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Archive for August, 2009

MFAN: New Presidential Study Directive an Unprecedented Step Forward on Development

Monday, August 31st, 2009
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August 31, 2009 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

MFAN strongly commends President Obama for signing a landmark Presidential Study Directive on Global Development Policy.  The directive establishes clear White House leadership on modernizing our country’s approach to global development, adding to the tremendous momentum generated by actions taken by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the State Department.

This critical step by President Obama means that we are closer than we have ever been to a fresh, whole-of-government approach that will elevate development as a core, independent pillar of U.S. foreign policy and make U.S. efforts to alleviate poverty and hunger, fight disease, and create economic opportunity  in the developing world more efficient and effective.  As the U.S. faces complex global challenges including the economic crisis and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan, as well as threats emanating from scourges that know no borders – such as poverty, disease, and climate change – we must make sure our efforts to promote development have as much impact as possible.

President Obama’s directive acknowledges this reality and the interconnectedness of the threats we face, and rises to the challenge by taking the unprecedented step of tasking National Security Advisor General James Jones and Larry Summers, Director of the National Economic Council, with leading an interagency review of global development policy.  This process will provide much-needed clarity about how U.S. agencies and departments can work together to develop and implement coordinated and sound policy aimed at achieving our global development goals.  We are optimistic about what this effort can achieve in conjunction with the State Department’s recently announced Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, and we remain ready to support both the White House and State Department teams in any way we can.

For more information, please visit MFAN’s website.

Contact: Sam Hiersteiner at or 202-295-0171.

Noteworthy News – 8.31.2009

Monday, August 31st, 2009
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This weekly posting includes key news stories and opinion pieces related to foreign assistance reform and the larger development community.

What we’re reading this week: All USAID Administrator, all the time.

  • It’s Time for Foreign Aid Reform (Huffington Post – David Beckmann, August 28) – With leadership from President Obama and coordination between these various actors, I am confident that foreign assistance reform will move forward and finish the task President Kennedy set out nearly 50 years ago.  Although it isn’t clear yet whether the administration and Congress will choose fundamental reform over the patchwork approach, one thing is irrefutable: we can’t afford for our leaders to hurry up and wait when so much is at stake.
  • Experts Concerned by Leaderless USAID (NPR-Michelle Kelemen, August 27) – Now development experts are encouraging the Obama administration to get its act together soon. Raymond Offenheiser is president of Oxfam America and a leading voice in a coalition called the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.  Mr. RAYMOND OFFENHEISER (President, Oxfam America): I think what really worries us is that if we don’t get that leader in place pretty soon, and I guess we feel there’s a real urgency to it, that things are going to begin moving forward. There’s just an enormous amount of momentum behind this reform process.
  • Friday round up ( Rozen, August 28) – USAID: An association of foreign assistance groups, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, represented by PR firm the Glover Park Group, has launched a poll asking who should be the next USAID administrator.

MFAN Principals Offenheiser and Atwood Featured on NPR

Friday, August 28th, 2009
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Two MFAN Principals, Oxfam American President Ray Offenheiser and former USAID Administrator Brian Atwood, were featured on NPR’s All Things Considered in a story entitled “Experts Concerned by Leaderless USAID.”  In the piece, by diplomatic reporter Michele Kelemen, Offenheiser and Atwood stress the need for a new USAID Administrator to be named immediately, given the new prominence of development in U.S. foreign policy and the momentum behind foreign assistance reform.

Listen to the piece here.  Key quotes below:

Experts Concerned by Leaderless USAID (August 27, 2009)

Mr. RAYMOND OFFENHEISER (President, Oxfam America): I think what really worries us is that if we don’t get that leader in place pretty soon, and I guess we feel there’s a real urgency to it, that things are going to begin moving forward. There’s just an enormous amount of momentum behind this reform process.

OFFENHEISER: The State Department has advanced this quadrennial diplomacy development review under Secretary Clinton that’s ambitious and potentially visionary, but there isn’t a development voice at the table presently and that’s what we’re all concerned about.

Ms. ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER (Co-chair, State Department Quadrennial Review): Development and diplomacy are equal pillars of foreign policy. That’s the Secretary’s premise, and I certainly hope it’ll be one of her legacies that, actually, when we think about foreign policy, we think about solving problems from the top down, negotiating agreements with governments and working with other governments. But we also think about tackling problems from the bottom up.

Mr. BRIAN ATWOOD (Dean, Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota): But, you know, all of those people are also really wrapped up in the crises of the moment, the diplomatic side of the house. And so, it’s very, very difficult without not just one political appointee or a presidential appointee as the head of AID, but there are 13 other positions that should be filled to really lead that agency to where it needs to be. And it really is a shadow of what it was.

ATWOOD: It’s a mess. It’s not fair to the taxpayer, but I think more importantly, it’s not fair to the poor of the world that we’re not doing our bit.

We Need a USAID Administrator Now! Who Should it Be?

Thursday, August 27th, 2009
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Based on input from experts across the development community, MFAN has created a poll with a simple question: Who should be the next USAID Administrator?  Please take a moment to vote on your choice for who should be the leading voice on elevating and modernizing U.S. efforts to alleviate poverty and hunger, fight disease, and create economic opportunity for struggling people in the developing world.  If you want, you can download this badge and place it on your website, profile, etc to spread the word!

A few things to think about as you vote:

  • Who has the best understanding of development and poverty, particularly from an on-the-ground perspective?
  • Who has the profile and gravitas to help increase political support for development issues in Congress, the White House, the State Department, and beyond?
  • Who has the managerial skills to rebuild an agency that desperately needs to be modernized after years of neglect?
  • Finally, who has the right mix of all these skills to be the leading voice in government for foreign assistance reform?

