When President John F. Kennedy created the U.S. Agency for International Development in 1961, he could not have imagined that helping other countries develop would be such an unpredictable, ever-changing task. What started as the funding of roads, schools and clinics in faraway places is today a global search for solutions to some of the world’s most intractable problems—from entrenched poverty and corruption to climate change and pandemics.

What was a single American agency has since turned into a network of stakeholders—multilateral banks, official donors, private investors, NGOs and academics. And what was a national policy to foster prosperity abroad has grown into a multitude of international commitments to worthy causes, such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

We are now facing another moment of profound change, in both economic development and domestic politics. COVID-19 will likely bring about partial de-globalization, wider digital gaps, more inequality, massive fiscal deficits, new social norms, unpredictable attitudes towards risk, and existential threats to entire sectors of the economy. The inauguration of President Joe Biden heralds a shift in foreign policy, likely toward more leadership in global issues and more engagement with global institutions.

How can America’s system of development assistance prepare for—and make the most of—the new realities? It is critical that the United States remains engaged in global affairs. As such, the National Academy of Public Administration has included “Advance National Interests in a Changing Global Context” as one of the 12 Grand Challenges in Public Administration facing the nation in the decade ahead.

But what should be the organizing principle of U.S. development assistance? Governance is understood both as the capacity of citizens to hold their government accountable for the results that matter to them, and the capacity of governments to deliver those results. Instead of functioning as a rich donor with a blueprint, the United States should be a partner in people’s aspirations. This would leverage its unique and defining asset—a constitutional order anchored in individual rights that has withstood the test of time.

Focusing on governance would call for reforms in our development architecture:

To start, agencies’ budgets should be rebuilt, and staff reskilled. A case in point is USAID. Helping countries be “self-reliant” has been, rightly, its declared strategy since 2016. But it is an unachievable strategy if resources keep shrinking and most intellectual output is contracted out. The type of reputation for knowledge of regions or themes that Australia (the Pacific), China (infrastructure), Germany (climate), the Nordics (gender), and the UK (evaluation) constructed over the past decade seems to have bypassed the US.

Second, America should reposition itself and its civil servants in multilateral organizations. Rather than just acting as the largest shareholder or benefactor, it should also be the leading mobilizer of technical expertise, whether from government, academia, or industry. This is as true in financial institutions (i.e. the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and regional banks) as it is in regulatory and advocacy institutions (the World Trade Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and many others).

Third, a career stream in global issues should be created that can contribute to governance in other countries. It should be initially available to State Department staff and, later, other federal agencies, including the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department, the Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Election Commission, among others. The idea is to encourage America’s public officials to help their peers overseas, without losing their institutional seniority at home.

Fourth, foreign aid should be a national effort, not just a federal one. State, counties, and cities should be able to add their support in a synergetic way with the rest of the administration. At times, local interests align well with their participation—typically when they host migrants from a given country. Rarely is their work counted, much less evaluated.

Finally, with multiple federal and subnational agencies involved, a coordinating unit at the White House is necessary. This is not to act as a gatekeeper, but to be a clearinghouse of information on who is doing what where. It should set the calendar of global events where America’s interests need to be represented, arrange that representation, and craft the messages. And, more substantially, it should be the designer, communicator, and guardian of the foreign assistance strategy.

In sum, for all the global and domestic turmoil, America has a golden opportunity to reform the way it handles international development. We can make it more effective, more efficient, and more transparent. Ultimately, we can make it more useful both to the national interest and to its final beneficiaries—something President Kennedy would have been proud of.

Marcelo Giugale is a former Director of the World Bank, an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.

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The Partnership for Public Service has joined with a coalition of civil society organizations to form CapitolStrong, a new initiative that aims to strengthen and invest in the institution of Congress and the people who work there. They announced they will work hand-in-hand with their partners to support congressional staff, and amplify stories of bravery, resilience and patriotism on Capitol Hill that occurred during and since the recent attack.

