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MARCH 2017




“Local Solutions”

Alive and Well at USAID

The frank exchange of views is invalu-

able to successful outcomes, and your

publication provides a forum for mean-

ingful debate to take place.

Having read the op-ed “Why USAID’s New Approach to Development Assis- tance Is Stalled”(December, Speaking

Out), I offer a counterpoint to Thomas

Dichter’s assertions, which broadly char-

acterized the agency’s Local Solutions

commitment as having “gained very little


He also implied that since USAID

did not fully achieve the 2015 goal of

obligating 30 percent of agency resources

through local organizations, the agency

has abandoned the idea of country own-

ership. These points merit clarification

and further discussion.

By 2014 USAID had recognized that,

by itself, substituting local partners for

international ones would not ensure the

achievement of locally owned and sustain-

able results. Consequently, the agency

made a deliberate decision tomake the

30-percent target aspirational. And, though

it is true that USAID did not reach the tar-

get, we didmake incredible progress.

Funding obligated directly through

local systems nearly doubled from 9.7

percent to 18.6 percent from Fiscal Year

2010 to FY2015. If you include indirect

funding through cash transfers and mul-

tidonor trust fund contributions—other

important approaches we use to channel

funds through local systems—we came

up just three points shy of 30 percent.

In terms of momentum, FY2015 had

the highest percentage of funds obligated

to date: Missions spent $2.6 billion of

their $9.8 billion budgets through local

systems. This demonstrates real mission

“buy-in” for local ownership.

USAID’s shift to a more holistic and

thoughtful approach to engaging local

actors became even more concrete in

2014 when it issued the Local Systems

Framework, describing an overarching

approach to promoting local ownership.

To embed and institutionalize this way

of working into the agency’s operational

policy, in 2016 USAID released “Auto- mated Directives System, Chapter 201,”

which elevates local ownership as a key

principle underlying the way we do our


The agency has started developing

tools to help missions analyze the local

context and is promoting the use of pro-

curement mechanisms that better facili-

tate working with local actors.

We are also creating incentives

within the Foreign Service pro-

motion system to drive home our

commitment to the principle of

local ownership.

Consequently, we expect to

see more programs that respond

to local priorities, leverage local

resources and involve local

actors—including government,

civil society and the private sector.

These efforts align with Mr. Dichter’s

own 2014 recommendations in “The

Capable Partners Learning Agenda on

Local Organization Capacity Develop-

ment.” The executive summary of that

document states: “The percent goal …

ought to have the freedom to be rede-

fined not in terms of numbers of organi-

zations funded, but numbers of problems

tackled that are fundamental challenges

in institutional change and country


In short, Local Solutions is alive and

well at USAID. And while we are well

aware of challenges to sustainability—

including competing pressures for quick

and demonstrable results and the need to

ensure the safety of our staff—we remain

committed to making progress in this

critical area.

Alicia Dinerstein

Director, Office of Strategic and

Program Planning

Bureau for Policy, Planning and


U.S. Agency for International


Washington, D.C.

NATO Expansion Is Sound

Congratulations on the Russia pack-

age in the December issue of the



You provided a wealth of facts, insights

and wisdom on the vital issue of how to

deal with Russia. If only

members of the incoming

Trump administration

would read and absorb

these lessons.

That said, your cover-

age would have benefited

from some perspective

from Central and Eastern

Europe, particularly on

NATO expansion. Poles,

Czechs, Hungarians and others who lived

under Soviet occupation during the Cold

War saw this step not as a provocation,

but as essential to guaranteeing their own


They saw no reason why their security

concerns should again be sacrificed to

those of Russia, as happened decades ago

at Yalta. This traditional fear of threats

from Russia has only been reinforced by

President Putin’s intervention in Ukraine.

Having worked on the issue of NATO

expansion in Bucharest, Warsaw and

Washington, D.C., in the 1990s, I’m

convinced it was a sound and necessary

policy. It was successful, too.

NATO membership has brought unac-

customed peace to a dozen new mem-

bers by making it clear to Moscow that