In early 2012, The Hunger Project’s Executive VP, John Coonrod, moved from New York City to Washington, DC to strengthen THP’s seat at the table of international development. Each week, John sends us insight into issues of health, policy, human rights and more by way of the Washington Weekly.
Quote of the week
“After studying international development, I felt it was hopeless. When I saw the epicenters, I felt – this is it! This works! This is how it is supposed to be.” – Anna, GWU Graduate Student, reporting on her work in our Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) pilot project.
Themes from the InterAction Forum
THP was well represented by a team of four at this year’s annual 3-day InterAction Forum of the 200+ US-based international relief and development organizations that make up InterAction. This year’s Forum was attended by more than 1,000 individuals, including Lisa and Carolyn from the Global Office and Leanna and I from the Washington Office.
I spoke at a panel on capacity building, focusing on our work to strengthen participatory local democracy and its partnership with the people. Colleagues at ACDI/VOCA and the Alliance to End Hunger spoke on building farmers’ associations and national food security platforms. Read a review of the event.
The Forum is a great opportunity to take the policy temperature in Washington, and some of the themes raised included:
- Relevance of ODA: A decade ago, Official Development Assistance was more than 70% of the budget of developing countries, and now – given rapid private sector economic growth – it averages 14%. What should its current role be in country-led strategies? There was great anxiety on this subject, but a fairly strong alignment that the name of the game is capacity building. In the current financial crisis, ODA has declined everywhere there isn’t a war – and this trend is expected to continue and grow worse.
- The disaster of short-term expectations: There was a great deal of push back on the increasing demand from funders to see short-term impact rather than making the kind of long-term investment needed for capacity-building.
- Human Rights Based Approach: the convergence of human rights, governance and development is accelerating, and US NGOs are more seriously engaged in applying the Rights Based Approach to their programs than I’ve seen before. This was reinforced by conversations on scaling-up versus launching more “pilots to nowhere” in the food security domain.
- Global Health Council to Close in June: this is a cautionary tale of a major agency that fell out of alignment with its donors – the board of this 500 member alliance has announced its closure. In general, the mismatch between donor-driven “signature initiatives” and broader system strengthening is a problem.
- Corporate Philanthropy: There is a continuing shift towards seeing philanthropy as primarily an opportunity for staff engagement rather than as a contribution to global development goals. Corporations are primarily looking for “fit” – how an NGO partner aligns with the unique capacities and mission of the corporation and provides a complementary skill set to their own.
Board Meets in Mozambique
At the invitation of President Chissano, the Global Board of Directors held its annual meeting in Maputo – the first Board Meeting in a program country since 1999. On the eve of the meeting, Mary Ellen presented the work of The Hunger Project at the Polytechnic University at an event co-hosted by THP and the Chissano Foundation, and she and President Chissano engaged with students.
- PLEDGES, PRINCIPLES AND PROGRESS: Aid to Agriculture Since L’Aquila. ActionAid reports that donors have yet to align their agriculture aid to country-led strategies, and very little of the aid is going to the hungriest countries.
- ILO annual report “World of Work Report 2012: Better Jobs for a Better Economy.” The report documents rising inequality among women and youth, and recommends significant policy changes.
- May 8: Congress back in session working on the 2013 budget. John attending meetings to educate members on the difference between agricultural development and food aid.
- May 17: 1,000 Days G8 side event (John to attend)
- May 18: Chicago Council event at G8 (hard to get an invitation!)
- May 18-19: G8 Summit, Camp David
- May 22-23: GAFSP Meeting (ActionAid represents the Northern CSOs)
- June 10-11: USAID Child Survival Summit
- June 18-19: G20 Summit, Los Cabos (THP-Mexico Country Director, Lorena to attend)
- June 21: Rio+20 Summit (John to attend)