USAID's nominee, the UN's humanitarian chief, and Australia's budget diversion: This week in development

Mark Lowcock, newly appointed humanitarian chief at the United Nations. Photo by: Jessica Lea / DfID / CC BY-SA

The U.S. Agency for International Development gets a long-awaited nominee, the United Nations looks to a Britain aid expert for humanitarian leadership, and climate negotiators forge ahead through political uncertainty in Bonn. This week in development.

President Donald Trump nominated Mark Green, a former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, former Republican congressman, and president of the International Republican Institute, to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development. Green’s nomination, first reported by Devex, had been expected for months but was reportedly complicated by negotiations between the would-be USAID chief and administration officials over the scope of his job within the administration. Trump has proposed massive budget cuts to U.S. development programs, which would likely require closing more than two dozen of USAID’s overseas missions. The White House has also considered merging USAID into the State Department, drawing pushback from congressional lawmakers wary of seeing development’s role as a facet of U.S. foreign policy diluted. In his role at IRI, which supports democratic institutions, Green has advocated for U.S. support of democracy and governance programs and worked with Democratic colleagues to support transparent elections abroad. Green previously led the Initiative for Global Development, where he worked to foster business cooperation and investment in Africa. U.S. development experts and professionals largely welcomed his nomination. If confirmed by the Senate, Green will succeed Acting Administrator Wade Warren, who has led USAID since Gayle Smith stepped down on Jan. 20.

Mark Lowcock will be appointed humanitarian chief at the United Nations, according to reports. Lowcock has served as permanent secretary at the U.K. Department for International Development since 2011. He will be appointed by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, taking over from Stephen O’Brien, a British politician who has held the position for two years. Lowcock will face enormous challenges, both in managing the U.N.’s sprawling humanitarian relief architecture, and in bringing about significant reforms agreed to at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul last year. Lowcock will also confront an acrimonious and highly politicized humanitarian context inside the U.N., where countries have ignored international humanitarian law in conflict zones around the world, leading to deaths of civilians and humanitarian relief workers. In the U.K., at least one aid expert hailed Lowcock’s appointment as a big gain for the U.N. and a big loss for DfID.

Climate change negotiators are in Bonn, Germany, to construct a “rulebook” for implementation of the Paris Agreement. This week developed and developing countries will report on actions taken to date to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and highlight areas where they need support to carry out their nationally determined contributions to the Paris Agreement goals. The Bonn meeting has been overshadowed by the Trump administration’s unclear policy with respect to the Paris Agreement. Trump had planned to hold a meeting with top officials to discuss policy options on Tuesday, but that meeting was delayed for unknown reasons. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is known to favor pulling out of the Paris Agreement, while Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who is also an assistant to the president, supports maintaining U.S. involvement in the treaty.

The Australian government is planning to redirect nearly half a million Australian dollars from its foreign aid program “to the government’s police and security agencies for counterterrorism activities in Australia and on foreign soil,” Devex’s Lisa Cornish reported this week. While some Australian politicians have justified the diversion as “a transfer of skills to other countries,” members of the aid community disagree, calling it ill-advised to fight terrorism at the expense of supporting global development.

Join the Devex community and access more in-depth analysis, breaking news and business advice — and a host of other services — on international development, humanitarian aid and global health.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.