Correction to This Article
This article about a review of State Department operations misstated the first name of the policy director of the Brookings Institution's Foreign Assistance Reform Project. He is Noam Unger, not Norm Unger.

Review calls for State Department to focus more on civilian response to conflict

Protesters take to the streets, setting blazes and firing off guns after an election in which fraud was alleged. The nation's president calls for calm.
By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 28, 2010; 8:03 PM

A high-level State Department review in the works for more than a year will call for the diplomatic service to give much greater priority to improving the U.S. civilian response to conflict, according to a sneak preview released this month.

The draft summary of the review, presented to congressional staffers, also would give the U.S. Agency for International Development a bigger role in running President Obama's two main foreign aid initiatives - health and agriculture.

The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) is Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's answer to the Pentagon''s QDR (Quadrennial Defense Review). She has argued that the once-every-four-years process will help the State Department set priorities and justify its budget to Congress.

The year-long debate involving State Department and USAID officials has occurred as the White House has been conducting its own review of U.S. development policy. There has been some tension over whether State or the White House should coordinate the aid effort, according to officials involved in the process.

The final QDDR is expected in mid-December after going through the inter-agency process.

Development experts had mixed reactions to the version released this month.

Many praised its call for the State Department to embrace conflict prevention and response as a core mission. One sign of that intensified commitment would be the establishment of an undersecretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights, according to the summary.

Currently, the State Department has a coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization, but that office has been underfunded and often marginalized, according to officials and analysts. The department has struggled to run civilian nation-building and peace-promotion operations to complement military efforts in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

The idea of the new office would be to prevent conflicts and to expand diplomatic efforts beyond foreign ministries to tribal elders and other key figures.

"This is an historically important statement," Oxfam America said in a news release. It applauded the review's call for more training for diplomats on conflict prevention, as well as strengthening programs to develop foreign security forces and judicial institutions.

More than 25 percent of State Department officers and 38 percent at USAID serve in the 30 countries rated highest-risk for conflict and instability, the review notes.

Aid organizations also hailed the review's conclusion that USAID should be in charge of the president's two major international development programs - Feed the Future, which helps small farmers, and the Global Health Initiative, which includes the massive U.S. effort to combat HIV-AIDS.

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