Unger: US Needs Internal Reforms to Meet Development Priorities Abroad

The Obama administration needs to “fundamentally reform” its internal systems involved in the management and implementation of global development policies to be able to adequately follow through on the commitments it outlined as part of its newly released national security strategy, a principal of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network says.

Noam Unger, who is also a global economy and development fellow at the Brookings Institution, argues that the U.S. needs to better position itself to  support the priorities it outlined in the security strategy by reforming not only its foreign assistance but also trade, agriculture, migration and international finance policies and systems.

“Only by doing this can the U.S. government effectively promote its values and security interests,” Unger says.

The expert says the national security strategy could pave the way for a “systematic elevation and reform” of U.S. global development policies and operations. The path to achieving these reforms is already “somewhat illuminated” if President Barack Obama decides to pursue it, Unger adds.

On the strategic level, Unger suggests that the Obama administration should develop and deliver the U.S.’s first global development strategy in time for the president’s anticipated speech during the U.N. summit on Millennium Development Goals in September. The White House is in a good position to do so as it has already completed government-wide consultations and reviews of it national security and development operations, the MFAN principal says. The presidential study directive on global development is rumored to be finished, Unger adds.

A PSD draft was leaked last month.

Meanwhile, on the operational level, several changes are also already underway, according to Unger. These include the launch of Feed the Future, the Global Health Initiative, the revitalization of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s policy planning shop and various reforms aimed at improving USAID’s human resources, transparency and procurement.

“Since day one, this administration has needed to redefine America’s global development cooperation,” Unger argues. “While its efforts in 2009 were detrimentally sluggish, the new national security strategy could breathe new life into the effort.”

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.