The role of innovation in foreign assistance reform

US policymakers are on the verge of reforming how the nation manages foreign assistance, international development, and global health aid, each including exciting new roles for innovation and research. Four major US global health and development efforts are currently underway:

  • President Obama's new Global Health Initiative (GHI), which is slated to devote $63 billion to improve health worldwide over six years.
  • A review ordered by President Obama to broadly examine US global development policy, called the Presidential Study Directive-7 (PSD-7).
  • The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), a process to evaluate the implementation of foreign assistance by the US Government.
  • A rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, led by Representative Howard Berman, chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has also introduced legislation supporting foreign assistance reform.

Recommendations for US policymakers

US leaders should seize upon the momentum surrounding innovation for international development to prioritize research and product innovation as a key component of US foreign assistance and global health strategies. Policymakers should:

  • Ensure that research and development be included as a critical component of the the GHI, PSD-7, QDDR, and the Congressional rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act.
  • Increase funding for the development of new global health tools and bolster documentation of US investments in research. In 2006 USAID outlined its five-year health research strategy and has released subsequent annual progress reports. 2010 is the final year of the strategy and the annual documentation that accompanied it. Policymakers should request that USAID develop a new six-year research strategy and that the agency continue to produce an annual report documenting its progress in implementing this strategy.
  • Support experts at US health agencies in efforts to share expertise with public-health and regulatory authorities in endemic nations, as well as to collaborate with global health officials to accelerate approval of and access to life-saving products.
  • Encourage more private-sector research on diseases afflicting the developing world by providing a portfolio of incentives and innovative financing mechanisms.

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