Coverage Wrap-up: Institutional Shifts, Development-as-Security, Women’s Empowerment, and Complex New ThreatsFebruary 23, 2011 By Schuyler Null
Somewhat lost in the wake of turmoil in the Middle East and the budget battle in Congress has been the State Department’s most aggressive attempt yet to reshape itself for the dynamic foreign policy challenges of the 21st century. The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), released in mid-December, is a strategic document on par with the Defense Department’s seminal Quadrennial Defense Review and the first of its kind for the development and diplomacy community. It’s essentially the Obama administration’s attempt to give the three Ds (defense, diplomacy, and development – a concept first explored by the Bush administration), truly equal attention and resources.
In a townhall meeting just before the release of the document, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the QDDR was only a first step for State and USAID, but an important one nonetheless, especially in strengthening a broader approach to national security:
What you will see in the QDDR is our effort to begin to better organize ourselves, to better coordinate between State and USAID, so that we’re not trying to determine, well, who gets deployed and how they get deployed and who they respond to. We can’t keep reinventing the wheel in every crisis.
Clinton also made a point of emphasizing that State wants more flexibility in spending and deployment – akin to what the military commands in the field – in order to make the partnership with the Pentagon more than just a phrase.
We reached out to five experts for their takes on the QDDR and what it means for the future of American foreign policy and development:
Richard Matthew, professor at the University of California at Irvine and founding director of the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs, focuses on the application of civilian power to today’s (and tomorrow’s) increasingly complex, interconnected, and global challenges.
He finds an “encouraging process of rethinking and restructuring that is long overdue” but sees inconsistency in the approach to living in an “age of uncertainty.” He argues that State should follow the Defense Department in “scanning for global challenges on the near horizon that are being propelled by, or deepening the extent of, interconnectivity and complexity,” including issues such as large-scale land acquisition, food and energy security, and so-called “black swan” events. Civilian power, he argues, could be harnessed to address these issues in new and innovating ways, but the QDDR must do more to encourage concrete steps towards this goal, “otherwise this good start will never expand beyond its own bubble of rhetoric and promise.”
Chad Briggs, Minerva Chair of Energy and Environmental Security for the USAF Air University, highlights the overlap of the QDDR’s vision with the military’s mission and how increased leadership (with the requisite political enabling) from State and USAID can free up already over-taxed Pentagon resources.
He argues that considering the United States’ many overseas responsibilities and engagements, the QDDR’s emphasis on a more holistic approach to security and stability can “only be a positive step for U.S. interests.”
“By giving increased recognition to human security to include energy, health, the environment, non-proliferation, terrorism, and cyber-security,” he writes, “the United States can increase its strategic capacity for foresight and action, rather than reacting to world events after they occur.”
State must also improve its capabilities if it wishes to address complex global issues more effectively, Briggs says; specifically, communication between and among organizations must improve.
John Sewell, senior scholar at the Wilson Center, has seen several attempts to rework U.S. development. He breaks down the QDDR into its essential parts, illuminates the failures that plagued previous attempts, and points out some of the most important questions remaining.
Sewell argues that if this effort at development reform is to succeed where others have failed, it “must have strong administration support, a congressional group (preferably bipartisan) to craft needed legislation, and strong support from civil society organizations and business” – a tall order, given the current political and budgeting environment.
Questions left unresolved include: Who among the White House, USAID, State, and various interagency working groups will have authority over whom? How difficult will it be to overcome institutional inertia? Which countries get aid and how is that decision made? How does U.S. strategy interface with other large development institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund?
And finally, what’s the timetable for these changes? “The Obama administration has only two years left in it what it presumes will be its first term,” Sewell writes. “It will be important, therefore, that it prioritize the changes it wants to implement. If everything is a priority, overload will result.”
Frederick Burkle, senior public policy scholar at the Wilson Center and senior fellow of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health, sees the QDDR as a the first step to righting a problem that began after Vietnam: the defunding and de-staffing of USAID.
Like others, Burkle notes that the QDDR is only a preliminary step, saying “it is clear that it will take years – probably two decades at the least – and billions to restore USAID’s potential to what it should have remained decades ago.”
As it became apparent that development was essential to securing Iraq and Afghanistan, the military increasingly took over that role. But Burkle says they failed to pay proper attention to public health systems and other long-term development issues, instead favoring “short-term, feel-good projects that have, for the most part, fallen apart.” If USAID is to pry these responsibilities back from the military he sees a difficult and perhaps (currently at least) impossible-to-win congressional fight in the cards.
“Overall,” Burkle writes, “the QDDR has tremendous potential, but emphasis must be placed on USAID’s autonomy and assurances that they will have the internal capacity to develop sensible programs to address root causes.”
Improving women’s status and ideologically engaging youth: These are the diplomatic and development battlegrounds of the 21st century, says Richard Cincotta, consultant on political demography for ECSP and demographer-in-residence at the Stimson Center. These issues are where civilian power, strategically applied, “will be critical to the long-term international political and security environment.”
Cincotta, who has written for The New Security Beat on the demographic factors behind the Middle East’s recent turmoil, sees better communication with the world’s youth as a critical need that the QDDR shows signs of addressing. Likewise, he writes, the State and USAID commitment to women’s issues perhaps “anticipates long-term U.S. involvement in some of the world’s most politically volatile regions – parts of the Middle East (particularly the Arabian Peninsula), sub-Saharan Africa (west, central, and east), and South Asia (specifically Afghanistan and Pakistan) – where women’s status remains low, fertility is highest, the growth of young adult cohorts is most rapid, and states are at their weakest.”
While he expected the QDDR to largely deal with “organizational initiatives and streamlining bureaucratic process,” Cincotta says he found it describes a “full array of tactical relationships and programs that State and USAID maintain with other U.S. agencies, international institutions, and NGOs.” As such, read in conjunction with the National Security Strategy, it can be a useful reference point for debates linking diplomacy and development to national interests, as well as for those seeking a glimpse into the future of U.S. diplomacy and development – including foreign-policy-oriented academics and their students.
Sources: Sources: Council on Foreign Relations, Foreign Policy, The New York Times, Oxfam International, U.S. Defense Department, U.S. State Department.
Photo Credit: Adapted from (clockwise from the top) “091012-F-7498H-173,” courtesy of flickr user isafmedia; QDDR word cloud, courtesy of Wordle; “101007-F-3682S-130,” courtesy of flickr user isafmedia; “Town Hall Meeting with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah,” courtesy of flickr user US Mission Geneva; and “NYTimes: Hope vs. Crisis,” courtesy of flickr user blprnt_van (Jer Thorp).