In the comments section below, we’d like to hear about who you voted for and why.  As President Obama said when he laid out his foreign policy vision during the campaign: “[we] will ensure that [USAID] has the highest caliber leadership and plays a central role in the formulation and implementation of critical development and related foreign policy strategies.”

We have to work together to keep these important issues in the public eye and make sure action is taken now!  Our own security and prosperity, and the well being of millions of people around the world, will be affected by this choice.  We appreciate your vote!

MFAN Blog Series: Partners Weigh in on Reform in the Global Health Initiative and Feed the Future

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
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With help from our distinguished partners, MFAN has launched two blog series on foreign assistance reform in the context of the Obama administration’s marquee development initiatives—the Global Health Initiative and Feed the Future. The posts in each series explore the structure and reform principles built into these programs, including ownership, sound monitoring and evaluation, and leveraging partnerships with the private sector to produce sustainable, long-term development results. Contributors to the Feed the Future blog series included Bread for the World, the World Food Program USA, Action Aid, the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, and the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

The Global Health Initiative blog series included posts from the Global Health Technologies Coalition, the International Women’s Health Coalition, PATH, and the Global Health Council.

Below are links to, and quotes from, the pieces in both series:

Feed the Future

  • Bread for the World (by Mannik Sakayan, Senior Policy Analyst): “Through country-led investment strategies, the United States will work in partnership with developing country governments to strengthen their agricultural capacity, with particular focus on smallholder farmers. Feed the Future calls for a consultative process with national stakeholders that best understand local needs and wants. Feed the Future also includes a multilateral component, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), housed at the World Bank, to leverage donor contributions from other governments, foundations, and the private sector.”
  • World Food Program USA (by Rick Leach, President & CEO): “In cities, such as Kabul, where markets continue to function, the most food insecure families receive vouchers, which enable them to purchase food from local retailers, thereby bolstering local markets. In order to maintain food security and rebuild lives and communities after emergencies, vulnerable populations are provided with food in exchange for their participation in training programs or infrastructure projects, which helps strengthen the capacity of the Afghan people and build the Afghan economy.”
  • ActionAid USA (by Neil Watkins, Director of Policy and Campaigns):  “[The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program] is governed by a Steering Committee that includes 12 voting members (the aforementioned 6 donors, along with 6 developing country governments), as well as 11 non-voting but fully participating members. Non-voting members include three civil society representatives (including a farmers’ organization leader from Africa and Asia); three representatives from the United Nations system; and representatives from the five development banks which serve as the supervising entities for GAFSP projects. As the fund has evolved, in practice there is little difference between voting and non-voting members: all discussions and decisions are taken with all members present.”
  • German Marshall Fund of the United States (by Senior Program Officer Jonathan M. White and Research Assistant Kathryn Ritterspach): “The Feed the Future initiative is spearheading a more coherent approach to development, involving a wide range of U.S. agencies. This initiative aims to accelerate inclusive agriculture growth and improve nutrition. To achieve this, it will focus on post-harvest market infrastructure, business development, strengthening and harmonizing regulatory frameworks and tariff reductions, and linking smallholder farmers to regional and international markets. By helping build comprehensive trade corridors that connect crop surplus to deficit regions, Feed the Future is leading the way in “aid for trade” and making U.S. foreign assistance more effective and sustainable.”

The Global Health Initiative

  • Global Health Technologies Coalition (by Kaitlin Christensen, Manager): “The role of innovation is well-recognized by the architects of the GHI—promoting research and innovation has been named as one of the initiative’s key principles. In fact, innovation and research have the potential to maximize US investments in foreign assistance and international development more broadly. The GHI provides compelling models as US policymakers consider how to make foreign assistance more effective at reducing poverty and spurring economic growth, particularly of how to leverage a key competency of the US government—driving innovation to benefit those in need.”

  • International Women’s Health Coalition: “Meaningful civil society engagement, coupled with significant government investments, will lead to the creation and maintenance of the infrastructure and resources needed to respond to the needs of citizens. Truly, this foreign assistance philosophy will reduce the need for foreign assistance and lead to a more peaceful and prosperous world for all, including the American people.”

  • PATH (by Janie Hayes, Communications Officer, Rotavirus Vaccine Program): “In Washington, DC, integration is in the air. It is a centerpiece of the President’s Global Health Initiative (GHI) and a common theme in congressional deliberations on foreign assistance reform.  Integration is receiving so much attention for simple reasons: the need to find efficiencies and increase impact.”

  • International Women’s Health Coalition: “As the United States undergoes a much needed overhaul of the way it thinks of and practices development, the health and wellbeing of women and girls is and should continue to be at the center of President Obama’s and Congress’s vision of a healthier, prosperous, and more secure world. Implementing the principles of the GHI, including a women- and girl-centered approach, throughout all U.S. foreign assistance policies and programs will translate into better development outcomes in other areas—the environment and poverty alleviation just to name two. For decades, we have urged policy makers and funders to focus development efforts on women and girls, and President Obama and Secretary Clinton are answering that call.”

  • The Global Health Council: “The announcement of the GHI came at a time when the debate over how to modernize and reform the U.S. approach to foreign assistance and global health and development had begun in full force. Global health is a critical piece of U.S. foreign assistance, and it is critical that the reforms that are hopefully on the horizon be developed hand-in-hand in a way that fits GHI seamlessly into the new foreign assistance framework, and that foreign assistance reform creates a favorable environment for the GHI to have the greatest possible impact on improving global health.”