When Valerie Hudson evaluates the strength of a nation, whether food security, wealth, peacefulness, or quality of governance, she finds one important thread that underlies it all. “One of the most important factors in the determination of these things is in fact the situation, and security, and status of women,” said Hudson at the Wilson Center on June 24. [Video Below]
Women’s Equality Not Just a Moral, But National Security Issue, Say Valerie Hudson and Patricia Leidl›
“Compare those societies that respect women and those who don’t,” says Texas A&M Professor Valerie Hudson, quoting former USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg, in this week’s podcast. “Who’s trafficking in weapons and drugs? Who’s harboring terrorists and starting pandemics? Whose problems require U.S. troops on the ground? There’s a one to one correspondence.”
As momentum builds towards the negotiation of the Sustainable Development Goals and UN climate change summit later this year, the G7 countries – France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, the UK, and the United States – have made a strong statement about the importance of climate security risks. A New Climate for Peace: Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks, an independent report commissioned by G7 foreign ministers and authored by a consortium of international organizations including the Wilson Center, analyzes the security and stability risks posed by climate change and offers concrete policy options for addressing them. [Video Below]
›May 20, 2015 // By Schuyler Null
In a commencement speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy today, President Obama said “climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country.”
›April 29, 2015 // By Schuyler Null
It’s a bit late, but the second-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) is finally here. And it’s a good thing – it’d be a shame if this effort to present a coherent strategic narrative of U.S. diplomacy and development, which was started by Secretary of State Clinton in 2010, petered out.
›February 28, 2013 // By Schuyler Null
Newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry would probably prefer his first few months on the job to be a little quieter. But – in addition to everything else – sequestration is bearing down on Washington this week, and the U.S. government is beginning to seriously take stock of what automated cuts might mean. The Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are not spared. Kerry sent a letter earlier this month to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) outlining the projected effects for his charges if the March 1st deadline should pass without action.
›Over the past year and a half, USAID has been busy reinventing itself. The announcement of its USAID FORWARD initiative and the release (jointly, with the State Department) of the first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review in late 2010 signaled significant changes for the organization, including several reforms designed to modernize operations and improve transparency. Part of that effort is making data collection and dissemination more open.
Thus far, the results have been encouraging.
September of last year saw the launch of an awareness campaign focused on the Horn of Africa, co-sponsored by the Ad Council and called, somewhat confusingly, USAID FWD (famine, war, drought). As part of the program, USAID published a collection of regional maps, aggregating the organization’s substantial data pool and showing everything from food and water security to the movement of refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons).
Using data from its own FEWS.NET site, USAID created the maps with open-source tools, allowing other organizations and concerned individuals to leverage the data for additional aid and outreach activities. Many, including the ONE Campaign and InterAction, were quick to incorporate the maps and underlying data into their own activities.
In order to promote greater data access and transparency, USAID also collaborated with the Department of State to create the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, a website that provides sortable aid budget allocation data to the general public. Launched in late 2010 with frequent updates since, the site allows users to see easily how aid is apportioned by region, sector, initiative, or other categories.
For instance, visitors can see that USAID more than quadrupled its humanitarian assistance to Pakistan in 2010 as a result of that country’s devastating flooding. Aid then fell back to near 2009 levels the following year.
Recently, USAID has also taken its open data efforts to the Web. Faced with 117,000 records of development loans provided by its own Development Credit Authority and lacking proper geographic coding, the organization undertook a pioneering experiment in crowdsourcing this June. Civilian volunteers from the online technical communities GISCorps and the Standby Task Force pitched in to help code the data, as did unaffiliated citizens attracted by social media campaigns.
The end results were outstanding: the volunteers finished the job in just 16 hours, although USAID had initially expected the operation to take 60.
Representatives from USAID recently published an illuminating case study about the crowdsourcing experiment and launched it at the Wilson Center. “By leveraging partnerships, volunteers, other federal agencies, and the private sector, the entire project was completed at no cost,” the report noted, adding that USAID hoped to have “blaze[d] a trail to help make crowdsourcing a more accessible approach for others.” One of the case study authors, Shadrock Roberts, noted that “we need to be working as hard to release relevant data we already have as we are to create it.”
