News in Brief

February 16, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

International Affairs Budget

Hillary Clinton held at Town Hall meeting at USAID yesterday, providing an update on the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review and discussing ways to make U.S. development more effective, including results-driven development, promoting economic growth, linking inputs to outputs, and being transparent about programs and evaluations.   As debate begins soon on the International Affairs Budget for FY 2013, demonstrating clear results in development will be a critical message on Capitol Hill.

USGLC in the News

Obama requests higher foreign aid for 2013 (PressTV)

Despite strong pressure to reduce the yawning federal deficit, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is asking Congress for a slight increase in funding for the State Department and foreign aid next year.  The administration is requesting a total of some $56 billion in “international affairs” spending for fiscal year (FY) 2013, which begins Oct. 1, according to the budget proposal presented by the administration Monday. That total is 2% more – or about $1.3 billion – than Congress approved in a 2012 omnibus appropriations bill. More than half the increase from last year will be provided by a $770 million “Middle East Funding Initiative,” which is designed to give the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) flexibility in responding to new developments in the so-called “Arab Awakening.”  The proposed budget has received praise from some development organizations, with the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network and the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition calling the budget request “balanced” and a “smart, strategic investment.”

Who’s in the News

How I’ll Respond to China’s Rising Power (Mitt Romney, Wall Street Journal)

A nation that represses its own people cannot ultimately be a trusted partner in an international system based on economic and political freedom. While it is obvious that any lasting democratic reform in China cannot be imposed from the outside, it is equally obvious that the Chinese people currently do not yet enjoy the requisite civil and political rights to turn internal dissent into effective reform.  I will never flinch from ensuring that our country is secure. And security in the Pacific means a world in which our economic and military power is second to none. It also means a world in which American values—the values of liberty and opportunity—continue to prevail over those of oppression and authoritarianism.

The sum total of my approach will ensure that this is an American, not a Chinese century. We have much to gain from close relations with a China that is prosperous and free. But we should not fail to recognize that a China that is a prosperous tyranny will increasingly pose problems for us, for its neighbors, and for the entire world.

Smart Power

U.S. State Department’s Legal Adviser Calls for ‘Smart-Power’ Approach to Transnational Conflicts (Virginia Law)

To deal with emerging 21st-century legal conflicts that cross international borders, the United States must take a “smart-power” approach that respects the spirit of precedent and stays true to American ideals, said U.S. State Department Legal Adviser Harold Hongju Koh, who spoke at a symposium Feb. 10 at the University of Virginia School of Law.  Koh, an expert in public and private international law, national security law and human rights, said “smart power” — which emphasizes principled engagement, diplomacy, strategic multilateralism and respect for the law — has been a defining characteristic of the foreign policy of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  “Secretary Clinton has repeated this theme over and over: that we need to use smart-power approaches because our hard power is weaker than it was,” Koh said. “[We must use] the full range of tools at our disposal, not just the military.”

Politics/Foreign Policy

U.S. Embassy in Iraq facing budget cuts (Lara Jakes, Associated Press)

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is facing a 10 percent funding cut next year but top officials said Wednesday it will still be one of America’s largest diplomatic missions in the world. Contracting costs will be tightened and the size of diplomatic outposts may be trimmed, Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides told reporters in Baghdad.  He said the cuts would be taken as part of the $4.8 billion spending plan the State Department is requesting for the mission for the 2013 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.  “Let’s make no mistake: This is a strategically important country for us for a whole host of reasons,” Nides said. “So it will always be a very large embassy. Now the question is, can you fine tune it? Can you shrink it?”

Myanmar and UN plan donor conference (Gwen Robinson, Financial Times)

Senior UN officials have agreed with Myanmar’s government to work jointly on holding the first large-scale international aid conference this year, in another sign of the dramatic changes taking place in the country.  The roundtable, to include the world’s biggest international aid organisations and government agencies, would focus on reducing poverty levels in Myanmar from 26 per cent to a government target of 16 per cent by 2015, said Ajay Chhibber, regional director of the UN development programme.

Reflecting intense commercial interest, large business missions of more than 100 executives including one from Singapore and one from Japan are visiting the country in the coming days. Not all are confident that business will rush into a post-sanctions Myanmar. The EU’s development commissioner Andris Piebalgs said during a visit on Monday that even without sanctions, European companies may take time to invest in Myanmar until a full legal framework was in place to protect investor interests.