Academic journal article Parameters

The Nine Principles of Reconstruction and Development

Academic journal article Parameters

The Nine Principles of Reconstruction and Development

Article excerpt

The US foreign assistance community is in the midst of the most fundamental shift in policy since the inception of the Marshall Plan at the end of World War II. The events of 11 September 2001 suddenly and unexpectedly forced the United States to confront a historic challenge equal in magnitude to the Soviet threat of the Cold War. The tragedy initiated a series of changes leading to the most extensive government reorganization since the Truman Administration created the National Security Council and the Department of Defense. No agency has undergone a greater degree of internal review and transformation than the US Agency for International Development (USAID). For better or worse, USAID is on the front lines of the dominating news stories of the day, whether engaging in reconstruction work in Afghanistan or providing tsunami relief in South Asia. This renewed prominence is not an accident. On the contrary, President George W. Bush's Administration has made development work a national security priority; the September 2002 National Security Strategy underscores development as one of three strategic areas of emphasis (along with diplomacy and defense), and clearly states that "including all of the world's poor in an expanding circle of development--and opportunity--is a moral imperative and one of the top priorities of US international policy." (1)

This new development climate has brought about internal recognition in the agency that it requires a more uniform and consistent set of guiding principles, and that these principles must accurately reflect how USAID approaches development from all levels--from day-to-day project operations to high-level policy decisions. Drawing on more than 40 years of institutional development experience and building on a series of recent policy strategies, including U.S. Foreign Aid: Meeting the Challenges of the Twenty-first Century and the Fragile States Strategy, (2) this article presents the Nine Principles of Reconstruction and Development, comprising ownership, capacity building, sustainability, selectivity, assessment, results, partnership, flexibility, and accountability.

The purpose of this article is to introduce and analyze the Nine Principles of Reconstruction and Development to the military community. In a time of increasing collaboration between the two organizations, it is important that the military gain a better understanding of how USAID and development agencies generally approach their work, and how the two communities can beneficially build on this cooperation. This article specifically incorporates project-level examples from Afghanistan to better illustrate and provide context for the Nine Principles. Afghanistan is not presented as an ideal development context in which to apply the principles, but it demonstrates how they may apply even in fragile, less-stable environments. Ultimately, the article contends that the Nine Principles are integral to reconstruction and development success. When a foreign assistance agency adheres to the Nine Principles, this greatly enhances the likelihood of success. Conversely, failure to take the Nine Principles into account when designing and managing a program increases the risk of program failure.

Just as a particularly skilled battlefield commander can violate one or two of the principles of war and still prevail, a development officer may violate one or two of the development principles and still succeed. But generally development agencies ignore these principles at great risk, particularly in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan, where major reconstruction efforts are under way.


There are a number of different ways to approach international development. USAID's White Paper on Foreign Aid enumerates five core development goals: promote transformational development, strengthen fragile states, provide humanitarian relief, support US geostrategic interests, and mitigate global and transnational problems. …

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