Around the World and Back to Washington

February 4, 2011 By Joel Paque

Next steps on implementing the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) were on display this week at the first-ever Global Chiefs of Missions Conference convened by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington. The conference brought together all of the U.S. Ambassadors and Chiefs of Mission from around the world to discuss new initiatives to strengthen and elevate diplomacy and development.

The QDDR empowers Chiefs of Mission as the “CEOs” of all civilian agencies and departments of the U.S. government operating abroad.  As Secretary Clinton explained, “We want the State Department and our chiefs of mission to claim the ground of being the leaders and coordinators of U.S. Government presence in every country where you serve.”  USAID was identified as the lead agency on development issues in the field, serving as primary development advisors to Chiefs of Mission and coordinating across the whole of government.  USAID Administrator Shah focused on the results of this approach, telling the Conference that, “We have, of course, seen in countries around the world like Colombia where our joint diplomacy and development activities working together led to an 85 percent reduction in trade related to narcotics and created the baseline for stability helping countries move away from conflict.”

Crisis and conflict response were central themes at the Chiefs of Mission Conference. The transition to a civilian-led mission in Iraq and pending withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in summer 2011 has placed a new emphasis on ensuring civilian efforts have the appropriate resources and authorities to succeed so that fragile gains in frontline states are not lost.   Addressing the conference, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen added his support, saying, “when you take money away from the State Department, more than anything else, you take people away. Because in our terms, people are your main battery, your main effort. And so having a robust enough budget to be able to meet the needs of our times is absolutely mandatory.”  Secretary Clinton echoed this and highlighted the cost-effectiveness of civilian efforts: “We are about to inherit an overwhelming responsibility in Iraq, which, if you did the math, the military would not be spending $41 billion and we would be asking to increase our budget by $4 billion.”

The Global Chiefs of Mission conference underscored that real reforms are underway which are critical to ensuring the United States is prepared to meet the threats and challenges of the 21st century.  As Secretary Clinton observed, “It is our diplomats and development experts who can diffuse crises before they explode, who can create new opportunities for economic growth, who can stand up for universal values and human rights, who can help us find partners to advance economic growth that is inclusive and prosperity-producing.”