In a speech on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that it is time to “elevate development as a central pillar of all that we do in our foreign policy. US security depends on a new approach to international aid, so Washington must consult more and dictate less as it dispenses billions of dollars in assistance.”
Clinton left no doubt that international assistance – and a new, higher profile for USAID – the American department for international development – under newly appointed administrator Rajiv Shah – would be central to Washington’s new approach.
Investment in women and girls worldwide will be an important component of US efforts. “Women and girls are one of the world’s greatest untapped resources,” said Clinton. “With just one year of schooling, a woman’s children are less likely to die in infancy or suffer from illness or hunger, and more likely to go to school themselves”.
Clinton also made references to the power of microfinance in her speech and its ability to empower women to become drivers of economic and social progress.
Agriculture and health were listed among other “key areas” on which the US will focus its efforts.
Clinton said she plans to build up USAID, minimise its use of contractors and give the agency more responsibilities. “For too long, we’ve relied on contractors for core contributions and diminished our own professional and institutional capacities. This must be fixed,” she said.
According to Clinton, the Obama administration will work together with countries that receive US foreign aid. “We are adopting a model of development based on partnership, not patronage,” she said. “In the past, we have sometimes dictated solutions from afar, often missing our mark on the ground. Our new approach is to work in partnership with the people in developing countries.”