute study shows the likelihood of an American dying in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee was one in 3.64 billion a year. By comparison, the chance of being murdered each year is one in 14,000; and the likelihood of being struck by lightning in a year is about one in one million. Terrorist acts, by their nature, are designed to generate fear and response beyond their statistical probability. Even taking this into account, the focus on refugees is misplaced and has devastating consequences for vulnerable people fleeing conflict and persecution.
Perhaps more importantly, experience from prior US immigration restrictions shows that ethnically discriminatory immigration policies impair US foreign policy. Migration experts David FitzGerald and David Cook-Martin find the exclusion of Japanese immigrants in 1924 promoted the growth of Japanese militarism against the United States in World War II. Apart from serious moral and ethical concerns, a blanket ban on Syrian refugees as well as all prospective migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries would likely score a propaganda victory for ISIS and other extremist groups. Similar efforts after 9/11 backfired, alienating critical Muslim partners in the fight against terrorism at home and around the world while fueling the extremist narrative that the United States is in a war against Islam.
The request to review the costs of the refugee program is underpinned by the assumption that refugees are at higher than average risk of becoming public charges. While it is true that refugees receive government support at first, once able to integrate and work they in fact outperform non-refugee migrants. Moreover, from 2009-2011, refugee men of working age were more likely to work than their US-born counterparts, and refugee women were just as likely to work as their US-born counterparts. Research from the Tent foundation shows that investing one euro in refugees up front can yield almost two in economic benefits within five years. Beyond the economic logic, imagine a world without Intel computer chips, Ghostbusters, or the general theory of relativity. All are the brainchildren of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States.
A separate EO that directs a 40 percent cut in funding to the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations would have serious implications for refugees around the world; our colleague Charles Kenny examines the broader implications of this policy proposal. Even if humanitarian funding is not targeted, an abdication of US leadership could produce spillover effects for the fledgling refugee and migration compact process initiated at the UN General Assembly this past September. Moreover, large budget cuts would negatively impact the UN’s overall capacity to provide life-saving assistance to tens of millions of people each year. In combination, the recent executive orders send a clear message that the United States is stepping back from addressing the refugee crisis—a recipe for greater instability and risk.
Refugee resettlement is a last ditch effort, meaning that these people cannot return home or remain in their current host country for the foreseeable future. The UN refugee agency estimates that 1.2 million refugees are in need of resettlement in a third country; already fewer than ten percent of these people successfully relocate. Historically, the United States has stepped up to welcome almost a full two thirds of this total. Abdicating this leadership will not only resign thousands of the world’s most vulnerable people to refugee camps and war zones; it sets an example for other countries to slash resettlement quotas. The draft EO suggests creating temporary refugee “safe zones” in the region in lieu of a resettlement program for Syrian refugees. Foreign policy and humanitarian experts are divided on the potential effectiveness of this policy, and it would be extraordinarily difficult to suggest a region already hosting millions of refugees take in even more, as we ourselves backslide on resettlement and broader support to refugees.
What Needs to Happen Next
It may take congressional action to prevent the United States from surrendering moral leadership on protecting the world’s most vulnerable. Just as bipartisan legislation has recently been introduced to protect undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children, we encourage Congress to act to protect our resettlement program and assistance to refugees. Building on the support of the private sector and citizen groups, Congress could also push for measures that increase the engagement of private and nongovernmental actors, including through private sponsorship for refugees similar to Canada’s model and enabling companies to admit more refugees through work channels. Historically, the United States has supported refugees at home and around the world to advance both its values and national security. These new policies betray America’s founding values and principles, and their overall impact—as part of a broader and profound withdrawal from global leadership—will not protect our country but only put us at greater risk.
For so long we’ve operated under the prevailing assumption that greater economic cooperation among countries would guarantee peace and stability. But now, the world finds itself in a dramatically different context—one that is fractured socially, politically, and economically. Today, more than 2,500 top decision-makers from around the world are gathering to kick off the 48th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland to address these new challenges.
This year’s theme, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World,” sets the stage for important discussions that prioritize global engagement and innovative solutions to address today’s challenges. Below, CGD’s experts weigh in to shed some light on the ongoing debates, with innovative evidence-based solutions to the world’s most urgent challenges, and also discuss what’s not on the agenda but should be.
For the policymaker looking to improve the delivery of benefits, or for the financial institution trying to expand its customer base, the gap between technical solutions and the situation of the average technology user represents fertile ground for the many new opportunities that the digital economy provides.
