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Diplomacy in Action

Sidebar on Blueprint Forward -- Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review

Bureau of Resource Management
November 15, 2011


"To lead in this new century,
we must often lead in new ways."

— Secretary of State,
Hillary Rodham Clinton

In 2010, the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). Titled “Leading through Civilian Power,” the QDDR is a four-year blueprint (or plan) for leveraging diplomacy and development as key pillars of America’s national security alongside defense. Leading through civilian power means directing and coordinating the resources of all America’s civilian agencies to prevent and resolve conflicts; assisting countries to lift themselves out of poverty and into prosperous, stable, and democratic states; and building global coalitions to respond to global issues. The goal of the QDDR process is to guide the United States to agile, responsive, and effective institutions of diplomacy and development. To this end, the QDDR calls for State and USAID to change the way we do business in four broad areas:

  • Adapt to the diplomatic landscape of the 21st Century;
  • Elevate and modernize development to deliver results;
  • Strengthen civilian capability to prevent and respond to crisis and conflict; and
  • Work smarter to deliver results for the American people.

Even before it was formally issued, the QDDR reforms started changing the way we do business. To adapt to the diplomatic landscape of the 21st Century, the Department’s embassies started looking and operating very differently than in the past. Many embassies have a large presence with representatives from many Federal agencies (e.g., the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services) who run, manage, and implement programs that advance many of the United States’ interest overseas. Increasingly our ambassadors are taking the role akin to a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to manage the multi-agency mission that falls under their leadership. These ambassadors lead hundreds of civilians from many other Federal agencies, including disaster relief and reconstruction experts helping to rebuild a country; specialists in such sectors as health, energy, communications, finance, agriculture, and justice; and military personnel working with foreign governments and militaries. Through efforts to improve mission-level strategic planning and budgeting processes, we are working to strengthen the ambassadors’ role as the leaders of their missions.

Through the leadership of both the Department of State and USAID, the Administration is using the Global Health, Feed the Future (FTF), and the Global Climate Change Initiatives to elevate and modernize development and to deliver results. For example, through Global Health, we have worked with USAID, among others, to build clinics and provide advisors that assist expectant mothers and their babies with improving their diets during the most critical stages of development. USAID also plays a unique role as the lead agency for the President’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, FTF, in coordinating the United States’ whole-of-government effort to develop and implement permanent solutions to global hunger and under nutrition with a diverse group of private and civil society partners. USAID also supports U.S. climate change policy by assisting developing countries in building lasting resilience to unavoidable climate impacts; in reducing emissions from deforestation and land degradation; and in supporting low-carbon development strategies and the transition to a sustainable, clean energy economy.

The Department is also changing the way we do business by strengthening civilian capability to prevent and respond to crisis and conflict. For instance, the Department is undergoing a process of consolidating its expertise into a Bureau for Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), strengthening the Office of Transition Initiatives at USAID, recognizing the role of women in conflict prevention and recovery, and strengthening State’s security and justice sector assistance capability as a key prevention and response tool. The QDDR also calls for changing the way we do business by working smarter to deliver results for the American people. This includes improving our approaches to procurement and personnel while being ever more vigilant that taxpayer dollars are spent as effectively and efficiently as possible. We are improving our strategic planning by strengthening joint State-USAID strategic planning at the agency, bureau, and mission level, including the creation of a multi-year Integrated Country Strategy led by the Chiefs of Mission.

QDDR implementation is an on-going process with many reforms underway; other recommendations highlighted by the QDDR will be implemented through the launch of the next Review.


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