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Adopt a National Development Strategy

If development assistance is to be a central component of U.S. national security policy, then it must be guided by an overarching strategy linking it to other instruments of national power.

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If development assistance is to be a central component of U.S. national security policy, then it must be guided by an overarching strategy linking it to other instruments of national power, and must be applicable to all U.S. government agencies involved in development assistance, including the military. This will provide a framework for setting priorities in development assistance, delineating responsibilities among agencies, linking assistance to other instruments of statecraft, and allocating resources appropriately.

A National Development Strategy should outline how the country’s assets for development assistance will support the requirements outlined in the National Security Strategy, which is periodically produced by the White House. The NDS should include the following elements:

  • Overview of the global environment in which assistance takes place
  • Explicit rationale for the role of development assistance in support of American foreign and national security policy
  • Principles for effective fundamental and instrumental development assistance
  • List of major development goals for the U.S. government
  • Blueprint for an optimal development assistance bureaucracy, including responsibilities of relevant government agencies

As important as the final content of an NDS would be for U.S. foreign policy, the process of drafting it would yield useful benefits as well. The diversity of government agencies involved in delivering some aspect of development assistance means that a broad conversation including all of them would be required to draft a comprehensive strategy. Such a process would be invaluable for identifying and resolving tensions in U.S. development assistance.

The drafting of the NDS should also be led by the country’s leading development agency, USAID, but ultimately issued by the White House in order to have the authority necessary to coordinate actions across government agencies.

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