This year, the global migration crisis finds itself buried in the agenda. However, it will remain one of the most urgent issues for generations to come if international leadership fail to tackle human mobility with pragmatic, fact-based policy tools. Now more than ever, innovation is imperative. To that end, Michael Clemens has a unique proposal.
Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals will require a major ratcheting up of private finance. So far, that hasn’t happened. Strengthening the role of the MDBs in mobilizing the private sector should be high on the agenda at Davos, says Nancy Lee.
There is no shortage of skepticism about whether global leaders at WEF are serious about addressing the needs of the poor and vulnerable, writes Cindy Huang. Visible progress through core business commitments would send an important signal that refugees are a crucial investment, not a cost—and that corporate leaders are committed to taking action towards, not just talking about, solutions that deliver social and economic impact.
Earlier this week, CGD co-hosted a candid conversation with Devex on gender equality in the workplace, encouraged development organizations to look inward and consider changes in our own practices, and highlighted persistent gender gaps in the sector. It was just a first step in what will be a longer journey for CGD and all development organizations to prioritize and realize the promises of equality and diversity.
Research shows that pursuing policies that promote diversity and inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but will also improve the quality and impact of our work. Building on the conversation we hosted, here are five ideas that development organizations (including our own) should consider to help ensure we live our values and maximize our impact. As a starting point, we offer ideas focused on promoting gender equality, while recognizing that sexism is not the only challenge we must face. As Angela Bruce-Raeburn underscores, racism is a core issue for development and humanitarian aid and is inseparable from sexism:
Abuse, bad behavior, exploitation, and sexual misconduct are the result of a system that is owned and managed by white men who have no need to be accountable.
Real progress and transformation will require commitments that take an intersectional approach to addressing power relations inherent in class, sex, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and health status, both in the workplace and in the places development organizations operate.
Here are five ideas as food for thought and action:
1. Commit to 50/50 targets
Committing to diversity and equality starts with the hiring pipeline. Hiring, investing in, and retaining diverse talent up and down the management chain requires a concrete commitment to achieve parity. To reach diversity and inclusion targets, we must extend beyond our traditional networks to ensure a diverse pool of candidates. Recruiting women may also take greater engagement, recognizing that women are less likely to put their hat in the ring. An internal Hewlett-Packard report, cited in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, found that women will only apply for a job if they feel 100 percent qualified, whereas men will apply if they meet only 60 percent qualified. Recently the World Bank, UN, and WHO have demonstrated that concerted effort to increase women in leadership can yield results. Women comprise 45 percent, 50 percent, and 60 percent of their senior leadership teams, respectively.
Commiting to a recruiting and hiring process that ultimately results in a diverse group of employees is only the beginning. In order to retain and promote staff, organizations and its leaders should enact and actively promote policies that promote equality and inclusion in the workplace, like equal maternity and paternity leave (and encouraging men to take the leave they are granted) and greater flexibility (not working less, but working different hours or teleworking). The motherhood penalty is tangible for both hiring and wages, and may be even greater in development where travel is often an important part of the job. Organizations can look for ways to facilitate work and life, for example by enabling women (and men) to take their children on travel, whether for conferences or fieldwork. This matters not just for retaining talent, but for changing the norm on what successful leadership looks like.
2. Consider progress on gender equality as criterion for funding decisions
Some private investors, like CalPERS, are considering board diversity as a factor in their investment decisions. They see the bottom line benefits of investing in companies with boards that are more likely to avoid “group think” and brings diverse experience and skills. Likewise, funders have the potential to play a big role in advancing gender equality in development organizations. By considering progress towards targets for gender equity and inclusion as part of investment criteria, funders can push development organizations to adopt policies and practices that promote equality. For example, some foundations ask for organizations to report their diversity statistics, including breakdowns by gender and ethnicity, but what if one factor in funding decisions was around meeting targets for increasing gender diversity in boards and management? Given the connection between diversity of voices and potential impact, there’s a clear case to be made for consideration of gender in investment decisions (with gender as not the only important criterion, but an important place to start).
3. Encourage and equip staff to check their implicit biases
It is important, both as organizations and individuals, to strive to recognize and respond to implicit and explicit gender biases. Beyond taking the implicit association test (which everyone should do), there are potential tools that researchers and practitioners can use to check themselves. For example, we can utilize software that analyzes citations by gender; think about concrete positives and negatives when evaluating performance (versus relying on “gut feelings”); and amplify women’s voices at meetings, events and in the media. These strategies are important because, as Alice Evans points out in her viral #Sausagefest post, it’s too easy to fall into the default of venerating and deferring to men, and especially white men. Knowing that we all have implicit biases (including those who are discriminated against), we should aim to have open and honest conversations with our colleagues about equality in the workplace.
