Development and Diplomacy is Smart Power

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December 10, 2010; Source: Foreign Policy | The State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) was promised months ago, then leaked, debated in the press, and promised again—and it still isn’t out. The latest promise was a planned rollout to begin on December 16, but the event was put on hold the day after the invitations were sent out.

There is, however, a Powerpoint of the overview QDDR titled, “Leading through Civilian Power,” [PDF] that has been in circulation for some time now, containing significant implications for the nonprofit sector.

On paper (or Powerpoint), the draft QDDR pledges to revitalize USAID as the “World’s Premier Development Agency”, a daunting task after a 38 percent cut in its workforce between 1990 and 2007. The plan would triple mid-level hires at USAID by increasing the cap from the current 30 to 95 a year. Rebuilding USAID means a commitment to development aid in which many domestic NGOs play important design and delivery roles. The QDDR also promises to “integrate women (sic) and girls’ participation, protection and outcomes in to (sic) development programs” and gives USAID leadership over the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative and eventually the Global Health Initiative.

The overall plan appears to be the next phase of development of Secretary Clinton’s concept of “smart power,” which she described at her nomination hearings as making “diplomacy . . . the vanguard of foreign policy.” As its core theme, the QDDR promotes “civilian power,” with “diplomats and development experts as the first face of American power.” In contrast to this nation’s too long reliance on military power, the QDDR says that “diplomacy and development must be mutually reinforcing” for civilian power to be effective.

Unfortunately, the timing of the much-delayed QDDR couldn’t be worse. Shortly after the QDDR leak, the Tea Party tidal wave occurred in the November elections, and the isolationist Tea Partiers have made their sentiments against foreign aid clear. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) who takes over in January as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee announced her intentions to cut the State Department’s budget and foreign aid, because “there’s too much fat in these budgets”. State had better be very convincing with the new Republican majority, else the QDDR’s civilian power plan will be quickly impotent.—Rick Cohen