Preparing for a World Altered by COVID-19

Over the Horizon
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Over the Horizon Strategic Review

COVID-19 has had—and will continue to have—an extraordinary impact on the people, places, and partners to which USAID provides assistance.  In light of this, the Agency must prepare for lasting changes to the development and humanitarian landscape in the medium to long-term.  USAID must be proactive, understand what the current landscape and future scenarios in a world altered by COVID-19 look like, and adapt our ways of working accordingly to achieve our mission in a substantially changed global context.  To prepare the Agency to meet the challenges and opportunities in a world altered by COVID-19, USAID launched the Over the Horizon Strategic Review.

What is the Over the Horizon Strategic Review?

The Over the Horizon Strategic Review is a time-bound strategic review grounded in a landscape analysis, a scenario planning exercise, and policy, program, and operational data and analysis.  It will inform recommendations to the Acting Administrator for changes and improvements at USAID to achieve its goals in a new global context.  

Over the Horizon is rooted in USAID’s approach embodied by the Journey to Self-Reliance and its broader Transformation efforts, and is not meant to replace or supersede them.

What are the outputs of Over the Horizon?

Upon completion of the strategic review,  the Over the Horizon initiative will have two main outputs:

  • A set of recommendations to the Acting Administrator to ensure clear, coherent policy guidance, improve programming adaptability and responsiveness, and plan for budgetary and operational support to implement policy and programs.

  • A final report summarizing these recommendations and the analysis underpinning them, reflecting stakeholder feedback, and outlining plans for implementation.

What is the structure and outreach plan for Over the Horizon?

The Over the Horizon Strategic Review consists of an Executive Steering Committee (ESC) that is directly supported by an Agency Planning Cell, comprised of career experts. The Planning Cell gathers inputs, conducts research and analysis, and presents key issues for decision to senior leaders.  The ESC is made up of senior leaders from across USAID, as well as from the Department of State, and guides the Planning Cell throughout the process.  The process is also engaging field staff in a variety of ways, including through a Mission Director resource group.  In addition to reaching into USAID for knowledge and expertise and conducting research, Over the Horizon is engaging external partners and stakeholders in the review process, including other U.S. Government partners, other donors, multilateral institutions, think tanks, and implementing partners.  

What does a world altered by COVID-19 look like?

The landscape analysis paper examines how the pandemic is linked to U.S. security and prosperity at home, and the relationship of U.S. national security to humanitarian and development challenges abroad.  The landscape analysis examines the five emerging trends below, and serves as the foundation for the Over the Horizon Strategic Review. 

A new national security imperative

As mentioned, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens security and prosperity at home, challenges democratic governance globally, and has led to adversaries exploiting the pandemic to compete with the U.S.  Three main uncertainties driving change are the prospects for vaccine development, the full dimensions of the global economic fallout, and shifts in governance patterns.

Severe shocks to mobility and the economy

According to the UN and the World Bank, foreign direct investment is expected to plunge by up to $620 billion, or 40 percent, and remittance flows are expected to fall by more than $130 billion this year.  The IMF is projecting low growth this year in many developing countries, but especially for lower- middle-income countries, where the World Bank is projecting economic contractions in many places.

A health crisis unprecedented in scale

The COVID-19 pandemic is an acute, global health crisis with millions of cases and close to one million deaths.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Red Cross, and United Nations agencies estimate 117 million children are at risk of missing measles vaccines; 24 countries have postponed their immunization campaigns.

Rising pressure on governance, democracy, and stability

Two-thirds of countries with planned elections have postponed them due to COVID-19, and 44 countries have issued measures that curtail free expression, according to the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. Prolonged shutdowns and economic impacts may spark further unrest, and, with disruptions to service delivery, marginalized groups are likely to face discrimination.

Devastating impacts on households

Current UN projections estimate that global extreme poverty could increase by up to 100 million people this year and 132 million people could be pushed into chronic food insecurity.  In addition, the UN estimates that more than 1.6 billion students are affected by school closures in more than 190 countries.

Last updated: September 28, 2020

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