May 20, 2014

USAID and InterAction Sign Landmark Development Partnership - And Now the Work Starts


By Samuel A. Worthington, President and CEO, InterAction
This post is part of a series produced by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, marking the occasion of its fifth Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, D.C., which will be held on May 22nd.

USAID and InterAction have just announced a first-of-its-kind agreement in a major effort to accelerate progress in the global fight against hunger and malnutrition. The agreement, signed May 19 on Capitol Hill, aims to maximize the impact of USAID and U.S. NGOs’ global food security and nutrition efforts – and it represents a landmark commitment by long-standing partners to collaborate in new ways to end hunger.

The 33 NGOs participating in this agreement announced at the same time a collective pledge to spend $1.5 billion of their own private funds from 2013 to 2015 to advance food security, nutrition and resilience – a $500 million increase over the original $1 billion commitment made in 2012 and announced by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The U.S. NGO community is a major player in the global fight against hunger and stunting. Privately-funded international expenditures for U.S. NGOs total $14 billion per year, according to the Hudson Institute. In many countries, NGO spending in the areas of food security and nutrition exceeds that of the U.S. government. Most importantly, NGOs have decades-long connections with local communities and extensive technical expertise in building food and nutrition security and community resilience.

And yet USAID and U.S. NGOs have not fully tapped each other’s respective value-added to create partnerships that go beyond the traditional donor-grantee relationship. While most of the work lies ahead of us, this agreement represents a landmark commitment to do just that.

The three-year agreement provides a framework for U.S. NGOs and the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative, composed of 10 federal agencies led by USAID, to partner in new ways from program design to implementation, and helps ensure that the significant private spending by these NGOs enhances U.S. taxpayer investments to tackle hunger and malnutrition.

What would new partnerships look like? We are already seeing interest from USAID and U.S. NGOs in exploring how to address key global nutrition challenges together, with the goal of establishing field programs, documenting processes, and demonstrating success. We can have a far greater impact on stunting if we work together to map nutrition efforts, monitor coverage and impact on nutritional status, and scale key evidence-based interventions.

Going forward, we hope to see U.S. NGOs approaching USAID with their own program design ideas, drawing on their technical expertise with smallholder farmers and with mothers and children to create innovative, collaborative projects with USAID missions. We could also see greater communication and information sharing at the country level, with NGO country directors and USAID mission directors engaging in regular dialogue to coordinate their respective programming in fighting hunger and stunting. InterAction applauds the steps USAID has already taken in these areas and stands ready to continue the dialogue.

The potential is huge – U.S. NGOs carry out hundreds of privately-funded projects in Feed the Future focus countries. If NGOs and USAID decide to align their efforts on food security and nutrition goals in specific countries or regions, we could prove that indeed it is possible to eliminate hunger, reduce stunting, and end extreme poverty.

As USAID Administrator Raj Shah said, “This groundbreaking agreement will empower communities to grow from the inside out. By harnessing science, technology, innovation, and partnerships, we can unlock opportunity and end widespread hunger for the world’s most vulnerable people.”

Realizing this potential will take work from USAID and InterAction members. Partnering in new ways will take political will at the leadership level, as well as buy-in from USAID and NGO staff. But it is essential if we want to raise our collective game and tap the potential of private resources to meet our food security and nutrition goals.

As we look ahead to 2015, we should remember that Millennium Development Goal 8 calls for global partnership to address our shared development challenges, envisioning a future development landscape where new and old partners work together to fight poverty and hunger and empower people worldwide. This agreement exemplifies that vision.

About

The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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