This week I’m fortunate to be attending the Interaction 2016 Forum, which is an annual event that convenes the global humanitarian and development community. At the end of the morning plenary on the first day, there was a very interesting discussion between Gayle Smith, administrator of USAID and Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development, DFID.
The two leaders discussed how they are collaborating on advancing global development, working in partnership with international and local NGOs and opportunities and challenges in the field.
Greening highlighted how DFID has recently launched a new aid strategy in November 2015, which is focused more on how to respond to crises, how aid can help advance stability and prosperity (and engage more with the private sector) and better link to UK National Interests. Greening emphasized that she believes when we do a better job supporting refugees, it is better for UK security. She said it shouldn’t be an either security or development, but if you have the right strategy it should be both.
Given the many challenges, DFID has made a commitment to spend 50% of their resources on fragile states, but not at the expense of other countries that are progressing. The new DFID strategy is also about bringing in cross-departmental and sectoral programs so that their programming links more to other UK institutions. They want a whole of government approach to aid, rather than just a compartmentalized.
Smith joked about the spaghetti bowl chart, which was the wide range of US agencies working on development programming, rather than stove pipping or she joked cylinders of excellence, how to work across agencies. USAID is making similar efforts to work on whole of government approaches.
Smith discussed the challenge both agencies face, since they are the two largest bi-lateral aid agencies in the world, at a time when demand is great. They are both seeking to grow private sector capital to advance programming. Greening discussed how financial flows to the developing world dwarfs overseas development aid. Traditionally she said many in the private sector saw great risk in investing in developing societies, but now they are trying to shift to see this as an opportunity to generate sustainable growth.
The big challenge Greening said is how to not just manage risks, but make this a race to the top. Companies that are doing a great job and how can DFID make sure they scale their work.
She emphasized it has taken time to learn how to work best with business as not historically something DFID has done. Greening emphasized lets work with civil society and business to shape and take the responsibility of how to work with business effectively. Many countries want a different kind of offer from business that is not purely transactional. This can include things like helping entrepreneurship, increasing access to capital, and innovation. She emphasized how innovation is the bread and butter of the private sector. If the development community can draw and learn from this to help address some of the toughest development challenges this would be a huge step forward.
Smith discussed the addition of the Global Development Lab, which has helped to support innovation as well as link more to the private sector. She emphasized the DFID and USAID can work together to figure out how to scale. They work with hundreds of NGOs, partners, governments.
The UK has an upcoming major summit on anti-corruption. Greening emphasized how they are trying to take on some of the key challenges facing the world. She reference to how Anti-corruption is like a leaky bucket they are putting money in, that they know seeps out. Everyone knows the challenges the UK has had with overseas territories that has many illegitimate activities, which the Panama Papers has certainly shown. The UK has been doing a lot to get their own house in order. It is challenging as also the UK cannot do it alone, but needs international cooperation. They want more progress showing ownership of companies, on financial transfers, more on mobilizing domestic resource support.
It’s like a reverse welfare system, it is taking money from the poor and putting it in the pockets of the richest. It is the antithesis of what we are trying to achieve.
Smith said tackling thorny issues is what we are support to do. She emphasized corruption is an issue that frequently comes up and collectively the world has done a fair amount to date through things like the Open Government Partnership movement. To join this governments have to publish their budgets and work in cooperation with civil society. She hopes the upcoming summit will show what has been done, the high costs of failure and push forward.
Smith mentioned the World Humanitarian Summit coming up and how DFID and USIAD can work together. Greening said she would like to see several things come out of the summit including:
1)How we constructively work with countries like Jordan and Lebanon and how they are responding to the Syrian crisis. Many lessons came out of the Syria conference
2) How to advance education in crisis. There is only thing more expensive than investing in education, which is not investing in education
3) To improve how we support women and girls in crisis
How to improve adherence of international humanitarian law and to ensure people who need aid get the assistance.
Smith said USAID agrees on the same priorities, as well as the need for the UN System to work smarter. She hopes the World Humanitarian Summit will send a signal to the world, that the international humanitarian community has done phenomenal work to respond and adapt at tremendous risk and huge loss of life. Another issue is that how do we take a development perspective in some of the humanitarian crises as well as make bigger and bolder investments in SDGs.
Smith emphasized if we are making the right investment of development dollars, we will have to spent less on the crises end. While we appeal for donors to do more on the humanitarian side, we also need to do more on development side. If we are successful on the development end, this will reduce the need for humanitarian relief.
Both leaders also spoke about how to make the case to their respective politicians and publics. This is one of the key things that they each need to make the case why are they are a viable and worthwhile enterprise.
Smith also praised the UK for making an committement of providing .7% of their budget for Overseas Development Assistnace. The panel also closed with the recognition that leaders of both agencies are women, showing how the world is changing.