Author Archive

Frances Brown

Frances comes to the DPIR after over a decade as an analyst and practitioner focused on fragile states, including over five years on the ground in South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Her research interests include donor stabilisation programs, community-driven development, subnational governance, statebuilding, and countering violent extremism. She holds a BA in history from Yale and an MA in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University's Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies.

Frances's previous work includes several years with the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), overseeing stabilisation and conflict mitigation programs in Afghanistan, Mali, and the Middle East. She received a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) International Affairs Fellowship and US Institute of Peace Afghanistan Fellowship, supporting a year of research on Afghanistan's (post)-conflict governance and counterinsurgency. Other experience includes a year on the US 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, a year at the Kabul-based Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, two years in Beirut, Lebanon, shorter project management roles in Jordan, Pakistan, and Iraq, political risk forecasting in a London-based firm, and stints with the International Crisis Group and the US Embassy in Kuwait.

Frances's commentaries have appeared in the Washington Post, the LA Times, the International Herald Tribune, Foreign Policy, the Christian Science Monitor, the American Interest, and elsewhere. Her academics have been supported by the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius scholarship, a Smith Richardson Foundation Fellowship, the John W Heinz Fellowship, the Alida Smith fellowship, and the W John Kenney Fellowship. She is a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Truman National Security Project Fellow, a Young Strategist for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and a member of Women in International Security.

Kabul’s ongoing presidential election negotiations aren’t the only dramatic transition underway in Afghanistan. The ambitious U.S.-led “surge” launched in 2009, which bolstered foreign troops mainly in southern and eastern Afghanistan, has given way to a drawdown, paralleling a major downsizing in the development sphere. Aid budgets are contracting, and provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) and other subnational civil-military installations — long key international platforms to distribute aid and engage local politics outside Kabul — are closing down. As the local-level foreign official presence phases out of more volatile and remote areas, how should donor assistance strategies adjust? A new paper from the U.S. Institute of Peace, which builds upon fieldwork from the past three years, argues that 2014 marks an important opportunity for donors to recalibrate three central tenets of their subnational governance and development strategy. First, donors should revise their conceptions of assisting Afghan government “service delivery.” To be sure, delivering services seems commonsensical in a country that sorely lacks them, but PRT-based projects often confused their ambition to cultivate recurring services with their reality of launching a constellation of unsystematic and often one-time projects. The sheer numbers of foreign personnel and agencies operating at the subnational level — all responding to a higher-level focus on “burn rates” — further fueled the disparate character of aid distribution.