Creating Public-Private-Military Partnerships to Fill Administrative and Financial Gaps in U.S. Infrastructure Reconstruction Projects in Afghanistan

By Jackson Celestin 

On March 11, 2016, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko released a report reviewing 45 Department of Defense (DOD) reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. Of the 45 projects, 28 did not meet structural contract requirements or technical specifications, 16 were structurally deficient to the point that they were considered unsafe for use, and 7 of the 15 completed projects had never been used. According to Sopko, the projects suffered from inadequate contractors, project management and oversight; and faulty building materials. To limit deficient projects, Sopko suggested the DOD improve its project planning and design procedures, hire contractors who are qualified and capable of complying with construction requirements, and conduct adequate oversight to guarantee that projects are built to protocol and contractors are held accountable

 Though Sopko’s recommendations are reasonable solutions, they ignore larger trends visible in the U.S.’ reconstruction budget in Afghanistan. Of the $114.92 billion the U.S. has spent since 2002 through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Fund, the DOD has dedicated $10.68 billion (9 percent) to Operations and Oversight and only $990 million (less than 1 percent) to the main infrastructure fund, the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund (AIF).

Between Sopko’s report and the allocation of U.S. reconstruction funds in Afghanistan, there appears to be an expertise, administration, and funding gap that is preventing the United States from establishing sustainable infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. In the field of international development, this is a common challenge, and more agencies are turning to public-private partnerships (PPPs) to address it. Inspired by PPPs in international development, this blog presents a new model that partners the public and private sectors with the military. This article will refer to this model as Public-Private-Military Partnerships (PPMPs). Though they may face challenges in attracting private investors, working with low starting budgets, and addressing anti-Western and anti-military perceptions, PPMPs can combine the groups’ comparative advantages to fill the knowledge and funding gap in the United States’ Afghanistan reconstruction projects. They can also further connect the military to global development for better military assistance in conflict areas and help conflict and post-conflict areas to pursue global development and sustainability goals.

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This graph is an original creation of the author, Jackson Celestin, based on data from the July 30, 2016 SIGAR Quarterly Report to Congress.

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Buy Social: A New Way for International Organizations to Create Social Impact

By Waka Itagaki

Introduction

International organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank have significant purchasing power. In 2014, the UN purchased $17.2 billion in their procurement process. Despite this purchasing power, international organizations have arguably not made the most of it to generate social impact across the world. “Buy Social,” a procurement process that seeks not only economic value but also social and/or environmental impact, has the potential to be transformative. This article highlights the benefits and challenges of Buy Social compared to “Socially Responsible Procurement,” and recommends that international organizations implement Buy Social.

Background

There is no widely agreed term to describe this kind of socially conscious procurement. This article uses “Buy Social” but other names include “Social Procurement,” “Socially Impactful Procurement,” “Social Impact Purchasing,” “Social Purchasing,” and “Socially Impactful Purchasing.” It is important to note that Buy Social is different from Socially Responsible Procurement, which is already implemented by international organizations.

Socially Responsible Procurement applies negative or positive screens to bidders by using a “do no harm” approach. For example, the UN buys from companies that meet labor standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Socially responsible procurement typically only considers if a bidder is a business with social consideration, and does not measure the outcomes.

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Reducing Transaction Costs in Development Impact Bonds

By Waka Itagaki

Development Impact Bonds (DIBs) are a results-based financing mechanism that leverages private capital for international development. Since the first DIBs were created in 2014, one of the mechanism’s key challenges has been high transaction costs: Each DIB project is unique, and this customization increases legal fees and requires financial intermediary and technical services. This article highlights two ways to reduce these costs: sharing data and knowledge about DIBs among stakeholders, and limiting the focus of DIBs. The reduction of transaction costs will promote greater use of DIBs for international development.

Introduction and Background

DIBs catalyze private investment that generates social impact as well as financial return, so called “impact investment,” by engaging private investors, service providers, host-country governments, donors, and intermediaries. Once all stakeholders agree on a common goal and an evaluation method, private investors provide upfront funding for a development project and work with service providers. If and only if the pre-agreed development outcomes are achieved, host-country governments or donors repay the investors. An intermediary organization coordinates among the stakeholders and contributes to the creation of a deal that meets all stakeholders’ interests.

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Reimagining Refugee Integration: Economic Burden or Boon?

By Ryan Lasnick

The changing dynamic of refugee situations across the globe necessitates new and creative solutions that reconcile the economic interests of host nations with the considerable needs of all refugees. Two-thirds of the world’s refugees have lived in exile for more than five years, often in overcrowded slums without freedom of movement and no possibility of work. These refugees are kept in a holding pattern, forced to wait for peace so that they can return to their homes. Refugees need financial stability to survive in their host countries, which only integration into the economy can provide.

One path toward integrating refugees as well as fostering economic growth within a country is the creation of special economic zones (SEZs). By understanding refugees not only as a humanitarian challenge but also a development opportunity, countries can create economic opportunities that are mutually beneficial. This post considers the case of the King Hussein Bin Talal Development Area (KHBTDA) in Jordan to analyze the potential impact of opening up labor markets for refugees.

While the creation of SEZs that are specifically open to refugees is a relatively new idea, SEZs in general are not. In fact, over the past decade Jordan has invested in the creation of several SEZs in order to attract foreign investment, increase employment, advance high-value economies, and facilitate the transfer of technology and skills. These zones are set up strategically throughout the country, but remain widely underutilized. The zones have the potential to be successful, already having robust physical infrastructure in place, but they lack the human and private capital needed to create sustainable economic opportunities for Jordan. In this case Jordan’s large educated working class hinders its economic development because most Jordanians are reluctant to take low-wage, labor-intensive manufacturing jobs that are common in SEZs.

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Global Development Forum: Financing for Development Preview

In July 2015, heads of state, finance ministers, foreign ministers, and ministers for development cooperation will gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the third United Nations International Conference on Financing for Development. The Addis Conference seeks to identify funds to support the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This conference will be fundamentally different from earlier FfD conferences held in Monterrey in 2002 and Doha in 2008. In 1980 low and middle income countries received $32 billion of ODA and $7.6 billion of FDI, but by 2013 those countries received $133 billion of ODA and $735 billion of FDI.  As global incomes rise, emerging donors have taken on a much greater role in development. Developing countries’ themselves have gained a greater ability to finance their own development as private sector economic activity in the developing world continues to grow. Below we have outlined some of the ways development finance has changed to respond to a new set of challenges and development realities.

The UN will host the third Financing for Development Conference in July

The UN will host the third Financing for Development Conference this July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

A New Role for Traditional Donors

While ODA and traditional development financing remain important catalysts for development, donors that were once the main sources of financing for developing countries increasingly find themselves playing a complementary rather than unilateral role. Private financial flows have increased rapidly and ODA and public funding for donor organizations have increased at a more limited rate. As a result, traditional donors are finding new ways to leverage their funds to create maximum impact, often through encouraging private sector growth. Continue reading