Jennifer Anderson Lewis is a senior international development professional and governance expert with 22 years of experience designing, leading, and implementing development programs and policy in the areas of good governance, transparency and accountability, anti-corruption, rule of law, and natural resource management, including over 16 years of experience managing portfolios of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) projects around the world. She currently serves as Senior Governance and Rule of Law Advisor at USAID/Washington, where she provides technical and policy leadership to the Agency, field missions, and other U.S. Government (USG) agencies in governance, transparency and accountability, anti-corruption, and rule of law. As the Agency’s technical and policy lead for transparency, accountability and anti-corruption, she routinely represents USAID on these issues to the interagency, public international organizations, non-governmental institutions, and implementing partners, and serves as the Agency Point of Contact (POC) for the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Before joining USAID, she served as Governance Director at DAI, and maintained technical and management responsibility for the company’s Governance portfolio in Latin America and Eastern Europe, including integrated programs in public service delivery improvement, participatory governance, conflict mitigation, public financial management, and civil society engagement. Prior to that, she served in a variety of senior roles at Chemonics, including as Chief of Party on the USAID Bosnia FILE (commercial law) project, Acting Chief of Party on the USAID CRECER project in El Salvador, and Project Director for a dozen democracy and governance and economic growth projects in Latin America, the Middle East, and Europe & Eurasia. An attorney, Ms. Lewis also served as Chemonics’ in-house legal counsel, focusing on ethics and business conduct, regulatory compliance, anti-corruption, and FCPA and FCA enforcement, and as an international trade and government contracts law associate at Wilmer Hale LLP. She is a native Spanish speaker and holds a J.D. from American University’s Washington College of Law and a B.S. from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
At USAID, Ms. Lewis has integrated her diverse expertise and professional experiences into a unique focus on the nexus of governance, rule of law, and local and national institution building, with a strong emphasis on transparency, accountability, and anti-corruption. In her view, investing in governance and rule of law is essential to moving countries along their journey to self-reliance and to meeting development outcomes across all sectors. They are also imperative to safeguarding donor investments. In her own words, “USAID cannot achieve its mission without actively understanding governance and rule of law constraints and building integrated programs to address them.” That is because “the technical solutions to development problems only go so far in any given sector, whether that is health or education or economic growth. If there are core governance and accountability problems, there is no way to move towards self-reliance or sustainability. Ensuring the rule of law is a critical piece of that.” She also describes governance and rule of law as too often siloed in the development community, and she hopes to weave the two together more closely in terms of approach. She views ensuring the rule of law as an integral part of good governance, and she describes the two as inextricable; she views effective justice services and citizen security as among the many categories of public services that fall within the rubric of governance. At the heart of both is the concept of accountability to citizens, the crux of the social contract.
Because of this, her technical focus is on helping countries build self-sustaining public institutions, systems, and processes that are citizen-responsive and accountable. Her approach focuses on finding ways to “build systemic accountability by taking a holistic view of the governance landscape in-country, and of the implications for building accountability and integrity throughout the governance system.” In her words, for example, “you can put a lot of money into training judicial personnel, but if you don’t look at the system as a whole–from budgeting to interagency coordination–it has limited impact. You need to take a holistic view in order to change incentives and human behavior.” Her work with partner countries also supports processes and approaches aimed at building an “accountability culture,” inculcating a belief in the value of local institutions and their mission to serve the public, as well as supporting citizen efforts to monitor and hold governments to account. Apart from promoting democratic norms, such efforts further sustainability, because they position USG technical assistance within a larger system that depends on transparency, inclusion and citizens’ trust. One particularly successful example she notes is USAID’s work in Georgia, where she describes democratic developments over the last 20-25 years as a “sea change.” She credits this change in part to the USAID Mission’s efforts to support a new culture, one that has opened space for citizen voice and participation. While noting that the situation in Georgia is not perfect, and that civil society in Georgia still sometimes claims that it does not have an adequate seat at the table, she believes that “the very fact that civil society in Georgia can even formally complain about their role is a big sign of change, one that points to increasing dialogue and understanding that government and civil society are partners, and that civil society has a right to participate in governance.”
As USAID’s POC for the OGP and EITI, Ms. Lewis focuses on devising ways to use these good governance norms and frameworks as roadmaps for USAID assistance. According to Ms. Lewis, a common misconception is that OGP and EITI are primarily “global” in nature. She notes that while these are critical global alliances, the promise of both lies in the fact that the commitments made by government are co-created with citizens and publicly monitored; in that way, she notes that both are in many ways the embodiment of locally led development. She also notes that both frameworks are also about fundamentally changing the way government and citizens work together; about empowering reformers, giving voice to communities, and holding governments to account. This directly supports USAID’s core mission of building countries’ self-reliance and sustainability; a mission that at its core has to address the rule of law and governance dimensions of trust, transparency, and institution building. She notes that USAID has played a large role in promoting the open government agenda to drive locally-led reform in countries around the world.
JUSTRAC is fortunate to have the support of practitioners like Ms. Lewis, who can speak to a wide variety of justice sector and rule of law reform practitioners approaching these issues from different angles. She herself notes that she appreciates the value JUSTRAC creates by bringing a diverse professional audience into the same room for candid discussion, and JUSTRAC looks forward to continued cooperation with her.