4. Establish an ombudsperson and a community for them
The #MeToo movement has underscored the inadequacy of processes to report and address sexual harassment and assault across industries. These structures are built on outdated legal mechanisms for avoiding employee harassment and retaliation. For example, anonymous harassment hotlines in workplaces are largely underpublicized, ineffective, and underutilized. The reality is that formal reporting is the least common strategy victims of sexual harassment pursue, fearful of a wide array of consequences--namely, retaliation, blame, and reputational damage. About three out of four victims of harassment never discuss their experience with a superior. It is the responsibility of an organization’s leadership to prioritize handling these issues as a fundamental component of workplace culture. A task force assembled by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commision found that workplace culture has “the greatest impact on allowing harassment to flourish, or conversely, in preventing harassment.”
Providing employees with multiple channels to report sexual or discriminatory behavior can help mitigate the well-founded fears associated with directly reporting a colleague to a superior or human resources officer. Appointing an ombudsperson to serve as an independent, neutral, and confidential ally for victims can an effective strategy to ensure inappropriate behavior is reported and that all employees have a designated contact that they can voice concerns with. Development organizations can join together to create a community or association of ombudspersons to share lessons and generate ideas.
5. Launch a peer review process
Programmatic trainings, certifications, and standards geared towards the awareness and promotion of gender equality and inclusivity are important tools for prioritizing and instilling these values in workplace culture, but it is imperative that these tools are used to drive organizational and cultural change. The learning and progress achieved through these certification processes must be routinely evaluated and engaged at the organization’s highest levels. One idea to strengthen the impact of certifications is to create a peer review system (like the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s process where donor members evaluate each other’s development effectiveness). Creating mutual accountability among organizations can help drive faster progress and changes across the sector. The peer review process could include a core set of metrics that allows for transparent reporting and comparison among development organizations.
These are just some of the great suggestions raised at the event. Many of these ideas can and should be expanded or adapted to increase diversity along other dimensions, which must be part of the conversation today on International Women’s Day and beyond. We are at our best when diverse voices are at the table, included and empowered.
But translating these pledges into real change for the world’s 65 million displaced, including 21 million refugees, will require more comprehensive solutions. As part of a joint CGD-IRC study group, we have been developing concrete ideas on how to move the global community toward providing refugees and their host communities pathways to self-reliance that can benefit all. Greater attention to education and livelihoods opportunities for refugees is a welcome development, but it is critical to ensure that new financing commitments are not simply funding business-as-usual.
We propose a compact model that brings together host countries, donors, and development and humanitarian actors to pursue a long-term plan to respond to refugee crises. Host countries—a majority of which are developing countries—face resource constraints, as well as sensitive social and political dynamics in supporting refugees. And traditionally, host countries have not been the accountable entity for delivering social services and access to jobs for refugee populations. The operational principles we outline as part of a compact approach emphasize host countries’ financing needs and their disproportionate share of global responsibility-sharing, together with renewed leadership and accountability for achieving improved outcomes for refugees.
The international community can do and is doing more to support the financial costs of the refugee crisis. We must ensure that such financing does indeed deliver the outcomes intended, and in so doing reduce strains and vulnerabilities for host communities and refugees alike. By incorporating binding commitments among stakeholders for funding and policy changes, a compact creates incentives for host governments and donors to make the up-front investments and commitments that help ensure refugees contribute to national development in the longer-term.
In a new policy note, we outline four operational principles that form the foundation of a compact approach—shared outcomes for refugees, best practices for program design and management, host country ownership and complementary roles through all phases of the response, and commitment to policy reforms. Emerging financing platforms should incorporate and institutionalize these principles into their policy and operational frameworks, while tailoring specifics to each context. Here’s an overview:
Define shared and measureable outcomes for refugees. All actors should agree to a set of shared outcomes for improving refugees’ wellbeing. The compact’s success should be assessed against outcome indicators (e.g., number of refugees working in the formal sector or increases in refugees’ incomes), rather than only against inputs, processes, and activities (e.g., number of refugee work permits issued).
Employ best practices in the design and management of compact programs. It is critical that all actors prioritize evidence-based solutions and dedicate resources to generating new evidence in displacement contexts. Setting standards for cost analysis, including cost-efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and requiring costing measures as part of proposals and evaluations are also critical considerations. Where evidence is lacking, compacts should invest in and test innovations that could unlock new solutions, including with private sector partners. And to promote transparency, compact partners should set standards for publishing implementation and financing plans, as well as open reporting on costing data and program evaluations.
