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White House Joins the Party on Development Policy

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President Obama has called for an interagency review of all U.S. global development policy, a major declaration that the White House is thinking seriously about how the U.S. engages with poor countries to promote development, including foreign aid.

This effort comes on the heels of the State Department’s announcement earlier this summer that it will undertake a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the first of its kind. State is already leading on the Global Food Security Initiative, and senior reviews are underway for the White House’s Global Health Initiative.

Not to be outdone, Congress has also weighed in from both sides of the Capitol. In the House, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act (H.R. 2139) in the spring alongside Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), a bill calling for the President to craft a National Strategy for Global Development. The legislation has garnered over 100 bipartisan cosponsors so far.

Moreover, Berman has begun putting together a blueprint for a wholesale rewrite of the onerous and outdated Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the legislation governing most U.S. foreign aid that has not been revisited since 1985.

In the Senate, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), Ranking Member Dick Lugar (R-IN), along with committee members Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN), have introduced their own bill, the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act (S.1524), to rebuild the U.S. Agency for International Development and strengthen evaluation of foreign aid programs.

Now if an invitation could go out to the next USAID Administrator to come to the party…

Here’s a sampling of what leading development voices had to say in response to news about the Presidential Study Directive on global development:

“Our nation does not now have a clear statement of goals related to world hunger, poverty and disease,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and co-chair of MFAN. “Currently our nation’s global development programs and policies are scattered across 12 departments, 25 different agencies, and nearly 60 government offices.”

“This is a tremendous step in the right direction,” said Dr. Reuben Brigety, director of the Sustainable Security Program at the Center for American Progress. “It will fulfill a campaign promise of President Obama’s to change our approach to developing countries, and will help to reassert our moral leadership in the world.”

“The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition applauds President Obama for his Presidential Study Directive on U.S. Global Development Policy as another step toward making our civilian-led tools of development and diplomacy stronger and more effective,” said USGLC Executive Director Liz Schrayer.

White House leadership of the exercise is important given the convening power necessary to secure high-level participation by the more than two dozen government entities currently responsible for portions of U.S. development policy,” said Sheila Herrling, senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Development.

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