Video and Transcript: Roundtable on the administration’s new global development policy

September 29, 2010 By John Glenn

“Not a bad booking,” observed Frank Sesno from The George Washington University looking at the final session of the USGLC’s annual conference, “Smart Power at Work” with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, and Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO Daniel Yohannes.  “Development is an integral part of America’s national security policy,” began Secretary Clinton, “and it is part of an integrated approach that includes development, diplomacy, and defense.”

Watch the full video and stay tuned for more from the full day’s events | Read the Transcript

The panel reiterated the new policy’s emphasis on economic growth, saying the Administration seeks to “make investments on the basis of partnerships,” driven by country-led and country-owned strategies abroad.   While no country will have the resources to improve the lives of its people without growth, Secretary Geithner added, the United States must also make sure countries are investing their resources well:  “If you can make it more likely that a woman – a farmer in Bolivia or in Mali or in India can get title to her land and is able to borrow to go out and buy better seeds and fertilizer, she’ll be more likely to be able to educate her children, grow a business, and create a market for the exports of our country.”

“Without development,” Secretary Gates added, “we will not be successful in either Iraq or Afghanistan.”  Development professionals, he suggested, are “a gigantic force multiplier.”  The Department of Defense “can do development work, but let’s just say it’s not our core competency.”  Yet he referenced the atrophy at USAID in recent years, saying that USAID in the 1990s had 16,000 people but only about 3,000 people when he re-joined government in 2006.

The new policy seeks to “give good returns” on investment.  Dr. Shah, emphasizing that “development is a discipline,” said the policy is “a license to take that knowledge and make some real shifts in how we allocate resources and design programs.”  Secretary Geithner echoed this, saying “this policy improves the odds we will use these scarce resources more effectively” and highlighted the return on U.S. commitments to multilateral institutions.  Secretary Gates added, “economic development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”

Many of the principles in this new policy are already being implemented across the government in the new global initiatives, Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative.  Mr. Yohannes discussed the successes of country-owned principles of the MCC’s work in Honduras, saying it led to projects that “were done on time, on budget and with good results because the projects were done by Hondurans.”

The transition in Iraq captures the nature of the challenge of robust funding for development and diplomacy, in Secretary Gates’s words: “Having invested an enormous amount of money, we are now arguing about a tiny amount of money to build the peace.”   It reminds me, he suggested, of the last scene in the movie, Charlie Wilson’s War where he was unable to secure funding for building schools in Afghanistan after years of military funding.

The next step, according to Secretary Clinton, is “to get into the granularity.”  She called attention to the State Department’s forthcoming Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which she said will have “very specific answers all of these questions” about implementation of the Administration’s policies.  “We are at a ripe moment of opportunity.”