Criteria for Engagement

Obama, Kerry, SOTU
UNITED STATES, Washington : President Barack Obama is greeted before his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Feb. 12, 2013.
AFP PHOTO / Pool / Charles Dharapak

Recognizing circumstances where quick and targeted aid can make a significant difference, and being prepared to respond in a timely fashion, are among OTI's core duties. With limited resources, OTI must concentrate its efforts where they can have the greatest positive impact. This may be in countries where initial political advances require immediate support to continue, for instance, following a democratic election or a peace agreement, or in situations where ethnic, political or economic divisions imminently threaten to unravel into a large-scale crisis.

To determine where to devote its resources, OTI has developed four key criteria for engagement:

  • Is the country significant to U.S. national interests? While humanitarian aid is distributed on the basis of need alone, transition assistance is allocated with an eye to advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives and priorities. Stable, democratic countries are better able to meet the needs of their own people, are more reliable trading partners, are less likely to engage in aggression against their neighbors, and are less inclined to provide support for terrorists. In consultation with the State Department, the Defense Department and the National Security Council, and with the consent of Congress, OTI seeks to focus its resources where they will have the greatest impact on U.S diplomatic and security interests. 
  • Is there a window of opportunity? Even the best-intentioned assistance can be ineffective if the situation is not ripe for change. OTI cannot create a transition or impose democracy, but it can identify and support key individuals and groups who are committed to peaceful, participatory reform. In short, it acts as a catalyst for change where there is sufficient indigenous political will. In most cases, a key event occurs - an election, a peace accord, or the rise of a nonviolent protest movement - that signals a fundamental realignment of power or direction. Before initiating a new country program, OTI analyzes the extent to which the ingredients for success are in place.
  • Is OTI's involvement necessary for success?Because of its flexibility, OTI receives many more requests for assistance than it is able to fulfill. OTI ensures that its programs neither duplicate nor substitute for other U.S. government efforts, reserving its resources for those situations in which it has a unique contribution to make. Before engaging, OTI explores whether U.S. government assistance is desired by local partners, whether OTI is the most appropriate U.S. government office to provide this type of assistance, and whether OTI's available resources and expertise are sufficient to achieve the desired outcomes.
  • Is the operating environment sufficiently stable? OTI is not a centralized grant-making program. It is an operational office with staff working on the ground at the community level. While part of OTI's comparative advantage lies in its experience working in some of the world's most sensitive and dangerous places, there must be enough stability to enable staff to travel outside of the capital to implement and monitor OTI-funded activities.

In answering these questions, OTI elicits information from a wide range of sources. It draws on the knowledge of country experts, USAID, U.S. government offices, NGOs, and other donors. It also conducts an extensive review of academic journals, books, reports, and studies.

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Last updated: December 04, 2014

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