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The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development Summary Science and technology (S&T) capabilities are fundamental for social and economic progress in developing countries; for example, in the health sector, scientific research led to the development and introduction of oral rehydration therapy, which became the cornerstone of international efforts to control diarrheal diseases. Research also established that two cents worth of vitamin A given to children every six months could reduce child mortality in many countries by over one-third. In agriculture, rice-wheat rotation techniques have significantly enhanced food production in South Asia. In Central America, scientifically based natural resource management has been essential in developing the tourist industry, a major source of foreign currency. International programs based on S&T are critical components of U.S. foreign policy, and particularly foreign assistance activities. Foreign assistance, probably more than any other international endeavor, provides opportunities for representatives of the U.S. government and its partners to join with political and economic leaders, intellectuals, and activists of dozens of countries in continuing, constructive dialogues and in concrete projects designed to enhance the quality of life of hundreds of millions of people. S&T are often the keystones for successful projects. The shared political and economic dividends from these activities can be enormous. Maintaining and strengthening the contributions of the science, engineering, and medical capabilities of the United States to foreign assistance programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are the themes of this report. USAID has unique and broad legislative authority to support innovative programs in developing countries, unrivaled field experience in
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The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development adapting technological advances to conditions and capabilities of poor countries, and many successes in integrating S&T into development activities. Therefore, as S&T capabilities become even more important for all countries in addressing traditional development issues and in coping with increased international flows of goods and services and the rapid spread of diseases and contaminants, the agency should play a central role in promoting the S&T-related programs of the U.S. government throughout the developing world. Unfortunately, many developing countries, particularly the poor countries of Africa, do not have the human resources, physical and economic infrastructures, and access to capital to take full advantage of the S&T expertise and achievements of the United States and other industrialized countries. Nevertheless, countries at all levels of development have a strong desire for more robust S&T capabilities. And some capability to understand the potential and limitations of S&T, to select and effectively utilize suitable foreign technologies, and to develop local innovations is needed in every country. The observations and recommendations set forth below on the opportunities for USAID to continue to play an important role in bringing to bear the S&T resources of the United States on foreign assistance programs are based on extensive consultations by the committee of the National Research Council (NRC) responsible for this report. The members and staff met with many government officials, foreign assistance practitioners, and S&T specialists in the United States and abroad. The committee sent small teams to six developing countries where USAID has significant programs. These countries and areas of special interest during the field visits were: India: health; Philippines: energy; Bangladesh: agriculture and food security; Guatemala and El Salvador: biodiversity; and Mali: poverty in a resource-deficient country. To help ensure that the conclusions of this report have broad significance, the committee addressed five development challenges that affect hundreds of millions of people each year. These challenges are: Child survival; Safe water; Agricultural research; Microeconomic reform; and Prevention of and response to natural disasters. International approaches to providing assistance to developing countries are changing; for example, global programs with important S&T dimensions that
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The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development target health, food production, environmental, and other problems omnipresent in the developing countries are growing in number and size while bilateral assistance is also increasing. A particularly important challenge for USAID is to find its role amidst the expanding network of dozens of foreign assistance providers, and particularly those providers of S&T-related assistance that draws on the limited capabilities of recipient countries to manage technology-oriented programs. Beyond foreign assistance funds provided by governments, other financial flows to developing countries with S&T implications are growing. They include foreign direct investment by the private sector, remittances to friends and relatives in developing countries sent home by émigrés who are resident in the industrialized countries, contributions to development projects by private foundations, and initiatives designed to benefit local populations supported by multinational companies. At the same time, some donors and international banks are canceling debt repayment obligations of a few poor countries, thereby enhancing the ability of these countries to invest more in education, agriculture, and other activities essential to long-term development. Private flows often support technical education and vocational training. Private foundations sometimes support long-term research programs in search of breakthroughs, and Table S-1 presents an important example in this regard. Of special significance are public-private partnerships in mobilizing financial and technological resources for use in poor countries. For example, results achieved by the Global Development Alliance, which links USAID and many private company capabilities, have demonstrated the positive affects of well-designed technology-oriented partnerships. Meanwhile, within the U.S. government the responsibilities for programs in developing countries are rapidly diffusing, with USAID now financing only about 50 percent of the government’s international development programs. The independent Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which was established by the U.S. government in 2002, has a multibillion-dollar development program directed to 23 countries although it has been slow in launching its initial projects. The Department of State has relatively new responsibilities for programs directed to combating HIV/AIDS, also with an annual budget in the billions of dollars. Its HIV/AIDS program is moving forward very quickly while a number of other U.S. departments and agencies, international organizations, and private foundations finance directly related activities (see Figure S-1). A new office in the Department of State is responsible for planning and coordinating reconstruction activities following hostilities in countries around the globe. In addition to USAID, the Department of Defense continues to be a major contributor to reconstruction efforts in war-torn countries and plays an important role in responding to humanitarian disasters. Many other departments and agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy, have expanded the international dimensions of their mission-
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The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development TABLE S-1 The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges to Global Health Long-Term Goal to Improve Health in the Developing World Associated Grand Challenges Improve childhood vaccines Create effective single-dose vaccines Prepare vaccines that do not require refrigeration Develop needle-free vaccine delivery systems Create new vaccines Devise testing systems for new vaccines Design antigens for protective immunity Learn about immunological response Control insects that transmit agents of disease Develop genetic strategy to control insects Develop chemical strategy to control insects Improve nutrition to promote health Create a nutrient-rich staple plant series Improve drug treatment of infectious diseases Find drugs and delivery systems to limit drug resistance Cure latent and chronic infection Create therapies that can cure latent infection Create immunological methods to cure latent infection Measure health status accurately and economically in developing countries Develop technologies to assess population health Develop versatile diagnostic tools SOURCE: Gates Foundation, August 2005. oriented activities that potentially overlap with traditional development activities; and a large fraction of these programs have substantial S&T components. Within this myriad of expanding activities, USAID supports hundreds of foreign assistance projects. But its role in carrying out its program is increasingly determined by dozens of congressional earmarks and White House initiatives, including many with S&T components. Some earmarks sustain important programs, but too often, earmarks do not have high development dividends when they focus on narrow special interests.
