USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives Celebrates 20th Anniversary


Office of Transition Initiatives is often referred to the first line of development in OTI is an incubator”.~USAID’s New Deputy Administrator,  General Lenhardt

Washington, DC- On October 20th, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Transition Initiatives celebrated its 20th anniversary.  The Center for Strategic & International Studies hosted the forum, where USAID’s new Deputy Administrator, Alfonso E. Lenhardt, remarked on the challenges for development.  As a decorated U.S. General, Lenhardt will bring his military experience to USAID… especially since he remarked on the “multipolar” nature of power.  “OTI is an incubator,” remarked Lenhardt, heavily borrowing business terminology to update development mission.   At the end of it all, though, there must be a policy change where priority must be given to human life with the increasing problem of refugees and internally displaced populations.

Since World War II, CSIS has documented 125 conflicts–the majority of them being intra-state.    ‘s 2010 study shows that conflict erupts every 2 weeks around the world.  Of those 125 conflicts, only 20 percent received U.S. intervention.

Security and development are like the kissing cousins of U.S. reconstruction and relief efforts.  Regarding the Middle East & North Africa region, “ provided ambulances in & helped & draft their constitutions,” claimed Lenhardt.  Other examples going as far back to the Pakistan Earthquakes also came up as success stories for the U.S.

For the security side of the discussion, there was a heavy focus on ISIS on the MENA extremism panel.  As Mona Yacoubian stated, “Arab uprisings represent end of an old order, and we don’t know yet what will fill void. That’s why there is chaos.” Violent extremism will continue for decades as the challenge is dynamic, complex and multi-faceted.  In 21st century, power has become more diffuse.

At the same time, violent Extremism NEEDS to be demystified as it is a symptom of a larger problem. “They often have a short-shelf life,” observed D. Hunsicker of USAID.  Nonetheless, as Hunsicker continued, “development transformations in society is a long-term game that plays out in decades.  ‘Streams of info on devices don’t get to root causes of extremism.”

Not too far away, it can take a young woman in some parts of 3 days to 1 week to get to a hospital. -Fawzi Koofi remarked in “Girls At the Center” discussion for the Millennium Development Goals.

Lessons Learned for Development Mission Moving Forward

  • Must accept some failure; OTI has improved its contracting to satisfy local conditions.
  • Conflict between operational (dialogue, preventative diplomacy, and sanctions–the short-term) and structural programs (education and institutional reforms).
  • “Must resist neo-trusteeships” as solution because it’s antithetical to developing local leadership and democracy building.”-David Yang, USAID
  • Even after “liberation” of a country, the transition can actually appear more deadly.  Case in point: Libya, as one panelist stated that he “could hear “huge sucking sound” as international organizations moved from Benghazi to Tripoli after liberated.”
  • “Not worth counting wrong things just because you can count them” when it comes to measuring results. -Yang
  • still hasn’t figured out civilian-military nexus”-Johanna Forman, CSIS [Note: The response “Use grants under contract”, which strategically injects $ in smaller projects wrt Q to translate success.]
  • Need to think about the role of message and messengers.
  • Rule of Law programs need to be structured around social interventions against violent movements.
  • There must be a willingness of parties to devolve power.
  • Must work past binary relationship to deal with transnational threats.
  • Female quotas also produce ceilings.-Baker on downside of political solutions encouraging in
  • After Mona Yacoubia described how ISIS controls one-third of Syria and one-third of Iraq, which is the size of Jordan, she pointed out how ISIS has been providing social services funded by seized oil operations and its related revenues.  We suddenly worried about the Hezbollah model of social services.


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