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Charged with leading America’s foreign policy, the Department of State advances the country’s diplomatic, national security and economic interests by fostering relationships with foreign leaders, providing assistance and advocating the values of American democracy around the globe, and delivering a broad range of services to U.S. citizens traveling and living abroad. The Partnership for Public Service examined the department’s internal challenges and identified strategies for overcoming them and opportunities to accelerate efforts already underway.

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As a private foundation with a non-partisan mission to strengthen the Government of the United States and increase its ability to defend and extend freedom around the world, the Robertson Foundation for Government (RFG) focuses on increasing the supply of well-qualified individuals dedicated to federal government service careers addressing international affairs.

The events of January 6 and the aftermath have provided vivid examples of the importance of the processes and procedures that ensure national and international freedoms. America’s democratic processes uphold the United States Constitution and the freedoms it stands for and must be protected at all costs.

RFG is proud that the Robertson Fellows and our partners, across administrations and through times of challenge and unrest, make valuable contributions to support high standards of public service that support effective and equitable government operation. The foundation remains committed to nurturing these talented, dedicated federal public servants to engage in and lead good governance, foster international stability and cooperation, and secure freedom in our nation and across the globe.

As the global landscape continues to change, it is vital for the United States of America to engage in the international community. National Academy of Public Administration Fellows Arnie Fields and Irving Williamson and the Academy Director of Strategic Initiatives and International Programs, Joseph P. Mitchell, III, discuss the growing threat of cybersecurity, strengthening international organizations, and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on America’s relationship with the rest of the world in a new piece online.

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The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) launched a new resource portal on diversity, equity and inclusion in international affairs education.

The DEI portal responds to growing demand from American colleges and universities—often pushed by students and alumni this summer—to revisit and enhance commitments to DEI.

The portal includes syllabus guides, research summaries, and a list of DEI strategies and plans from American universities compiled through an initiative led by GIWPS Distinguished Fellow Carla Koppell with support from the Robertson Foundation for Government.

“Increasing the focus on issues of equity and inclusion is essential so that the next generation of leaders can navigate global heterogeneity to foster peace, security and prosperity,” said Koppell.

Adding Diverse Voices & Perspectives to Syllabi 

To make it easier to include diverse scholarship in syllabi, GIWPS published syllabus guides that identify books and articles by scholars from underrepresented communities.

The guides enable instructors to easily bring a broader range of voices into international courses on topics including: IR theories; conflict and security; human rights; and transnational threats like climate change or global health.

“This is an important new resource for Georgetown colleagues, and others, to utilize in their efforts to make their courses more inclusive and representative of a broad range of perspectives, not just in international relations, but in a host of international affairs subfields. I look forward to the continued growth of this vitally important effort,” said Scott Taylor, Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, School of Foreign Service.

Academic Research on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

GIWPS also published summaries of research on DEI-related issues in curricula, in campus culture, and in the diversity of the faculty, students and staff.

These annotated bibliographies and key takeaways can be leveraged when creating and implementing DEI strategies. GIWPS compiled links to diversity and inclusion strategies and plans from a range of international affairs and public policy schools for reference.

Pro Tips from Professors

Georgetown students were asked which faculty members stood out as allies for diversity, equity and inclusion, whether because of the material on their syllabi or the way they cultivated a welcoming classroom culture.

9 of the selected professors from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and College shared their stories and pro tips for promoting inclusion on the GIWPS blog.

“I’m a first-generation college graduate,” said Dr. Lahra Smith, Director of the African Studies Program, School of Foreign Service. “I like to reveal myself as a first-generation college grad and start by introducing myself as a human being, as a person, on day one.

“If students are used to being in an environment where all perspectives are accepted and promoted, where women have a voice, where minorities have a voice, they will grow to be citizens of a world where this is normal, not the exception,” said Dr. Marwa Daoudy, Chair in Arab Studies, School of Foreign Service