The Foreign Service Journal, April 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2023 39 AFSA NEWS USAID VP VOICE | BY JASON SINGER AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202) 712-5267 OECD Peer Review: PEERing into the Future In November 2022, the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Develop- ment (OECD) published its latest Peer Review of the United States. For those unfamiliar with this exercise, every five to six years the DAC conducts peer reviews of individual members, seek- ing to improve development cooperation, highlighting good practices, and recom- mending improvements. Many FSJ readers, including myself, have par- ticipated in these exercises in Washington, D.C., or at a mission overseas. Per the DAC: “Peer reviews hold DAC members accountable for the commitments they have made, monitor implementa- tion of recommendations from previous reviews, track adherence to OECD and DAC Recommendations and instruments, and recom- mend actions to improve performance.” This is all familiar language to develop- ment practitioners. The review has a wealth of data, including some nifty infographics, and I encour- age you to read the entire report and explore the broader DAC site. For this column, I want to highlight a couple of pertinent findings from the 2022 report, includ- ing the progress made since the 2016 review. As part of its “Findings and Recommendations,” the review highlights this: “Matching human resources to agency needs is a work in progress.” The authors explain: “USAID does not have a global strategic workforce plan as recommended in the 2016 peer review, and an interim plan is in effect only until the end of FY 2022. While USAID did not provide a timeline for replacing the interim plan, its new Global Development Partnership Initiative is a hiring effort to rebalance the proportion of Foreign Service officers, civil servants, and contractors in its workforce.” It is now 2023, two years into the administration, and the DAC and I remain unclear on the agency’s stra- tegic workforce plan. That said, I have had the great privilege of welcoming fan- tastic new FSO candidates and applaud the agency’s continued hiring. These newest colleagues must be mentored, both in Washington, D.C., and in the field. And bureaus, offices, and missions must receive the additional financial, human, and bureaucratic resources necessary to sus- tain a larger Foreign Service; doing “more with less” is not a strategy. One interesting part of the 2022 review is the United States’ own Self- Assessment, in which it dis- cusses a range of items such as “Recent Changes in the Context of the United States’ Development Cooperation,” “Challenges and Opportuni- ties,” and a chart looking at “Implementation of 2016 DAC Peer Review Recom- mendations.” On this last piece, one of the 2016 recommenda- tions was that USAID should review the extent of insti- tutionalization of recent reform efforts and prioritize remaining reforms, including fully resourcing implementa- tion of the human resources transformation plan to improve staff recruitment and progression. (A reminder: Prior to the previous administration’s “transformation” of multiple USAID bureaus and offices, USAID had a robust HR Transformation Strategy and Action Plan 2016-2021 filled with milestones, timelines, resource estimates, and a focus on institutional nuts and bolts like strategic workforce planning, develop- ment of career paths, gap analysis, retention planning, and diversity and inclusion, among other items.) The U.S. self-assessment on meeting this recommen- dation: “Partially.” Surely USAID can do better—and yet we are once again undergoing another series of smaller reorgani- zations absent a strategic workforce plan or HR reform agenda. Finally, the peer review notes that the Biden-Harris administration is in the process of developing a national policy on Develop- ment (capital “D”), building on former President Barack Obama’s “2010 Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD-6).” This policy development process would be an excel- lent opportunity to address some of the peer review findings, push for a bold increase in USAID hiring, and secure White House support for long-overdue USAID reforms aligned with the president’s directive to “protect, empower, and rebuild the career Federal workforce.” I hope that USAID engages with these goals in mind so that the next DAC Peer Review is an entirely (not “partially”) bold and inspiring read. n We are once again undergoing another series of smaller reorganizations absent a strategic workforce plan.