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The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development FIGURE S-1 Organizations involved in combating HIV/AIDS in developing countries. In recent years, the agency has lost much of its direct-hire staff with technical expertise while other government departments and agencies with much stronger expertise in specific areas of interest to these organizations are expanding their activities in developing countries. This decline of technical expertise is the single most important reason why USAID has lost much of its S&T capability and reputation, which is critical in providing leadership in applying S&T to overcome development problems. Strong USAID internal capabilities are essential to guide the effective use of S&T resources in agency programs and to work collaboratively on problems of common interest with other organizations that have well-established technical capabilities. Since S&T are integral components of many foreign assistance activities, consideration of USAID’s efforts to draw on the nation’s S&T capabilities must begin with consideration of USAID’s broader role in foreign assistance. USAID will, of course, continue to follow the decisions of the Administration and Congress to support program activities in many fields within USAID’s established program framework of governance and humanitarian assistance, reconstruction in war-torn areas, global health, and broadly defined economic growth; however, the agency should to the extent possible select a few areas of emphasis within this framework where it can concentrate resources and be an international leader in addition to its well-established leadership role in promoting democratic governance. Criteria for selecting such areas should include (1) high levels of develop-
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The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development ing country interest, (2) opportunities to have significant impacts on development, (3) relevance of USAID’s unique field experience, and (4) limited interest of other U.S. departments and agencies in providing substantial financial support for activities in the areas. Programs in some or all of these areas will undoubtedly require substantial S&T inputs. One area for possible emphasis is health delivery systems, an area that the committee strongly supports. Other examples that the committee believes should be considered are small innovative firms, agriculture extension, and information technology. The program emphasis within each area should be on institution building, including establishment of research, education, training, and service capabilities. In order to continue to support its current portfolio of programs as well as new activities, USAID needs stronger in-house technical staff capabilities. Given rigid congressional limitations on personnel levels, the agency will have no choice in the near term but to continue to rely heavily on a combination of direct-hire employees, assignees from other U.S. agencies, and contractor personnel to manage programs implemented by USAID’s partners. Nevertheless, as recommended in this report, the agency should recruit an adequate number of technically trained direct-hire employees to lead the design and evaluation of institution building and innovation activities, particularly in the areas of emphasis that are selected. Against this background, the committee offers three overarching recommendations for consideration by USAID, the Department of State, the Office of Management and Budget, Congress, and other interested organizations. Suggestions of specific steps for implementing the recommendations are also set forth. The recommendations, if implemented, would strengthen USAID’s capabilities to play a more effective role in supporting technical innovation as a key to successful international development. Most of the suggestions are general and cut across development sectors. As noted above, while carrying out the agency’s many programs mandated by Congress and the White House, USAID should also begin to focus on several areas of emphasis and concentrate available resources in these areas within the framework of the recommendations that are set forth below. Recommendation 1: USAID should reverse the decline in its support for building S&T capacity within important development sectors in developing countries. Clearly, development of human resources and building relevant institutions must be at the top of the priority list if nations are to have the ability to develop, adapt, and introduce technological innovations in sectors of importance to their governments, the private sector, and their populations. To this end, USAID should: Increase the number of USAID-sponsored participants in highly focused graduate training programs to develop future leaders in various S&T disciplines;
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The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development Increase financial support for applied research and outreach, including extension, at local institutions that can support host country priority programs of interest to USAID; Provide increased financial support for development of local capacity to deliver public health services, including support for the establishment of strong schools of public health in developing countries; Assist important institutions in developing countries in using broadband access to Internet and other modern technologies to strengthen their information acquisition and processing capabilities in support of S&T specialists; and Sponsor expert assessments of the S&T infrastructures in countries where USAID has major programs when there are interested customers for such assessments. Recommendation 2: USAID should strengthen the capabilities of its leadership and program managers in Washington and in the field to recognize and take advantage of opportunities for effectively integrating S&T considerations within USAID programs. The following steps by USAID would help achieve this objective. Development of an S&T culture within USAID, with the agency leadership continually articulating in policy papers, internal discussions, and interactions with host governments the importance of (1) strengthening local S&T capabilities, (2) integrating these capabilities within a broad range of development activities, and (3) incorporating S&T in USAID programs; Strengthening of USAID staff capabilities in S&T through (1) recruitment of senior officials with strong S&T credentials and good project management track records, (2) an increased number of entry-level positions devoted to young professionals with S&T expertise, and (3) career incentives for technically trained employees to remain at USAID, and particularly, promotion opportunities based on an individual’s success in applying technical skills to USAID programs; and Appointment of a full-time S&T adviser to the administrator, with adequate staff, to alert the USAID leadership and program managers on a continuing basis to overlooked and new opportunities for programs with significant S&T content. Figure S-2 suggests how the adviser might be positioned within the agency. Establishment of an independent S&T advisory mechanism to address technical issues of interest to the USAID leadership and to promote peer review throughout the agency (see Figure S-2); Establishment of a nongovernmental Innovation Center to concentrate on application of innovative technologies to specific development problems identified by USAID missions, USAID Washington, and the Center’s staff (see Figure S-2);
