Barriers and recommendations for moving US development policies locally

On April 18, the Brookings Institution for Sustainable Development convened a roundtable meeting to explore the barriers faced by U.S. government agencies, particularly the US Agency for International Development (USAID), in implementing locally managed development. Today we published a background essay that featured discussions and comments from 15 Roundtable participants প্রতিনি representing the organization’s diversity and experience in global development সেই as well as a proposed description with principles and values.

The title, “Locally Driven Development: Overcoming Obstacles Accurately describes the subject matter of the article. It summarizes the ways in which each of the past four U.S. administrations’ development policies and programs have led to a more locally managed approach to having more agencies with stakeholders in developing countries. It then goes on to describe six major obstacles to the implementation of locally led development in the United States. In short:

  1. Power: Many organizations in developing countries lack the technical capacity to meet USAID obligation requirements and to conduct significant projects. USAID lacks adequate staff and a large number of small grants based on local priorities and relevant training to oversee contract and base programming.
  2. Risk: The potential to engage with local organizations involved in local culture and the potential higher financial, programmatic and trustworthy risks of working with small, technically less experienced organizations.
  3. Rigidity: Limited by the flexibility flowing from USAID’s responsive and local priorities and ability to adapt to needs: a long, complex U.S. budget process; Specifications / instructions in Presidential Initiatives and Allocation Bills; Best practices of USAID management such as strategy and accountability measures; And USAID delegation of inadequate authority in the country’s mission.
  4. Institutional culture: Localization USAID’s highly skilled and committed development experts are asked to play a less rigorous role in respecting local priorities, experience and knowledge.
  5. Values: The United States will not abandon basic American and international values ​​(e.g., rule of law, individual and human rights, inclusion, and gender equality).
  6. Energy dynamics: Transferring decision-making power from donor to beneficiary is a challenge.

The article makes multiple recommendations on how to deal with these obstacles. These include creating and training USAID staff, helping US stakeholders understand how to take greater risks with localization, and giving USAID greater authority to manage budgets and programs.

It also raises a number of daunting challenges in advancing localization and the flexibility required for it. One challenge is that, in order to transfer power, stakeholders must recognize that the ultimate interest of the United States is not the control of specific development activities but the long-term stability and prosperity of partners in developing countries; It follows the model of decision making in the hands of those closest to the move and the “leader as a servant”.

A second challenge is that in order to pursue a medium- / long-term strategy of transitioning to a local ownership program, USAID must adopt a short- / medium-term strategy to challenge its traditional implementers to operate in that mode.


Participants in the roundtable meeting with the article have 15 comments. The purpose of the annotations is to create and share a wealth of discussion at the Roundtable and to present a range of problems and perspectives on complex topics such as locally managed development – which a single author is unable to do. Commentaries range from providing a different perspective on the aspects of the essay, to drilling into a topic and introducing a new problem.

Several commentaries refer to what is meant by locally managed development and the need for more clarity on the need for metrics to measure progress. I probably subconsciously avoided the issue of metrics out of a concern that metrics often do not accurately reflect reality and become the driver of a project in place of development objectives – as several commentaries have noted – but I agree that tracking relevant metrics is important and progress evaluation.

Another action I failed to note in the article but which I mentioned in the past is the suggestion of several authors that one way to work on localization is to return to the past practice of providing more grants to USAID, as opposed to cooperative agreements and contracts. , Requires less USAID staff involvement.

Several other commentaries bring up other issues not covered in the article – the need for mutual accountability, the importance of mobilizing indigenous resources, and the role of grand bargaining in localization of humanitarian aid.

Different commentaries focus on the role of local partners. One indicates that local entities must be considered true partners নয় not just distribution systems; Another note is the importance of local capacity building; And another claims that the direction of local partner financing is a step towards local empowerment. Many authors emphasize the importance of feedback loops for changing energy balance. Another strongly argues that the focus should be on building and supporting community leadership. A number of people have drilled down on the importance of giving a bigger voice to local actors, and one noted that, with the increase in specifications and direction in recent years, local voices in U.S. development activities have become weaker.

The importance of success stories has been noted by two authors একজন one suggesting that USAID issue a “Case Study Challenge” for implementers to benefit from both past successes and failures. Several commentaries emphasize that procurement is central to the implementation of localization, noting the constraints created by federal acquisition regulations, which may reduce compliance effectiveness, and other U.S. government agencies finding easy ways to comply with federal regulations.

One commentary gives an interesting explanation of how the main problem of localization is not “effectiveness” but “sustainability”. On the one hand, I agree with this point লক্ষ্য sustainability is the goal; On the other hand, perhaps sustainability is part of one’s definition of effectiveness. It demonstrates the value of commentary in providing the perspective and experience of multiple individuals.


The article concludes with a brief description of the central importance of localization and the flexibility required to implement it, to explain to US stakeholders:

  • Economic, social, and political progress in low-income and low-middle-income countries is in the US national interest.
  • Effective use of financial assistance can contribute to this goal.
  • Seventy-five years of development experience demonstrates that effectiveness is based on prioritizing local partners and implementing programs.
  • This locally managed development requires that aid be managed flexibly to adapt to the country’s priorities and changing circumstances.
  • The most effective role for the United States is to (1) lead on values ​​and fundamental principles and (2) support the priorities of the partner countries on how they adapt to those values ​​and policies in their own circumstances.

It pioneered a system of values ​​and supporting local priorities that would inspire other development actors, earn the U.S. respect as a valuable development partner, and set the U.S. apart from a more authoritarian approach.

I invite readers to submit comments and feedback on this proposed narrative.

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