Background Briefing on Secretary Clinton's Participation In the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
Washington, DC
November 28, 2011

MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody, for joining us today for this background call on Secretary Clinton’s participation in the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness on November 30th in Busan, Republic of Korea.

Our background briefer today will be [Senior State Department Official], hereafter known as Senior State Department Official. Before we turn it over to [Senior State Department Official], just to give you the events that the Secretary will be participating in, in Busan, she will be giving the keynote address at the opening ceremony of the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. She’ll also be making opening remarks at a special session of the forum on gender. She’ll be meeting separately with the United States’s four Partnership for Growth Countries – El Salvador, Ghana, Philippines, and Tanzania. And she’ll be making opening remarks at the OECD Strategy on Development session. In addition to that, she’ll have a bilateral meeting with Korean President Lee and with Foreign Minister Kim.

Now, let me turn it over to [Senior State Department Official] to make some opening remarks, and then we’ll go to your questions.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Good morning. I wanted to just lay out what the Secretary was going to – is hoping to achieve through her visit in Busan and her participation in this conference.

As you all probably know, this is the first time a Secretary of State has participated in a conference of this nature, and I think the Secretary’s participation is a reflection of her commitment not only to development for the ultimate impact it has on our national security objectives by creating more prosperous nations, creating better opportunities for partnerships to address global challenges, but also, more particularly, to speak to the political will that needs to be demonstrated by all countries in putting development on the national agenda.

As many of you all know, because you have followed her for some time, when Secretary Clinton took office, one of the things she spoke to was the importance of investing in our common humanity through social development. And that couldn’t be marginal to our foreign policy; it had to be essential if we were going to actually achieve our goals. In framing that, she asked, in a speech that she gave later, at the CDD speech, about how can we actually do development better, how can we actually ensure that what we invest in is not only helping other nations, but that we are also helping to catalyze a return on investments in the long run.

In many ways, aid effectiveness is about how we actually get to long-run returns on our investments, because if we get there, then Korea, which in many ways is the perfect host for this conference, is actually a demonstration of what it means to be able to have effective development progress. They’re safer, more prosperous, more democratic, and they have many opportunities to participate now as a donor in helping to support the development of other nations.

We are obviously in a very tight budget time, and we are conscious of that not only here in the United States but elsewhere. But now is not the time to double back on our commitment. It’s really a time to double down. We actually need to ensure that these investments, which are less than 1 percent in the United States of our overall budget, actually end up having the opportunity to reach fruition because the returns are so great.

We’re looking forward to this conference not only for the opportunity to speak to the importance of aid effectiveness and how we ensure that our investments actually produce a return, but also for the opportunity to welcome the private sector, who for the first time is participating in this particular venue, and we’ll be speaking to their opportunity to help drive economic growth and development.

As many of you may know, most of the flows that are now coming into countries are no longer development flows. It used to be, in the ’60s, that 70 percent of the flows into developing nations were actually development assistance. Today, it’s only 13 percent, because when you look at what the private sector contributions are, when you look at remittances, and when you look at a host of other flows that are coming in, development assistance is a smaller percentage of those flows. And that means we have an opportunity and an obligation to ensure that we are using our development dollars to catalyze investment to ensure that we are connecting in ways that make sense to capitalize on these flows and to ensure that we’re seeing the kinds of outcomes that we would want.

We also need to ensure that there are the climates there that are necessary for being able to ensure development effectiveness, and that means looking at issues like whether or not a country is addressing the issues and challenges they might have around making the environment a good one for investment and for participation – that there’s rule of law, that there’s governance, and that there’s strong decision-making by the partner country, who is – ultimately has to lead and provide clear direction on how we can best invest our development dollars to meet their country-led strategies.

I think there will be a number of things that people will be looking to come out of this conference, not only in those – in that regard, but also in the role that emerging economies are starting to play, or really kind of reaching a greater fruition in playing. And I think there are ways in which the kind of assistance and leadership that they are showing is ultimately helping to benefit, because everyone is basically needed in this determination of how we actually best ensure that we can actually improve a better metric for how we achieve development, but more particularly, better outcomes around the globe.

