The Cable

Obama is “changing the way we do business” on development

President Obama will unveil his administration's new overarching strategy on global development Wednesday in a speech at the United Nations.

"Today, I am announcing our new U.S. Global Development Policy -- the first of its kind by an American administration," Obama will say, according to prepared remarks.  "It's rooted in America's enduring commitment to the dignity and potential of every human being. And it outlines our new approach and the new thinking that will guide our overall development efforts."

The president's speech will place global development in the context of his National Security Strategy released in May, which emphasizes the interconnected relationship of security, economics, trade, and health.

"My national security strategy recognizes development as not only a moral imperative, but a strategic and economic imperative," Obama will say. "We've reengaged with multilateral development institutions. And we're rebuilding the United States Agency for International Development as the world's premier development agency. In short, we're making sure that the United States will be a global leader in international development in the 21st century."

The White House was busy laying the groundwork in advance of the president's speech, touting the highlights of what it calls the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD). A fact sheet provided to reporters laid out the basic ideas of the U.S. strategy, which includes a focus on sustainable outcomes, placing a premium on economic growth, using technological advances to their maximum advantage, being more selective about where to focus efforts, and holding all projects accountable for results.

The White House will not release the full text of this initiative, which was previously known as the Presidential Study Directive on Global Development (PSD-7).

On some specific items of contention, the White House has decided that USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah will not have a permanent seat on the National Security Council, as many in the development community wanted. However, he will be invited to attend its meetings when issues affecting his work are being discussed.

An executive-level Development Policy Committee will be created to oversee all interagency development policy efforts, as was outlined in a leaked copy of a previous draft of the new policy. There will also be a mandated once-every-four-years review of global development strategy, which will be sent to the president.

Obama announced the new policy during the U.N.'s conference on the Millennium Development Goals. "The real significance here is the fact that the President chose to unveil this at the U.N. and in the context of the MDGs," said Peter Yeo, vice president for public policy at the U.N. Foundation. "[I]t shows how closely the administration wants to work with the U.N. and U.N. agencies in implementing them."

Development community leaders reacted to the new policy with cautious optimism and a hope that implementation would go as planned.

"President Obama has delivered a big victory for the world's poor, our national interests, and the movement to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective," said George Ingram, a former senior official at USAID and current co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.  "Now the tough task of implementation begins, and we are ready to work with the Administration to ensure that key reform principles are applied and codified in law, because that is the real way to make this policy one of the President's great legacies."

Deputy National Security Advisor for international economics Michael Froman, in a Friday conference call with reporters, defended the White House's decision not to release the entire PPD. "It's general policy that we can release a detailed summary of it, but as I understand it the policy is not to release the PPD themselves," he said.

Development community leaders were nonetheless disappointed.

"We understand that NSC documents like this aren't normally released in full, but there are pitfalls in this approach," said Greg Adams, director of aid effectiveness at Oxfam America.  "The Administration should make sure that enough gets out to not only provide the American people with a clear rationale for the new approach, but also make sure that our partners around the world understand how we plan to change the way we work with them."

On a Thursday conference call with development community leaders to preview the release, one senior administration official mentioned your humble Cable guy while requesting anonymity and asking the participants to hold the information close.

"I know that with this group it's a little unusual to do calls on background and embargoed... not that I think anybody on this line has ever talked to Josh Rogin," the official said.

The Cable

Obama heads to New York with packed agenda including development, ASEAN, and Sudan

President Obama travels to New York Wednesday afternoon to attend the U.N. General Assembly and participate in a host of side meetings with the world leaders convening in Manhattan for this week's festivities.

"This year's visit to the U.N. General Assembly comes as we have successfully and dramatically changed our course at the United Nations. We've ended needless American isolation," said U.S. Representative Susan Rice on a conference call with reporters Monday. "We've worked to repair what were some badly frayed relationships and scrapped outdated positions. And in the process, we've built a strong basis for cooperation that advances our security."

Obama's first order of business will be to deliver remarks at the Millennium Development Goals summit at the United Nations. Obama is expected to unveil several aspects of the White House's overall review of global development policy, called the Presidential Study Directive on Global Development (PSD-7). That long awaited document has been completed according to the administration but is not expected to be publicly released at all beyond Obama's remarks and a statement coming later Wednesday.

Obama's remarks "will focus on what the United States is doing in pursuit of achieving the Millennium Development Goals and focus on some of the key initiatives of our development policy writ large," said Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes on the conference call.

Obama will address the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday morning, talking about broader American foreign policy goals and the activities of his administration in its first 20 months. The president will concentrate "on issues that are of great concern to the American people, such as our efforts to restart the global economy, to combat al Qaeda, to advance the cause of nonproliferation, and to pursue Middle East peace," Rhodes said.

After his speech, Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao before attending a lunch hosted by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He will meet briefly on the side of that lunch with Ban and Joseph Deiss, the president of the General Assembly.

Later Thursday, Obama meets with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan. "The President is looking forward to visiting Japan, of course, in November, and thinks that this is one of our most important alliances in the world," Rhodes said. Asia observers are watching for news on the escalating China-Japan argument over a Chinese boat captain detained in Japanese waters.

Thursday afternoon, Obama will head over to the Clinton Global Initiative in midtown Manhattan to give introductory remarks for his wife Michelle, who will be delivering a speech there. Thursday evening, Obama hosts a reception at the Natural History Museum.

On Friday, Obama starts off with bilateral meetings with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and new Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who apparently took time out of his schedule to attend a Shakira concert. A meeting with the interim Kyrgyz president, Roza Otunbayeva, is scheduled for late Friday

Friday lunch will be the setting for Obama's meeting with leaders from all ten ASEAN member countries, where the South China Sea dispute with China and upcoming Burmese elections are expected to be discussed.

After that, Obama attends a high-level meeting on Sudan hosted by Ban, and participants include the chairman of the African Union, Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, and the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir.

"The President decided to participate in this event, which was actually at one point originally intended as a ministerial, because this could not be a more critical time in the life of Sudan and also in the life of international efforts to ensure that these referenda go off on time and peacefully," Samantha Power, the NSC's senior director for multilateral engagement, told reporters.

The months before the planned referendum in January on dividing Sudan into two countries are critical, said Power, who also noted that Obama would be pushing both sides to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and work faster toward preparing for the voting.

"The No. 1 message is with regard to the CPA and the need for rapid implementation. The parties are behind schedule. You're aware of that. Everybody is aware of that," she said, adding that Obama will also speak about the dire humanitarian situation in Darfur.

Rice said Obama will reinforce both incentives and penalties for both sides in order to encourage them to act in good faith.

"We want to make the upside opportunity clear and well understood. At the same time, we've also been clear that if they fail to follow through, that there will be -- as we have always said in the context of our policy -- consequences," she said. "Those might take the form of unilateral and/or multilateral, and we've got a number that are potentially at our disposal."