THE BLOG
06/22/2011 09:03 am ET Updated Aug 22, 2011

A Big Day for International Development Companies and the Development Debate

Today I am joining more than 50 of the nation's most effective and innovative international development companies in announcing the formation of the Coalition of International Development Companies (CIDC), a major new voice in the international development community. CIDC was created to inform and educate policymakers and the public about the critical role we play in delivering accountable and transparent development projects that support US national security, economic, and humanitarian goals. There is a wealth of experience and knowledge on development among IDCs -- who have been key implementing partners with USAID for decades -- and now that experience will be available to better shape policy debates.

Our member companies support American efforts abroad by bringing highly-skilled, entrepreneurial assistance to developing countries to create sustainable solutions and local capacity. The new coalition was formed to highlight those skills and contributions, and to become a more active voice in the development dialogue because we collectively bring decades of experience, expertise and lessons learned to share with policymakers. The ongoing discussion about how best to optimize the delivery of foreign assistance -- how to make it more results-driven and business-like -- is an important one.

Because of this vast experience and expertise in delivering efficient, transformative, and sustainable results in social, economic, health, and governance programs, we believe we can serve as a valuable resource to key decision makers and the media in the on-going debate about how to optimize US foreign assistance to make it more results-driven and business-like.

We recognize that there's still too much that important audiences don't know about the work we do and how we do it. It's up to us to improve our communication. We care about what USAID and American taxpayers care about: innovation, effectiveness, building on what has been shown to work and being able to say clearly what we've achieved, building capacity and lasting legacies, coordinating closely and in partnership to reap the most from every dollar, and promoting equity in everything we do. We always go into a project with a clear exit strategy aimed at putting local talent into the driver's seat as quickly as possible, freeing up scarce development dollars for the next challenge.

CIDC, like Congress and the Administration, aims to maximize US tax dollars so that communities abroad get the best and most cost effective American assistance. That's why we believe that the debate over who should implement our foreign aid programs -- nonprofits or development companies -- misses the point. The issue is not who performs development work in a foreign country. It's how well the work is done and whether it lasts for future generations.

CIDC's participation in the debate about US foreign assistance will help policymakers and other influencers make better decisions, both for American taxpayers and the foreign communities that benefit from American aid. Decisions about America's international development strategy should be based on facts, not anecdotes, assumptions or myths.

We are dedicated to the mission of assisting people overseas and, while doing so, promoting American values. From helping grape-growers in Afghanistan to training the news media in Egypt; from instructing education ministry workers in Iraq to developing licit agriculture in Colombia; from building better health service delivery to creating capacity for data-based policy decision-making; our work helps transform societies in permanent ways, helping those who need it most and supporting US policies overseas.

This won't be a glitzy, big-budget campaign. It is simply a matter of sharing facts about our work and helping the US government achieve its objectives around the world. We believe people will benefit from an evidence-based conversation about the dedication, expertise, cost-effectiveness, and measurable impact of our companies.

We'll be talking, for example, about how for every US employee on a given project, American development companies hire on average nine local staff, many of whom go on to become community, business, and government leaders themselves. About how analyses of the relative costs of international development grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts find no appreciable cost difference. About how USAID for decades has not permitted most development company staff who are billable on contracts to receive higher salaries than US government employees. About USAID impact on development, achieved through results-oriented contracts, carried out by people with dedication, knowledge, and innovation.

In other words, we'll be talking about what we stand for and the impact we have. We stand for maximizing competition in the execution of work performed using ever-more-scarce US tax dollars. We stand for building competitive free markets and robust, multi-stakeholder civil societies, for exporting American values, and for improving peoples' lives.

I invite you to visit our website, www.AmericanIngenuityAbroad.org. I invite you to read stories about our impact around the world, in which we're supporting US goals by achieving accountable, transparent, and sustainable results, in food security, clean water, health care, the environment, infrastructure, economic growth, education, governance. CIDC looks forward with great anticipation to engaging actively and productively in the development dialogue -- believing that dialogue is best served by having all relevant experience at the table.