The Secretary herself will speak to what are the challenges that continue to face us in doing development effectively, and her remarks will speak to what are the challenges that not only traditional donors have and emerging economies have, but also the challenges that are there for the private sector and others so that we can actually look at how we really address those things that have continued to be enduring challenges. Those challenges run the gamut, but in many ways, what we have been successful in doing is identifying them, but not always in coming up with strategies that can actually help achieve them. And that’s part of what this conference provides the opportunity to think through, and also the opportunity through next June to come up with metrics to help achieve.

So with that overarching opening, I welcome the opportunity to address any questions.

OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time, if you’d like to ask a question, please press *1 on your touchtone phone. Again, to ask a question, please press *1.

One moment for our first question.

Shaun Tandon, your line is open. Please state your affiliation, and you may ask your question.

QUESTION: Sure. Thanks for doing this. This is Shaun Tandon with AFP.

I was just wondering – you mentioned the role of emerging economies. I was wondering if you could elaborate on that a little bit. What’ll the Secretary seek in terms of the role as – the roles of emerging economies, which are increasing their donor assistance? Is there any need for more supervision or more transparency, or what are the types of things that you’ll look for from emerging donors?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thanks so much. I mean, I think without obviously stepping through her remarks, part of what we are going to first do is recognize the contributions that are being made by emerging economies. But one of the things that we also want to make sure is, in addition to stepping through the contributions that they are making, it is to be able to look to and speak to –the need for us all to operate by the same standards, and that the global committee – community has committed to doing that, and that’s one of the things that we would like to see more of through the emerging economies’ work that they actually do. We actually want to ensure that we actually can figure out better ways to think through not an “us versus they” mentality, but the opportunity for the kind of coordination which sometimes requires compromise, but also ensures greater results.

One of the things that we also want to – will be looking to speak to is how we actually can ensure that when emerging economies are partnering with developing nations, that they’re not actually – that they are taking the best opportunity to ensure that there is strong institutions, strong rule of law, the kind of free press that you would like to see, as well as corruption being addressed as they think about their commitments and as they think about where they might be able to contribute to their commitments.

And of course, last but not least, as with all economy – all economies, not just emerging economies, but the traditional donors and others, we want to see women, who there is a strong evidence base for the economic impact of their inclusion to be a thoughtful partner in the analysis.


OPERATOR: Thank you. Andrew Quinn, please state your affiliation. You may ask your question.

QUESTION: Hi, [Senior State Department Official], it’s Andy Quinn from Reuters. This is a follow-on to that question. I’m wondering if you can let us know what you’ll be looking at as a result from the conference that may indicate whether or not you’re getting that emerging economy buy-in. And I know some of the development agencies like Oxfam are saying that these emerging donors are busy trying to water down the principles, they’re trying to take some of the transparency benchmarks out of the equation.

What is Busan going to produce that will either tell us that everyone’s working on the same page or not?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Andy, thanks so much for that question. I mean, first of all, we are looking to the outcomes document as well as the overarching chapeau to be a document that actually expresses the commitment, and we are expecting that our – that there are partners from the emerging economies who will be signing on to that, and that will actually reflect the commitment to not only the values there, but also the type of work that we all need to do together to help achieve the best kind of development progress, not only in terms of it being country-led, not only ensuring that the countries in which these development investments are being made are actually profit there, as opposed to that profit being taken elsewhere, and that there’s also rule of law and good governance.

But I would also say, and I am familiar with the piece that Jeremy Hobbs shared from Oxfam – and I think some of those critiques are critiques that go to a set of issues that have been long part of the debate: How do you actually make sure that the global AIDS monitoring system actually gives donors the right incentives to do the right thing? We are, as you know, very committed to ensuring that we actually have the kind of monitoring – and indeed, as you probably know, USAID’s monitoring and evaluation metric has just been recently called out by OECD as kind of the gold standard in this space. So that is something we’re very committed to, and we’re very committed to ensuring that our partners are equally as committed to that.