Ensure host country ownership, complementary roles, and accountability throughout each phase of the refugee response. Promoting national accountability for refugee welfare is at the core of a sustainable response. Compact negotiations and structures should also recognize the voices and roles of development and humanitarian actors, as well as refugee beneficiaries. All stakeholders should engage in joint, multi-year planning and analysis to inform how actors can work based on comparative advantages. Moreover, linking financing to mutually-agreed benchmarks, including inputs, outputs, and outcomes, will create financial incentives to make progress towards results.
Prioritize commitment from host governments to undertake necessary policy reforms. Through a joint analysis process, partners should identify key policy and operational barriers to be addressed before (ex-ante) or after (ex-post) the compact is signed. For a compact that aims to improve livelihoods opportunities, for example, host governments should commit to addressing legal provisions on the right to work, as well as operational barriers that can make it difficult for refugees to find jobs.
This set of operational principles reflects a concrete way forward on how to achieve shared responsibility to support refugees. The compact approach provides flexible, multi-year funding that enables host governments, donors, and humanitarian and development actors to work through their comparative advantages. New platforms, such as the World Bank’s Global Concessional Financing Facility and the Education Cannot Wait fund, are the most significant sources of new financing for refugees in decades. They seek to respond at greater scale to the global displacement crisis and expand the response to include critical support in education and livelihoods. We must ensure these new resources deliver transformative results for those uprooted by crisis and conflict, and the host communities providing refuge.
Like you, I have spent much of my life trying to help improve the lives of people in lower-income countries. I am aware, of course, of problems right here in the United States, including poverty, inequality, racism, malnutrition and more. But recently, I’ve felt compelled to pay greater attention to local challenges. From lead in the water in Flint to deadly encounters between police and black Americans to rising income inequality, there is plenty to tackle. While we all know context matters, I wonder if there’s more we could do to draw from a rich history of efforts to address difficult issues in developing countries around the world.
So I’m inviting you to help answer a question: what have we learned in global development that can be adapted and applied to pressing problems in the United States and other rich countries?
In addition to witnessing distressing trends at home, my interest was piqued by a call for proposals from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that asked, “Throughout its history, the United States has learned from great ideas from abroad, from bagels to democracy. Why not do the same for health?” The foundation was seeking approaches – not yet widely tested or implemented in the United States – to promote health equity and wellness and build connections across generations and sectors (including health, social services, and urban planning). This is a fitting topic given the United States, despite spending the most on health care per capita, has poorer outcomes than many other rich countries. For example, the maternal mortality rate in the United States is higher than in any other developed country. And while lower-income countries like Nepal and Vietnam have sharply reduced this risk, the rate of American women dying from pregnancy-related complications is rising.
Another area where we might learn from others is how to confront the legacy of slavery and address persistent racial discrimination and tensions. Over the past 30-plus years, there have been several dozen truth and reconciliation commissions around the world, with a concentration in Latin America and Africa. While they have taken different forms, their overarching purpose is to pursue restorative justice by providing an account of past abuses and supporting reconciliation through hearings, public education, commemoration, and engagement. Some experts have proposed a truth and reconciliation process in the United States. What have we learned from dozens of commissions (as well as two small-scale efforts in the United States) about how we could systematically address racial divisions and advance reconciliation?
Maybe there are opportunities to adapt solutions first started or scaled in the developing world: conditional cash transfers, community policing approaches, mobile health, and paying for outcomes. What are the most compelling global development innovations and evidence the next US president should consider applying in a domestic context? Are there initiatives and research projects exploring this that I should know about?
Please send any ideas or suggestions using the comment section below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With plans for a redesign of the State Department and United States Agency for International Development well under way, this is a critical moment for an informed discussion of the latest reforms proposals that will make US foreign assistance more effective and efficient. Please join us for a bipartisan debate featuring authors of four recent reports that outline options for reform and reorganization of US global development functions. The event will bring to light key areas of consensus and divergence among experts, and will aim to highlight emerging organizing principles for the future of US foreign assistance, potential structural changes to the US global development architecture, and opportunities for building momentum in a fluid political and legislative environment.
The very same week that USAID and the Department of State submitted a joint redesign plan to the Office of Management and Budget, the coauthors of four recent reform proposals packed the CGD stage for a timely debate. With each proposal unique in approach and substance, moderator and senior policy fellow Cindy Huang had the tough task of keeping the event to a strict timeline. Thankfully, with help from a terrific panel—comprising Erol Yayboke and Nilmini Rubin representing the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), CGD senior policy fellow Jeremy Konyndyk, Jim Roberts of Heritage, and George Ingram representing the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network—the event featured an engaging discussion and covered a lot of ground in just 90 minutes. Here are a few of the big questions that panel members grappled with as they authored their reports, including areas of consensus and divergence (USAID/State transition teams—and other administration officials—take note!):
Fragmentation: “Form should follow function,” but how ambitious should we be in reorganization?
