USAID’s ‘new way of doing business’

Volunteer firefighters in Haiti undergo training to help improve local capacity to disaster response. The USAID released a new policy for building crisis resilience. Photo by: Olivier Joseph / USAID

The U.S. Agency for International Development released, on Dec. 3, its “first-ever” resilience policy and program guidance.

In the wake of the 2011 Horn of Africa drought and ongoing refugee crisis, donors have started to focus more on helping high-risk regions prepare for and cope with disasters. USAID joins the bandwagon, changing the “way it does business” to build crisis resilience, pave the way for growth and invest smarter for long-term impact.

Under the policy, USAID will better integrate humanitarian relief and development teams for joint problem analysis and objective setting, intensified coordinated strategic planning, mutually informed project designs and procurements, and robust learning.

Apart from the operational reform, the guidance identifies a framework to inform resilience programming and the expected impact:

  • Increased adaptive capacity.

  • Better risk assessment, management and reduction.

  • Improved social and economic conditions of vulnerable people.

USAID further commits to maintaining the speed of its humanitarian assistance and development focus while actively on the watch for more opportunities to “layer, integrate and sequence” efforts for long-term resilience and reduced humanitarian needs, and to save and improve millions of lives.

“We are committed to undertaking these efforts,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said in a press release. “No one should have to face the crippling circumstances we have seen in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel over the past year.”

While some aid organizations welcomed USAID’s new policy, others, including Oxfam America, warn that integrating humanitarian response and long-term development programming “is not an easy undertaking.” In addition, USAID should put the issue of “rights” and “equity” at the heart of its resilience programs, Oxfam America President Raymond Offenheiser said in a blog post.

Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer, meanwhile, voiced an oft-cited issue in development: “Talking is easier than doing.” While he acknowledged that the policy is a step forward for the agency, he said it does not “guarantee” a shift in USAID’s practices, structures and systems.

“The major test for this policy … will be whether it will have staying power to remain relevant even after the current buzz around resilience subsides,” he said.

Stay tuned to Devex for a Dec. 13 webinar on the resiliency policy and how it will be operationalized, with Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator with USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.

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About the author

  • Adrienne Valdez

    Adrienne Valdez is a former staff writer for Devex, covering breaking international development news. Before joining Devex, Adrienne worked as a news correspondent for a public-sector modernization publication.