One of the issues that I know he also spoke to was with respect to how we actually go about ensuring aid predictability as well as untying, if you will, aid from the purchase of donors goods and services. And I think in a lot of ways, that’s also a set of challenges that countries have been stepping through, and certainly we have been stepping through, to actually improve our metrics in that space and have been successful improving our metrics in that space, particularly our untied aid back in 2005 used to be about 32 percent when the Paris Declaration was signed. And by 2009, it was 68 percent. And if you really are looking at the least developed and highly indebted poor countries, our untied aid has increased from about 53 percent to – in 2005 to about 85 percent by 2009.

So we think that those are important metrics to look at and also look at how we’re making progress against them. And I respect that there are – that there’s a lot of attention being paid and a lot of desire to see real outcomes and real results, because I think ultimately, that’s what’s going to be necessary to drive the kind of change we all want to see.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Jill Dougherty, please state your affiliation, and you may ask your question.

QUESTION: Yes, hi there. Jill Dougherty from CNN. [Senior State Department Official], thank you. As we’re discussing this emerging economies issue, China obviously is one of the countries that everybody is looking at. Do you know, are they going to be physically there, you know, represented? And will the Secretary in her comments make any direct or indirect comments about their version of helping other countries?

And then also, if you could just give us – you mentioned enduring challenges. What’s the biggest one? Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Jill, hi. How are you? And thanks for being on, I really appreciate it.

First, in terms of China’s participation in the conference, I understand that they are – my last take was that they were participating, but in terms of at what level and in what form, I don't know. So that would be worth us following up and fact-checking for you so you have that information accurately.

In terms of speaking to some of the issues that I think, at least throughout the leading – lead-up to this conference, that I understand that have been concerns that they have expressed with respect to what are the donor transparency standards and whether or not those should be shared centrally, what – whether or not untying should be an aspiration to the greatest extent possible, and whether or not the predictability of funding flows should be something that we are seeking to achieve, as well as whether or not South-South Cooperation should be held to the same kind of accountable results frameworks.

I think those are all values that the donor community and many of the emerging economies have indicated a strong commitment to. And one of the things that we are looking to see is more and more of the emerging economies who are playing leadership roles and who are becoming development partners are actually stepping through to ensure sustainable development, which many of these metrics go to. We actually need to ensure that as there are investments in country, that the country is benefitting, and I anticipate that the Secretary will speak certainly to that as a generic goal. As to whether or not that would be something specific in this particular instance, I think our goal is actually to speak to what are the challenges that all of us experience as a community, be we traditional donors, which we belong to, emerging economies, or the private sector, as opposed to seeking to necessarily step through each country and identify where they might do or be better.

I do think that in terms of kind of what are our biggest challenges? I think different donors have different challenges. If you were speaking to what are some of the biggest challenges for the traditional donors, it’s one, recognizing and acting according to the leadership of countries. That’s something, as you know, we have spent an inordinate amount of time in this Administration trying to do a better job of. And certainly, the President’s Feed the Future Initiative on agriculture and food security as well as the Global Health Initiative speak to our commitment in that regard. The Progress for Growth also will speak to that commitment as well, because in many ways, what they are each about is sitting down with each country, identifying what their specific country plans are and their specific needs, providing the analysis that helps them make informed decisions, and then actually ensuring that our assistance lines up with that. And that is, I think for us, going to be not only something that we are going to continue to do, but it is something that I think is a continuing challenge for many of us who are in the traditional donor category.

Other things that I think are challenges for us is effective coordination. Sadly, it’s something that everybody talks about, but the way to do that effectively has seemed to elude us, or the will to do that has eluded us, and that’s one of the things that we actually need to make sure that we actually have a good commitment on being able to do. Quite honestly, some of the traditional donors, and really this more us than a lot of the others, also need to be more nimble. That is, a lot of the work that Raj Shah has been doing at USAID in terms of trying to streamline a lot of our bureaucratic processes and procedures, particularly around procurement and reporting, so that we can be a more effective partner to our partner countries, particularly because often our work requires an inordinate amount of time, both in terms of making the decision and then making those investments consistent with the standards that are required by our government, and certainly by the Hill, and we want to make sure that we have a strategy for how we actually do that.