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The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development FIGURE S-2 Strengthening the organizational structure for S&T in USAID. Strengthening the economic analysis capability of USAID to help ensure that the many dimensions of technological change occurring in almost every developing country are adequately considered when designing and implementing agency projects; and Revitalizing the program evaluation capability of USAID using rigorous methodologies to gauge program effectiveness.
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The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development Recommendation 3. USAID should encourage other U.S. government departments and agencies with S&T-related activities in developing countries to orient their programs to the extent possible to supporting the development priorities of the host countries, and USAID should provide leadership in improving interagency coordination of activities relevant to development. USAID’s long history of working in developing countries provides the agency with unique field perspectives, but it is not as strong as other departments and agencies in many technological areas. Its capabilities should be effectively integrated with the well-developed S&T capabilities of other U.S. government organizations. To that end, USAID should: Assume leadership, in cooperation with the Department of State and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in the establishment in Washington of an effective interagency committee to coordinate the overlapping S&T interests of U.S. departments and agencies in developing countries; Emphasize within the joint State-USAID planning process and in the field the payoff from broad interagency coordination of S&T-related activities; Clarify the division of responsibilities for supporting research relevant to international development supported by USAID and other U.S. government departments and agencies. Table S-2 presents a suggested role for USAID in the health sector; Work with other government organizations that are involved in preventing and responding to natural disasters with an expanded emphasis on the capacity of developing countries to improve early warning systems, upgrade the resilience of physical structures to impacts, increase availability of emergency social support resources, and develop hazard mitigation and emergency response strategies that can be integrated with long-term development programs; Work closely with the Departments of State and Defense and other national and international organizations involved in reconstruction of war-torn areas, taking advantage of the technical capabilities of these partners while sharing USAID’s field experience in charting the course for recovery; Develop USAID programs that complement the programs of the Department of State for combating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, capitalizing on USAID’s unique field experience to build local capacity for delivering health services; and Encourage the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to take advantage of USAID’s many years of experience in promoting international development in the countries where the MCC has initiated programs. USAID has recorded many achievements in using S&T to overcome obstacles to development; for example, support of effective policies for integrating energy networks has brought electrical power to thousands of remote villages in South Africa. In Namibia a USAID partnership with Microsoft and Compaq has
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The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development TABLE S-4 Improving Health Outcomes: Role of USAID in the New Global Landscape for Research on Special Problems of Developing Countries
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The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development developed effective e-government services and has dramatically enhanced civil participation in parliamentary affairs. Now, the challenge is for the entire agency to recognize more fully the opportunities to integrate one of America’s strongest assets—S&T—into foreign assistance and to transform this recognition into action programs in the field. The U.S. government faces many new issues in developing countries, from countering terrorism, implementing policies of the World Trade Organization, and addressing global environmental threats, to improving America’s image. U.S. S&T capabilities can help equip USAID to address such issues while also building bridges of mutual understanding that will far transcend traditional concepts of the payoffs to the United States from investments in foreign assistance. Realization of this vision will not be easy. In the competition for access to limited foreign assistance funds, important constituencies of USAID that embrace basic human needs as the overriding priority have never accepted the approach of technology transfer, stimulation of economic growth, and diffusion of benefits to the general population from innovative nodes in the economy and in society. Nevertheless, with the upsurge in the foreign assistance budget and the globalization of problems, institutions, and solutions, there should be an opportunity for the private voluntary organizations to have funding for their grassroots programs and for USAID to simultaneously undertake serious S&T investments for long-term economic growth. The entire foreign assistance establishment must be persuaded that S&T are crucial enablers of development and not simply endpoints. Just as governance has become a significant rationale for much of America’s global presence, so S&T must be recognized as an essential platform for transforming aspirations for better lives into durable and practical reality. Only then will the sustainability of a strong S&T component within USAID be assured.
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