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At Global Chiefs Of Mission Conference, Clinton, Shah Discuss QDDR

As part of a week-long meeting with U.S. diplomats from around the world taking place in Washington, D.C., this week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday gathered with 300 U.S. diplomats from around the world to discuss “strategies to energize diplomacy and streamline development,” the New York Times reports.

The Global Chiefs of Mission Conference – or what Clinton has referred to as the “first-ever in American history all-hands-on-deck ambassadorial conference” – was “nominally convened to help diplomats better understand, and prepare to implement, the results of a signature project of Mrs. Clinton’s: the first quadrennial review of American diplomacy and development, an exercise modeled on the long-time practice of the Defense Department,” according to the newspaper. The article reports that Clinton also spoke to the group about the growing challenges of the situation in Egypt and other “embattled Arab capitals,” wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and calls by some members of Congress to cut State and USAID funding (Knowlton, 2/2).

“It goes without saying – but I will say it anyway – that this is a critical time for America’s global leadership,” Clinton told the ambassadors, Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” blog reports. “From the theft of confidential cables to 21st-century protest movements to development breakthroughs that have the potential to change millions of lives, we are all in uncharted territory, and that requires us to be more nimble, more innovative, and more accountable than ever before,” Clinton said (Rogin, 2/2).

“That is why we launched the first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the so-called QDDR,” which lays out blueprint for reform “that will encourage us to be more cross-cutting and results-oriented and … significantly expand our capacity to prevent and respond to crises and conflicts,” Clinton continued, according to a State Department transcript from the address. “[A]s chiefs of mission, you are at the heart of the QDDR’s vision for the future, and you will be at the core of its implementation,” she said (2/2).

On the topic of the mounting pressure to reduce spending, “Clinton said the State Department will release a fiscal 2012 budget request next month that represents ‘a lean budget for lean times,'” according to The Cable. “State doesn’t even know yet what its fiscal 2011 funding will be and the House is looking to cut diplomacy and development funding just as the civilian missions in Afghanistan and Iraq are expanding, she said.” She called on “the ambassadors to find ways to save money and to use their meetings with lawmakers to advocate for robust funding for diplomacy and development next year,” the blog reports (2/2).

“You can save money in your mission. You can change the way you’re doing things to be more efficient and cost-effective,” Clinton said, according to the State Department transcript. “We have shifted funds into programs that save money such as stronger monitoring and evaluation systems, efforts to consolidate information technology, procurement reform at USAID, targeted investments in innovative development programs. But we have to keep doing more and more to keep up with what will be a very tough set of choices coming out of congressional appropriations,” said Clinton (2/2).

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, in an address to the group, discussed creating conditions for “success so our assistance over the long run is no longer needed,” according to a State Department transcript from the event. “And that starts with delivering value by putting in place more innovative and more focused strategies in each of our proposed areas of excellence – areas like food security, where we know smart, focused investments in agriculture coupled with private sector investments and infrastructure and good policies that will enable agricultural development, can really create broad-based, inclusive growth and reduce the number of people who suffer from hunger, extreme poverty, and malnutrition in so many parts of the world,” he said.

Shah continued, “In global health, we are trying to put in place the Global Health Initiative to demonstrate that we’re going to get more value for our money and better outcomes in a more sustainable way for the countries in which we work if we can move away mentally from treating our programs as individual stovepipe programs that treat diseases, however important those diseases are, and think of them instead as platforms from which we build real health systems so that someone coming in for HIV treatment and services … is now getting maternal and child health services and access to family planning and the ability to have their children immunized and protect them from unnecessary disease and even death” (2/2).

Special Representative for Global Partnerships Kris Balderston; State Department Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills; Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer addressed the group, according to The Cable. The blog notes, “Special Advisor Alec Ross and Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Judith McHale will meet with the group later this week” (2/2).

In related news, the Washington Post writes that one area of reform in the State Department will be an effort to “consolidate and eliminate overlapping reports, make them shorter and reduce the burden of writing them on the State Department’s far-flung embassy staff.”

“All too often, you and your officers are tied to desks fulfilling hundreds of reporting requirements mandated by both Congress and the [State] Department,” Clinton said, according to the newspaper. Clinton’s decision follows “recommendations of Inspector General Harold W. Geisel, who concluded in a 55-page audit released in January that diplomats are drowning in paperwork … The watchdog called the reports too long, hard to understand, hard to track and expensive, costing more than $50 million a year to complete,” the newspaper writes (Rein, 2/2).

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