Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hillary Clinton on Global Development: The GREAT, the TERRIBLE, and the unspoken

On Wednesday (a decade ago in Twitter time) Secretary Clinton gave two speeches at the Center for Global Development. You may have mistakenly heard that it was one speech, but it was, in fact, at least two.

Here's the GREAT speech the Secretary gave on technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation as drivers of development (the Secretary's actual words, in their logical order as determined by me):
Development is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative -- as central to advancing American interests and solving global problems as diplomacy or defense.

New technologies are allowing billions of people to leapfrog into the 21st century after missing out on 20th-century breakthroughs. Farmers armed with cell phones can learn the latest local market prices and know in advance when a drought or flood is on its way. Mobile banking allows people in remote corners of the world to use their phones to access savings accounts or send remittances home to their families.

There is no limit to the potential for technology to shrink obstacles to progress. And the United States has a proud tradition of producing game-changers in the struggles of the poor. The Green Revolution was driven by American agricultural scientists. American medical scientists have pioneered immunization techniques. American engineers have designed laptop computers that run on solar energy so new technologies don't bypass people living without power.

Because development is indispensible, it demands a new approach. We hope to put ourselves out of the aid business. Rather than helping fewer people one project at a time, we can help countries activate broad, sustainable change.

Private businesses are able to reach large numbers of people in a way that's economically sustainable, because they bring to bear the power of markets. We're exploring venture funds, credit guarantees, and other tools to encourage private companies to develop and market products and services that improve the lives of the poor. We are seeking more innovative ways to use our considerable buying power -- for example, through advance market commitments -- to help create markets for those products, so entrepreneurs can be sure that breakthroughs made on behalf of the poor successfully reach them.
Here's the TERRIBLE speech she gave pandering to folks worried about losing their jobs at USAID (the Secretary's actual words, in their logical order as determined by me):
We also need to ask hard questions about who should be doing the work of development. It's time to rebuild USAID into the world's premier development agency.

The experience and technical knowledge that our development experts bring to their work are irreplaceable. Whether trained in agriculture, public health, education, or economics, our experts are the face, brains, heart, and soul of U.S. development worldwide.

Development projects can be stalled or stymied by too little support from leaders. Our diplomats can help make the difference. They have the access and leverage to convince government ministers to give these development programs their support.

Some of the most transformative figures in the history of development represent the convergence between development and diplomacy. Today, we have many such "development diplomats" working at USAID. They embody the integration between development and diplomacy that, when allowed to exist, can amplify both of these disciplines.
Finally, here's the speech she might have given instead of the terrible one.
I'm here to talk about global development policy. If anyone happens to hear a loud chomping sound outside the door while I'm talking, that's the Department of Defense eating our lunch.

Now the mere fact that the Department of Defense has moved into the development business shouldn't worry you. They're doing it because they have no choice. (As you probably noticed, our political leaders got in the habit for a while of telling them to invade countries without any clear plan of what to do in the event that they "won." So they're trying to fix that.)

What should worry you is that a bunch of farmboys from Missouri are, in more than a few cases, doing a better job figuring out what works than this room of so-called experts. That may be because they have common sense. Or it may be because they don't have cozy relationships to outside contractors whose ability to continue to pay their mortgage depends on their skill in pushing the same Kool-aid (pun intended, of course) that has been toxic to developing countries for fifty years.

What does all of this mean for you here at USAID (because even though I'm at the Center for Global Development, you all know who I'm really talking to)? It means after 30 years of diminishing relevance, you all are now in serious danger of losing not only your jobs, but your Agency.

So this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to set you up with a really smart guy from the Gates Foundation. He's going to be in charge. And I'm going to say a lot of nice things about you for a while. I'm even going to try to get you some more money. And I'm going to ask you all to read and ponder one single four-page essay by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

And it that doesn't get you to figure out what actually works in about 24 months, then you're all fired.

Have a nice day.


  1. Every bit of this is right on the money...except your final shoutout to Paul Kagame. Dig below the surface in Rwanda and you quickly find a regime that runs on fear. No meaningful civil society to speak of; Human Rights Watch banned. If you're looking for a poster head of state for entrepreneurship driven development, Indonesia's SBY might be a better bet...

  2. Here is more on the Kagame government from
    the Los Angeles Times, via Human Rights Watch: