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Student Research Analyst for Project: Making Foreign Assistance Work for Sustainable Infrastructure

Supervisor: Elizabeth Losos, Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability (NIEES)

Project Overview

In June 2022, the US Government and G-7 partners pledged $600 billion in sustainable, quality infrastructure investments to middle- and low-income counties through the Partnership on Global Infrastructure Investments (PGII), based on the assumption that they will be able to attract the majority of PGII funds through the private sector. Led by the State Department, the US Government will be conducting an Infrastructure Assistance Review to identify how its foreign assistance could be better targeted to improve the sustainability and attractiveness of infrastructure projects to investors. The Nicholas Institute will be contributing to this review by participating in agency interviews, preparation of country case studies, and development of policy recommendations.

Position Description and Qualifications

The Nicholas Institute is seeking a student to serve as a research analyst on this project in order to conduct background research on foreign assistance globally and for specific case study countries; prepare for and help conduct key informant interviews; and contribute to the development of the review document. The ideal candidate will have experience in international development finance and/or assistance, desk-review research skills, interview experience, strong organizational skills, and strong writing skills. Language proficiency in multiple languages is also valuable. The position is available for up to 8 weeks during the summer full time (40 hrs/wk) plus 7 weeks (8 hr/wk) during either Spring ’23 and/or Fall ’23. Part-time positions may also be negotiable.

Work will likely be conducted on a hybrid model, using a combination of remote work and regular in-person meetings, but there may be options for primarily remote or in-person work depending on student preference. This position is open to students enrolled at Duke University.  

To Apply

Submit your resume and a writing sample to Elizabeth Losos,, ideally before March 15, 2023.

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Further Background on Project

In June 2022, the G-7 launched the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), an ambitious commitment to meet global needs for sustainable, quality infrastructure (that is, projects that are economically viable with low environmental, social, and governance [ESG] risks). If successful, PGII will mobilize $600 billion for quality, sustainable infrastructure projects in low- and middle-income countries; the majority of this pledge is expected to be delivered by the private sector. The success of PGII is crucial to achieving global decarbonization and sustainable development goals. The initiative is also a key element in the US Government’s countering China strategy, due to its potential competition with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

PGII targets quality, sustainable infrastructure not just for its decarbonization and sustainable development benefits, but also because these infrastructure features are fundamental to the PGII financing model: Quality projects with low ESG risks are needed to attract private sector investors. Due to rapidly expanding ESG investment funds, private-sector institutional investors—such as pension and insurance funds—have literally hundreds of billions of dollars available that could be invested in sustainable, low-carbon, low-risk investments. Because the US and other G-7 governments have no real control over whether the private sector will actually invest their share, it is critical that their foreign assistance contribute to the development of a sufficient pool of bankable sustainable infrastructure projects that are attractive to private investors.

The State Department has been designated as the lead agency responsible for supervising an Interagency Infrastructure Team that will coordinate PGII implementation across the US Government. The team includes representatives from the State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Development Finance Corporation, Commerce Department, National Security Council, and Office of the US Trade Representative. The State Department has established a PGII Office to facilitate this work.

In preparation for the implementation phase, which will take place over the next five years, the PGII Office has identified a series of unanswered questions that bear on the initiative’s future performance.  One of the most significant is how should the US direct foreign assistance to optimally produce bankable sustainable infrastructure projects that are attractive to US private investors? For example, to increase the pool of bankable sustainable, quality infrastructure projects in lower middle-income countries in Latin America, should the US Government employ its limited foreign assistance on the development of national infrastructure plans, regulatory reform, project preparation, or capacity development programs? Currently little data exists on the causal effectiveness of foreign assistance interventions.

Under the auspices of the Interagency Infrastructure Team, the PGII Office is developing plans to undertake an Infrastructure Assistance Review (IAR) to understand the specific role that US foreign assistance can play at different phases of the project lifecycle (i.e. planning and enabling environments; project feasibility and preparation; financing; implementation) and which interventions are most effective at improving  sustainable, quality infrastructure bankability. Potential key questions identified by the PGII Office include:  

  1. What sectors offer the highest impact for foreign assistance programming on infrastructure?
  2. Where (sectoral and geographic) have foreign assistance investments led to fully developed projects that get private financing? Where have these investments proved problematic?   
  3. How do projects move from early to later in the project life cycle –how can the USG support during key transition moments?  
  4. How can foreign assistance teams identify potential upstream activities that will enhance bankability and connect them to the larger project life cycle after completion?

The PGII Office envisions that the review will include mapping of current agency capabilities, existing tools and programs, and barriers/impediments. The review will then focus on two or three country case studies. It will conclude with recommendations for more effective execution and coordination of foreign assistance-funded PGII projects internally and with G-7 partners.

PGII Office has invited the Nicholas Institute and several other universities to join an in-kind partnerhsip to contribute to the development of the IAR. At this stage, we do not know exactly what aspects of the IAR NIEES will contribute to, but it is most likely that we will work on country case studies.

The intent of this job description is to provide a representative and level of the types of duties and responsibilities that will be required of positions given this title and shall not be construed as a declaration of the total of the specific duties and responsibilities of any particular position. Employees may be directed to perform job-related tasks other than those specifically presented in this description.

Duke University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer committed to providing employment opportunity without regard to an individual's age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

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