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U.S. Threatened by "Failed States," USAID's Natsios Says

Official outlines U.S. development strategy for helping failed states

Thursday, February 17, 2005

By Kathryn McConnell

Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The United States is threatened more by "failed, failing and recovering states" than by "conquering states," says Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

"There is perhaps no more urgent matter" facing U.S. development efforts, according to a new USAID report outlining the agency's failed states strategy.

The strategy is part of the overall U.S. national security strategy, Natsios said.

Natsios presented the report February 16 to the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid meeting in Washington. The committee, which links the U.S. government and private voluntary organizations active in international humanitarian assistance and development, meets three times a year.

"The world has changed and we need to change with it," Natsios said.

Ignoring failed and failing states "can pose great risks, including the likelihood of terrorism taking root," the report says.

Of particular concern are economic instability, food insecurity and violent conflict -- usual symptoms of government failure in failed states, it says.

"The most significant shortfall in meeting the widely supported Millennium Development Goals of the [United Nations] Millennium Declaration will likely be in fragile states," according to the report.

Weak, inefficient and illegitimate governments are "at the heart" of fragile countries, Natsios said.

USAID has responded to the reality of failed states by creating a new office of conflict mitigation, the administrator said.

Using a new "fragility framework," the office will provide USAID with more analysis of democracy and governance development efforts and of countries' ability to deal with conflict, in order to identify fragile states, the report says.

Areas to be analyzed for effectiveness and legitimacy will include military and police services, political and financial institutions, and the provision of basic services, it says.

The office will work closely with the State Department's new Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, Natsios said.

An effective response to the challenge of failed states will also require close cooperation between U.S. agencies and the nonprofit sector, he said.

Natsios added that the Bush administration is asking Congress for more flexibility than it now has to program USAID funds to best target assistance to crisis and crisis-prone countries, he said.

On a related topic, Natsios said the Bush administration in its fiscal year 2006 budget proposal to Congress is seeking approval to buy more food aid from producers located near food crisis areas.

Such flexibility would drastically reduce the amount of aid funds now required to transport food that is mostly grown by U.S. farmers to where it is needed, he said.

The administrator said that because USAID is not allowed to purchase more food from local producers in response to food shortages in Afghanistan, many of that country's farmers have given up trying to grow wheat and have returned to growing higher-income-generating poppies for opium.

Natsios also spoke about the need to boost USAID's outreach to the U.S. military to best coordinate humanitarian aid and reconstruction efforts.

More information about USAID's Conflict Mitigation and Management Office is available online at:

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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Friday February 18 2005