So those are all things that I think go to some of the challenges that we have, but I would certainly say that other emerging economies in the private sector or others have different challenges, but those are the ones that we want to make sure that we speak to. And I would be remiss for not saying that also developing countries themselves have a set of challenges that they need to address as well, and I think the objective will be for the Secretary to speak through – speak to all of those so that we can all think about how we can collectively do better.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Younghae Choi, your line is open. Please state --

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you. My name is Younghae Choi. I am Washington Bureau Chief of the Dong-a Ilbo, Seoul, Korea. What is Secretary Clinton’s message in the conference and what will Secretary Clinton emphasize regarding on aid development? And will she put stress on the QDDR to international community? And another thing is, is there any special event for Secretary Clinton to participate in without attending High Level Forum? Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sorry. I couldn’t hear the last thing you said. Could you repeat the last thing that you said?

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any plan for Secretary Clinton to attend any special event without attending High Level Forum?

MODERATOR: Sir, I think I mentioned at the top that in addition to the High Level Forum, the Secretary’s going to make remarks at the special session on gender at the OECD event and is going to meet separately with our Partnership for Growth countries – El Salvador, Ghana, Philippines, and Tanzania – and she will, of course, see President Lee and Foreign Minister Kim while she is in Korea.

I think the [Senior State Department Official], also spoke quite extensively to the Secretary’s overall goals in her opening remarks. So why don’t I let her just address that last question that you had about the lessons that we’ve learned from the QDDR.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: In terms of the question about the QDDR, which, as you may know, was the first time we had actually engaged in that exercise here at the State Department, part of what the QDDR speaks to not only is how we need to do our development better, but also how we can more properly leverage diplomacy for our development outcomes. One of the things that we have become very conscious of is not only how challenging it is for us to do whole-of-government approaches, but even how challenging it is for us with our partners in the developed – who are doing development here in the in the government – MCC, USAID, and others – to actually ensure that our actions are not only coordinated but that our ambassadors and our governments are ensuring that we are making clear the central importance of development in our partnerships that we have around the world.

Part of what Secretary Clinton’s participation at this conference is about is speaking to that commitment as a very deep one, but more particularly, also speaking to the opportunity to ensure that our diplomatic partners also appreciate the level and importance of development on the national agenda of each country, and also in ensuring that in the end that we actually have strategies for how they become part of our long-term best interests in how we engage in our foreign policy and ensure our national security objectives.

MODERATOR: Operator, I think we have time for just one more, and then we’ve got to let [Senior State Department Official] get ready to get on a plane. Go ahead, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Kristin Welker, please state your affiliation. You may ask your question.

QUESTION: Hi there. Thank you so much for doing the call. This is Kristin Welker with NBC News. You mentioned that the Secretary will be speaking at a special session on gender. Can you talk a little bit about what her message will be during this special session and how she thinks gender politics at this very moment might play an important role in emerging economies?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you for that question, I look forward to seeing you on the plane.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I mean, certainly the Secretary’s commitment and her observations, which is now supported by the evidence that is there, with respect to the role that women can and should play in not only spurring economic growth, but increasing the opportunities for greater long-term peace and stability, is a message that she intends to bring to Busan. She intends to speak to that not only from the standpoint that every economy is seeking to grow and find ways to productively engage its citizens, but that they are seeking ways to ensure that the benefits of that growth, ideally, can be experienced on a broad scale. Women represent one of the universal answers to achieving that, and the Secretary is going to speak to the need to be thoughtful in our development engagement as well, as to how we actually achieve that.

That also means, particularly as we step through our development strategies, that we are thinking about the amplifying impacts that investments in women have, and ensuring that as we actually construct our investments, we are constructing them with that opportunity in mind so that we are seeing increased results and at the same time we are seeing a better opportunity for more inclusive societies. So she will be looking forward to that opportunity to participate in the panel and speak to that, particularly at this level in a development conference where, for the first time, we are seeing it as part of the central agenda, which is heartening.

MODERATOR: Thank you all for joining us, and we will look forward to seeing those of you who are joining us on the trip. Thank you.

PRN: 2011/2012