USAID vs. 'Kremlin influence,' $8M for 100RC, and Pompeo's 'unalienable rights' commission: This week in development

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference on human rights at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Photo by: REUTERS / Yuri Gripas

Rockefeller extends an $8 million olive branch to 100 Resilient Cities, USAID takes aim at “malign Kremlin influence,” and development ministers shy away from specific Sahel targets. This week in development:

The U.S. Agency for International Development released a new framework for “Countering Malign Kremlin Influence” on Friday. The document lays out four objectives USAID will pursue in partner countries where the agency says the Russian government is engaged in “subversive measures to weaken the credibility of America’s commitment to Europe, undermine transatlantic unity, and weaken European institutions and governments.” The framework, backed by a congressionally-created “Countering Russian Influence Fund,” aims to “counter efforts to undermine democratic institutions and the rule of law,” “resist the manipulation of information,” “reduce energy vulnerabilities,” and “reduce economic vulnerabilities.” It cites examples including funding cybersecurity efforts and new energy connections in Ukraine, and a “pop-up newsroom” in Moldova. “CMKI responds to authoritarian challenges by increasing the economic and democratic resilience of targeted countries, and working to mitigate the effects of Kremlin soft power aggression upon a range of institutions,” said USAID Administrator Mark Green, announcing the new framework during the G-7 meetings in Paris. The plan has attracted the Russian government’s attention. In a statement, Russia’s Foreign Ministry described it as a “thinly veiled intent to bend [Russia’s neighbors] to US influence and breed anti-Russia sentiments including, among other things, in order to force Europe to buy expensive American [liquefied natural gas].”

The Rockefeller Foundation has extended an $8 million olive branch to 100 Resilient Cities, which the foundation previously announced it would no longer fund, prompting a public outcry from those involved in the initiative. The $8 million is meant to support an 18-month transition period to allow a small group of 100RC staff to continue helping chief resilience officers in the initiative’s partner cities collaborate with each other, according to Elizabeth Yee, former vice president of resilience finance at 100RC who joined Rockefeller as managing director of its climate and resilience initiative two weeks ago. “A lot of people want more answers than we have right now,” Yee told Devex in response to questions about future collaboration between Rockefeller and the initiative it created in 2013. As it ended its own direct funding for 100RC, Rockefeller also awarded a $30 million grant to the Atlantic Council, to establish the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, which aims to take on the task of providing resilience leadership. “We need more actors but we also need to streamline and align them more,” said Michael Berkowitz, who will step down at the end of the month as 100RC’s president. Asked which donor might step forward to provide that coordinating and streamlining function in the future, Berkowitz suggested, “Bloomberg.”

Development ministers meeting in Paris opted not to set specific targets for health and education spending and outcomes in the Sahel, despite considering a draft communiqué that would have done so. Some development advocates worry the watered-down language reflects a lack of commitment in the lead up to the G-7 leaders’ summit in Biarritz, France, while others suggested spending targets were outside the group’s purview. One of the potential targets included in the draft communique would have been to improve the G5 Sahel average score on the World Bank’s human capital index. Another would have called on the World Bank to direct specific amounts of International Development Association funding to education, nutrition, and health in the Sahel. “Without specific and measurable targets, without concrete financial commitments, it is impossible to hold G-7 countries accountable of their actions,” said Sophie Chassot, advocacy officer at CARE France.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a “Commission on Unalienable Rights” Monday, which has some observers worried the Trump administration might seek to promote a narrower interpretation of human rights that is more closely aligned with a conservative Christian perspective. The panel will be led by Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor known for her opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Pompeo has tasked the commission with providing, “the intellectual grist for what I hope will be one of the most profound reexaminations of the unalienable rights in the world since the 1948 Universal Declaration.”

About the author

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    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.