USAID’s Strategic Framework: Examples from Haiti, Bolivia and Peru
by Julia Bernier, Kristin Boehne, Shoshana Grossman-Crist and Elizabeth Schuelke
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the face of American foreign assistance around the globe. Since its founding fifty years ago, it has had the dual purpose of furthering America’s foreign policy interests and improving lives in the developing world. While USAID’s vision and ultimate purpose have remained constant, the political environment at home has heavily shaped and shifted the strategy of USAID throughout the decades. This paper analyzes the strategy of USAID in Latin America and focuses on its Investing in People work in particular. This strategic area includes education, health and social services and is thus most likely to face criticism and calls for budget cuts due to the difficulty of measuring a causal link between successes in this field and the overarching goal of American security and status. The paper provides a historical perspective to USAID’s work, assesses the environment within which the agency operates, undertakes an analysis of the international aid sector, USAID’s internal set up, and current strategic direction, and concludes with a critique of the agency’s strategy, making specific recommendations for improvement. USAID’s strategy is illustrated through examples from the Investing in People program in three countries: Haiti, Bolivia, and Peru. USAID has classified Haiti as a ‘disaster-stricken place,’ Bolivia as a ‘poorest country’ case, and Peru as a ‘well-governed country.’ These countries exemplify how USAID’s approach translates to different contexts throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The paper concludes that as USAID moves to address the issues outlined in its most recent strategic plan, it must be acutely aware of four tensions, namely, aid vs. security, immediate relief vs. long-term development, depth vs. breadth of assistance, and bureaucracy vs. agility. To effectively do so, USAID must return to its core values and its purpose of furthering America’s foreign policy interests.