US aid policy under John Kerry: Expect few changes

John Kerry, U.S. nominee for secretary of state. Photo by: Mark Mathosian / CC BY-NC-SA

How central would international development cooperation be to a U.S. State Department run by John Kerry, the likely successor to Hillary Clinton? Chances are the agency’s growing focus on foreign aid would continue.

President Barack Obama’s “perfect choice” for state secretary is not only expected to advance the administration’s agenda on global health and food security, but he might also lend new heft to efforts to rein in climate change, one of Kerry’s long-time priorities, with a team of advisors that is expected to include several with a background in international development.

Foreign Policy magazine’s The Cable blog suggested a half dozen or so Senate Foreign Relations Committee aides Kerry may bring with him to the State Department, including Andrew Imbrie, a foreign aid expert; Shannon Smith, who focuses on Africa and global health; and Tamara Klajn, who handles issues related to the Peace Corps, peacekeeping and counterterrorism. 

Other committee staff members who might make the move are Michael Schiffer, a senior advisor on East Asian and Pacific affairs; Fatema Sumar, who has worked on Afghanistan and Pakistan; Perry Cammack, a Middle East expert; and Melanie Nakagawa, senior council on energy and the environment.

Though still a candidate, several leaders of the aid community applauded Kerry’s nomination; Clinton, herself, said she hopes for a “quick” confirmation. EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said she was “delighted” and looking forward to a continued cooperation with the United States through the senator – a sentiment shared by organizations such as the United Nations Foundation, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and InterAction

As secretary of state, Kerry can be expected to continue the administration’s reform agenda and reliance on what it calls “smart power,” a mix of diplomacy and development cooperation focused on health, food security and governance through capacity building and engaging with local civil society and the private sector.

The Massachusetts senator and former presidential candidate laid out his support of a robust U.S. aid budget and what he calls “economic statecraft” in a February 2012 Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled ”The Conservative Case for Foreign Aid,” in which he wrote that “energetic global leadership is a strategic imperative for America, not a favor we do for other countries.” It’s a message the Obama administration has been pushing for years, that investments in international development advance U.S. national security, open up markets and create U.S. job.

Kerry, who now heads the Senate’s Foreign Policy Committee, was widely expected to be the nominee after United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration. He was nominated in a brief ceremony on Dec. 21.

Read more about John Kerry, State Department career tracks and how to ace the USAID foreign service exam, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

Adrienne Valdez contributed reporting.

About the author

  • Rolf Rosenkranz

    Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.