USAID’s recent experiments with transparency and greater civilian participation appear to be part of a larger organizational shift toward greater openness and collaboration. Administrator Rajiv Shah seemed to confirm this in a March interview with Foreign Policy, when he spoke at length about the benefits of partnering with the private sector as well as other NGOs.
The recently reported demise, or at least great diminishing, of President Obama’s Global Health Initiative (GHI), which closed its doors amid a heated turf battle between USAID, the State Department, and PEPFAR, lends credence to this theory as well. The official GHI blog stated last week that it would “shift focus from leadership within the U.S. Government to global leadership by the U.S. Government.” This appears to indicate greater future emphasis on collaboration, with an eye toward enabling non-USAID actors to play a greater role in the development process.
It remains to be seen how USAID’s role and strategy will change over the next few years. However, results from the organization’s initial attempts at open data and open government policies have been positive in many respects, and there is reason to hope they will continue to push the boundaries in these areas.
Sources: Center for Global Development, Foreign Assistance Dashboard, Foreign Policy, Global Health Initiative, USAID.
Image Credit: Foreign Assistance Dashboard.
›“We are, what I would call, very non-linear thinkers,” said U.S. Navy Captain Wayne Porter about the white paper he co-authored with U.S. Marine Colonel Mark Mykelby, “A National Security Narrative,” launched by Woodrow Wilson Center President Jane Harman at the Center in April. “We’re almost incapable of restricting ourselves to defense and security in isolation from a much larger perspective,” he told Dialogue TV.
“I think maybe that’s why Admiral Mullen has kept me around – I can offer a perspective that maybe he wouldn’t get from conventional strategists or from conventional planners,” said Porter, who served three out of four tours with the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a special assistant for strategy.
Dialogue host John Milewski sat down with Captain Porter and Robert Litwak, director of International Security Studies and vice president for programs at the Wilson Center, for a discussion about the white paper – published under the pseudonym “Mr. Y” (echoing George Kennan’s seminal “X” article) – and its contention that the United States should move away from an outmoded Cold War-era model of containment, deterrence, and control towards a “strategy of sustainability.”
The narrative has been well received, Porter said: “I think there is an appreciation that it’s a very complex strategic environment that we live in now and that maybe we need to re-look at all of the tools that we could use as a nation to pursue our enduring national interest.”
Inflection Points in History
“The timing of such conversations is cyclical,” said Litwak. “The original ‘X’ article emerged from the end of the Second World War and the advent of the Soviet threat, which required a new conception of international relations that Kennan articulated, as well as the National Security Act of 1947 to line up the U.S. government with this new environment.”
There have also been periods of concern about American decline. “I think what one sees in the current era are both of those trends coming together,” Litwak said:
The system is changing – it’s a debatable proposition that the United States is in decline – but we see in the international system rising powers, notably China, as well as transnational trends that are beyond the sovereign control of any single state, which have called into question the nature of the international system…as well as a sense that…there’s something qualitatively different about this recession than the typical economic, cyclical recession and that has to do with the domestic sources of American strength.These conditions, as well as the source of argument – coming from the military – combined to give particular resonance to the piece, Litwak said.
The Information/Globalization Age
“I think the thing that has changed materially to us is that the information age has brought about an awareness that our environment is completely interconnected,” Porter said. “There’s a complexity to this that can’t be analyzed linearly, that has to have new tools applied.”
“I’d honestly characterize it as significant as the Enlightenment in the 1600s,” he said.
“Certainly we’ve thought in silos and debates have been too often compartmentalized,” Litwak said. “One of the strengths of this piece is that it is truly synthetic – working across the continuum of instruments of power – and talks in a really powerful way about how hard power…has its place, but that the non-military dimensions of American power have been neglected.”
But, Porter said, it’s important to focus on being proactive, rather than reactive:
The thing that bothered us most about the strategies that we see every day in our jobs on our side of the river and across the river is that they are almost universally based on anticipating and countering known risk and threat, and our sense is that we have entered an age in which we need to overcome that sense of fear and seize the opportunity to shape the environment of the future as opposed to simply being resilient to it.As Litwak points out, Secretaries Gates (now former) and Clinton – in the form of the Quadrennial Defense Review, Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, and numerous speaking engagements – have both called for closer integration between State and Defense, more resources for non-military levers of power, and more holistic concepts of security. But unfortunately the greater integration called for in these documents remains unrealized.
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