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Moving Forward, Looking Backward: A Historical Perspective on USAID Policy and Constraints Open Access

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The United States Agency for International Development is the premier US government agency responsible for conducting development activities around the world. In 2010 President Barack Obama issued the first Presidential Policy Directive on Development; shortly thereafter, USAID announced a new set of policy reforms, titled USAID Forward. These reforms are aimed at modernizing USAID, and reflect progressive development discourses of accountability, partnership, and host-country ownership. The current study addresses the USAID Forward reforms in a historical context, comparing them to the successes and failures of previous policy initiatives. The study finds that while the USAID Forward reforms are well aligned with progressive development discourses, they do not address the key institutional constraints the Agency has faced in the past, and continues to face in conducting its business. The study concludes with recommendations for further actions the Agency can take to increase its autonomy and discretion.

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