The panel was unified on the idea that the current system is deeply fragmented, but members took different approaches when specifying the level of reorganization needed to increase efficiency and effectiveness to achieve US development goals. For Rubin, “bigger isn’t always better.” To consolidate and streamline, Yayboke advocated for the USAID administrator act as coordinator of foreign assistance, ultimately deciding which agencies should implement new US development programs. Ingram took this a step further, outlining a vision for the creation of a “bigger and more powerful” new development agency (while leaving development finance functions distinct), bringing the best practices and the main instruments of the wide range of existing agencies together under a single director of foreign assistance with cabinet status.
Inclusive economic growth: How can we better harness tools for catalyzing private investment and economic growth?
One of the more controversial subjects the panel broached was how to approach the roles and tools of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Roberts called for the breakup of USAID, the elimination of OPIC, and the shifting of development functions—outside of global health programs—to an outsized MCC. For Roberts, this was driven by a vision that US foreign assistance agencies should be focused primarily on strategies to help improve economic growth, with a greatly diminished focus on non-growth objectives. This was met with resistance from some of his fellow panelists. In response to the idea of an “MCC on steroids,” Rubin countered with the metaphor of the evening, noting that her minivan is great for shuttling her kids to school and activities but would make a terrible lawnmower. In other words, while the small, growth-focused MCC can operate very effectively in certain contexts, that doesn’t necessarily mean the agency is the right choice to take on a very different mission. Most of the proposals envision market-driven, private sector investment as critical to realizing development progress well into the future. Ingram emphasized the need to modernize OPIC to help crowd in the private sector in frontier markets—an idea also championed in the CSIS and CGD reports.
Humanitarian assistance and fragile states: Given a lack of proven methods and tools, how do we develop the systems we need to engage effectively in post-conflict environments?
Speaking from his experience at USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, Konyndyk noted it was time to apply lessons from US humanitarian response to US development programs in post-crisis contexts. He outlined steps that would allow programming to be more responsive and agile: more aggressive use of competition waiver authority within USAID in certain transitional and insecure environments, a dedicated surge staff mechanism for development surge or post-crisis surge capacity, and earmark flexibility for missions in transition settings. The proposal from CSIS aimed to increase effectiveness and streamline assistance by consolidating programming under USAID, such as the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, while keeping policy functions at State. Ingram observed that while these specific suggestions are important, what was missing from all the proposals was an overarching instrument in dealing with state fragility that effectively engages the “three Ds”: development, diplomacy, and defense.
Global health: How can we continue to build on past success?
US global health programs have some of the greatest evidence of effectiveness, so the question is often framed around how to improve coordination and build on existing progress. On the structural side, Yayboke recommended transferring PEPFAR to USAID’s Global Health Bureau to better help address what he sees as the changing face of tackling the HIV/AIDS crisis—one that is less of an emergency initiative and more focused on management and long-term sustainability. Konyndyk focused instead on the haphazard division of labor between PEPFAR’s implementing agencies, USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The current arrangement, which he sees as inefficiently maintaining parallel capabilities at both agencies, is not a functionally driven way to manage a multibillion-dollar aid program. We should move toward a deliberate arrangement where engagement plays to the comparative advantages of each agency. Roberts identified global health as an element of US development assistance worth preserving, but his view is that global health programs should be consolidated under the State Department and sit alongside US humanitarian functions.
Country graduation: How can we better match instruments and programs with country needs?
The panelists agreed that the United States requires a range of tools to address distinct development challenges, and that a broad aim should be to help countries transition away from traditional grant-based foreign assistance over time. USAID Administrator Mark Green has consistently suggested that developing models for strategic country transition will be a top priority during his tenure at the agency. Ingram highlighted the need for a transition strategy with benchmarks and plans to ensure sustainable engagement even after the United States is no longer providing traditional assistance. In a similar vein, Konyndyk highlighted the need for an updated toolkit to leverage private sector engagement and encourage domestic revenue mobilization in partner countries. Yayboke echoed this, and suggested the United States take a hard look at programs and missions that are not central to a newly crafted foreign assistance strategy, with a particular eye toward middle-income countries. Roberts reinforced that countries should be thinking about transition “all the time.”
This event was a great chance to learn more about the motivating factors behind elements of the reform proposals—and an opportunity to identify common ground.
If you missed the conversation, you can still watch the webcast here. And be sure to visit the proposals themselves: