It has been said that the Obama administration aspired to recognize development as a key aspect of American foreign policy for global security in parallel with defense and diplomacy. Thus the notion of development and diplomacy being subject to a quadrennial review/planning process modeled after the Department of Defense QDR. Having the discussion and creating a first document is noteworthy, and there are positive details in the plans presented in the QDDR released Wednesday. But the overarching policy is to institutionalize development as one of the subordinate functional operations of the State Department’s diplomatic mission.
Paul O’Brien, vice president of policy and advocacy campaigns for Oxfam America, noted that while the QDDR clearly puts ambassadors and chiefs of missions at the head of country teams as the so-called “CEOs” of American diplomacy, it doesn’t tackle how the inevitable conflicts between short-term foreign policy objectives and longer-term development goals are resolved.
“The QDDR is an important step in reaffirming the efforts to modernize USAID and further elevate it as ‘the world’s premier development agency. But the document leaves open the question of how the United States will resolve situations where diplomacy and development will require different approaches and tradeoffs,” he said.
Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s vice president of policy and advocacy, asked at the town hall meeting how Clinton planned to deal with the tension between long-term development goals and short-term diplomatic objectives. Clinton responded that that tension would remain but the State Department’s chief of mission would be empowered above all others.
“I don’ think there’s any way to resolve it. I don’t think it will disappear but there is a way to diminish it,” she said. “But we’ve got to have somebody in each country that actually speaks for the entire government.”
With all respect, I think what this ultimately means in practice is that you “resolve” the conflict by making sure that the State Department’s chief diplomat in country is empowered to do what is expected of a chief diplomat (who also has significant responsibility in the defense arena as well), which is to prioritize diplomacy.