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December 2010

State Department recognizes power of innovation and technology to transform lives in new development policy

December 16, 2010 -- The State Department has released the final report of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), a process undertaken by the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to recommend updated approaches to international diplomacy and development. Among its priorities, the QDDR aims to bolster the position of development as a core pillar of US foreign policy, as well as to strengthen USAID’s role as the United States’ lead international development agency. According to the final version, the QDDR will also invest in science, research and innovation, among other goals, to address international development issues. “At its core,” the QDDR is a “strategy of applying renewed American leadership in a changing world. That leadership begins at home by reviving our economy, creating jobs, raising incomes, providing quality education for our children, investing in science and innovation, and reducing the federal deficit.”

According to the QDDR, history “shows how science and engineering open the door to revolutions in devel¬opment—for example, the American agricultural scientists who drove the Green Revolu¬tion and the US medical researchers who pioneered immunization techniques. More recently, USAID funded the trial of a vaginal microbicide that reduces the transmission of HIV/AIDS by 39 percent—a major breakthrough in HIV transmission.” For these reasons, US policymakers “recognize the power of innovation and modern technology to transform lives around the world and our development policy.”

In order to capitalize on the power of innovation in international development, the State Department and USAID will promote new discoveries and scientific breakthroughs through several different mechanisms. The centerpiece of this effort will be a new USAID Development Laboratory (DevLab), an innovation center within USAID that will lead efforts to discover “game-changing innovations.” USAID is also establishing the Development Innovation Venture Fund with projected initial funding of $53 million over three years. The Fund will support experimental program design, development, and impact assessment.

The QDDR points out that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, and the President’s Science Advisor John Holdren have “set in motion an effort to collaborate with many of the world’s leading scientists and development thinkers, along with leaders of key federal science agencies, so that the world’s poor can benefit from advances in science and technology.” To continue this effort, USAID will provide “high risk, high reward” research funds to support US-based research and overseas missions in applying new appropriate technologies and scientific solutions for the developing world. In addition, USAID will launch a “Grand Challenges and Prizes for Development” program to encourage scientists to develop game-changing solutions to international development problems.

“As we move forward with our reforms, we will harness the power of innovation—applying new technologies, testing new approaches, and searching for creative solutions to entrenched problems,” Clinton said when announcing the QDDR. She added, “In short, we are changing the way we do business from top to bottom. But the story does not end here. The reforms included in the QDDR will only make a difference if we all work hard to put them into practice. Implementing the full vision of the QDDR—building capabilities, changing mindsets, and modernizing approaches—will take time, focused resources, and sustained leadership. I am determined that this report will not merely gather dust, like so many others, so this will be a priority at both State and USAID.”

After the release of the QDDR, Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram said, “These reforms would pay major dividends in terms of lives saved and improved around the world—and they would make sure that US taxpayer dollars are getting into the hands of people who need them. But they will only have lasting impact if the Administration and bipartisan members of Congress work together to develop and pass legislation that establishes them in law. We look forward to working with the Administration and members of Congress on this legislation, and we stand ready to make sure the reforms are implemented effectively and transparently.” See the links below for more details.

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