Policy Framework: Driving Progress Beyond Programs

A Message From Administrator Samantha Power

Since USAID’s founding more than 60 years ago, we have helped tackle many of the challenges of our time. With development partners around the world, we helped lift communities out of poverty, push back against oppression, and secure peace after conflict. We helped spark the Green Revolution and avert an age of global and continuous famine. We helped eradicate smallpox, reverse the spread of AIDS, end Ebola outbreaks, lead the campaign that has nearly eradicated polio, and dramatically decrease the incidence of malaria and tuberculosis. We supported dozens of transitions from autocracy to democracy, enabled tens of millions of girls to attend school, and provided lifesaving aid to communities torn apart by disasters, wars, and other crises.

Yet despite this remarkable progress, the development challenges of today are more formidable than those the world has faced at any time since World War II, with significant implications for America’s national security. The COVID-19 pandemic caused mass devastation, resulting in millions of deaths, economic turmoil, and rising global inequality. The climate crisis bears down on us all, with particularly vicious and destabilizing impacts on those least able to withstand its effects—and least responsible for the emissions that caused it. Vladimir Putin’s brutal war on Ukraine has led to widespread misery and death and exacerbated a global food crisis to levels not seen in decades. In every region of the world, autocrats have become increasingly brazen, while democratic institutions and governance face a multitude of threats. All of these developments have combined to inflict significant economic harm on the world’s most marginalized communities. 

These headwinds are occurring at a speed and scale never before witnessed, bypassing borders and affecting nations regardless of ideology or system of government. They are deeply interconnected, with climate change accelerating global hunger, the pandemic exacerbating long-standing economic challenges, and pervasive inequality contributing to democratic decline. 

They are also occurring during a relatively new era of geopolitical competition—between a vision put forward by the United States and other democracies to strengthen democratic governance and development cooperation, and an alternative vision advanced by the world’s autocracies to build power through coercion and the denial of individual liberties. The People’s Republic of China, in particular, is using its technological capacity and increasing influence over international institutions to create more permissive conditions for its own authoritarian model and frequently coercing countries through its economic power, all while seeking to erode U.S. alliances around the world.

This competition inhibits the world’s ability to marshal the collective action and broad coalitions we need to solve global problems. Yet if we fail to grapple with these circumstances together, we risk perpetuating greater conflict and instability, rather than making progress toward shared prosperity and peace. 

We believe the United States can be a leader in navigating this moment. By taking decisive action against the toughest threats, seeking out new partnerships to drive sustainable change, mobilizing new investments, and embracing necessary reforms, we have the potential to expand human dignity in our rapidly changing world. 

The United States can be a leader on advancing innovative agricultural practices that boost harvests; we can spur rapid transitions to clean energy and help communities adapt to a changing climate; we can broaden the reach of lifesaving medical treatments and vaccines while strengthening health systems to increase life expectancy; we can marshal critical democracy assistance to nurture democratic movements and reformers, fight foreign information manipulation, and root out corruption; and we can help our partners deliver inclusive economic growth and support for those who have been most deprived and disadvantaged. 

USAID is unique in possessing, under one roof, the range of tools, expertise, and experience needed to confront these massive, interlocking problems. But given their immense scale, we cannot do so alone. We must therefore work to extend this Agency’s impact beyond our foreign assistance programs. We must align on objectives to drive progress against our greatest challenges and galvanize interagency and development partners, international institutions, and the global private sector toward those same goals. We must do this together with our local partners, elevating their visions and voices to drive change in their own communities, so that development gains are truly sustainable. And we must invest in our own workforce and systems, while cutting back the stultifying bureaucracy that limits our success.

By doing so, USAID will demonstrate the United States’ compassion for people around the world, our unmatched competence, and the fundamental connection between the fates of the American people and those of people across the globe. 

To these ends, I establish this Policy Framework as a roadmap for our work and commitment to building a more free, peaceful, prosperous, and humane world.

Executive Summary

We are at a decisive juncture. A set of global, compounding risks imperils development progress, undermines democracy, and threatens stability. At the same time, a competition is underway to shape the international order, testing the global community’s ability to work together to confront grave threats. In this moment, the United States must offer inclusive leadership and bold action to extend the reach of human dignity—especially in communities too often excluded or left behind. And we must drive progress in ways that surpass the confines of the budgets we receive or the programs we administer.

USAID was made for this moment, and this Policy Framework is our guide for rising to meet it.

The Policy Framework establishes three overarching priorities to drive progress through and beyond our programs: first, to confront the greatest challenges of our time; second, to embrace new partnerships; and third, to invest in USAID’s enduring effectiveness. These priorities are connected—achieving our long-term mission depends on confronting the greatest impediments to development today. Marshaling action to address them demands new, inclusive, and ambitious partnerships; investments in our people; and the streamlining of our processes. 

We also recommit to the vision for shared progress embraced in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Consistent with that vision—which calls for “bold and transformative steps,” but underscores that “each country faces specific challenges in its pursuit of sustainable development”—our priorities are global in scope, but we will tailor them to context, listening to local voices and supporting local action. This Policy Framework aims to reinforce progress already underway and to significantly expand our reach and impact.

What is the Policy Framework?

The Policy Framework is USAID’s highest-level policy document. It lays out a collective vision for international development, translates U.S. national security and foreign policy goals into Agency priorities, and promotes coherence among our development, humanitarian, and crisis-response policies and the work we undertake to implement them. It is a resource for both USAID staff and our partners. For staff overseas and at headquarters, it serves as a basis for strategy, program, budget, and operational planning. For partners, it clarifies our objectives and how we aim to achieve them, supporting collaboration and mutual accountability among USAID, our partners, and the people and communities we serve.

The Policy Framework is meant to be just that: a framework. By design, it is broad, not deep. It connects policies, initiatives, and reform efforts in one cohesive vision but does not aim to provide the details on implementation. We encourage those interested in our priorities in a given area to explore the USAID and U.S. government policies and strategies linked throughout this document and to check the Policy Registry for forthcoming materials, including policies on Humanitarian Action and the Rule of Law, among others. Readers also should not infer that issues that receive less emphasis herein are unimportant. In fact, USAID’s breadth of programming and technical expertise is an invaluable asset for our Agency. But this Policy Framework focuses on the issues that demand elevated ambition and effort, as well as on the reforms necessary to meet the needs of this moment. 


Watch Replay

Policy policy framework
Share This Page