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Archive for November, 2009

Five Questions for USAID Confirmation Hearing

Monday, November 30th, 2009
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Raj ShahTomorrow, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Dr. Rajiv Shah, the Obama Administration’s nominee for Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

If confirmed, Dr. Shah would become the leading voice for U.S. efforts to alleviate poverty, fight disease, and create economic opportunity at a time when we face big challenges in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and across the developing world.  He will also step into the middle of a cross-government effort to reform U.S. foreign aid to make it more effective and accountable in the face of these challenges.

The following questions are critical to the success or failure of this transformative reform effort, and should be directed to Dr. Shah by members of the Committee tomorrow:

  • If development is to truly be a coequal partner to diplomacy and defense in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy, what does that mean for the role of USAID as the U.S. government’s primary development agency vis-à-vis the State Department and the Defense Department?
  • Given the strong support in the Obama administration for elevating development alongside diplomacy and defense, should the USAID Administrator have a seat at the National Security Council to serve as the voice of development in these interagency debates?
  • What are your top development priorities, and how do you see USAID’s role in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq?
  • How would broader foreign assistance reform – including reexamining the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act – serve to make U.S. development activities around the world more effective?
  • How do you propose to change USAID’s downward trajectory and steer its elevation and resurgence as a global leader on development?

Click here to read MFAN’s statement on Dr. Shah’s nomination.

Congressman McDermott Introduces New Partnership for Trade Development Act

Thursday, November 19th, 2009
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Last night, Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced the New Partnership for Trade Development Act (H.R.4101), an important piece of legislation geared toward harmonizing trade and US development efforts.  The act has three goals:

  • To strengthen the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) by extending its benefits and focusing on trade capacity building;
  • To put more fairness in US preference programs by creating a new model that extends duty-free, quota-free preferences, as well as encouraging trade and capacity building among Least Developed Countries (LDC); and,
  • To simplify and extend the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) by instituting a new single rule of origin and reviewing the current GSP statutory exclusions that were first established in 1974.

To accomplish these goals, the act calls for the creation of the following:

  • An Office of Trade and Competitiveness for Least Developed Countries (LDC) and African Countries in the White House that is responsible for planning, developing and coordinating trade capacity building and private sector competitiveness programs; and,
  • A Trade Capacity Coordinating Committee to organize federal TCB programs, focusing on infrastructure, labor and environmental standards, trade facilitation, economic opportunity and relationships with NGOs, donors and contractors. The Committee is to be made up of the Director of the Office of Trade and Competition; the US Trade Representative;  and the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Treasury, State and Defense.

Can You Match the Quote to the Senator Behind S.1524?

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
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Test your skills on foreign aid reform and match the below quote with the Senator who gave it after yesterday’s 14-3 vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in favor of initial passage of the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009 (S.1524).  Leave your answers in the comments section of the blog (and we’ll provide the real answers soon):

The Quotes:

“This bill arises from the conviction that our investments in foreign assistance require much more effective coordination and much more thorough evaluation.  In the absence of reform, we will continue to spend billions each year without confidence that these funds are achieving the greatest development impact possible.”

“This legislation demonstrates Congress’s commitment to strengthening the capacity, accountability and effectiveness of our foreign aid programs.  With the U.S. facing critical foreign policy and development priorities worldwide, it is vital that we update our foreign aid programs to reflect the new challenges of the 21st century.  I look forward to working with the Administration to advance our shared goal of strengthening foreign aid.”

“I’ve been able to see our foreign assistance dollars in action and am proud of the role we are playing in producing positive change in the lives of millions around the world, but at the same time, I share the frustration of many Americans that our foreign assistance efforts have often lacked transparency, coordination, monitoring and evaluation.  This bill begins to reinvigorate USAID to improve the coordination, execution and efficiency of U.S. assistance so we can make each dollar go farther. The bill also establishes a body capable of evaluating the impact of our investments to make sure we are truly meeting our foreign policy objectives.”

“Reducing global poverty through development assistance is a moral imperative that also contributes to our national and economic security.  By providing greater resources to increase transparency and efficiency, the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act puts us on a glide path toward restoring this vital pillar of our foreign policy.”

“This legislation will position the State Department to make better programming and funding decisions by establishing more rigorous transparency mechanisms and authorizing an independent counsel to examine all of our foreign aid programs.  Accountability is critical to ensure our foreign aid programs are accomplishing the intended purposes for the benefit of the recipient country and U.S. taxpayers.”

“This is one of the most significant pieces of foreign assistance legislation that has passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in decades. I am proud that this is truly a bi-partisan bill, developed in a collaborative manner and that it includes input from a wide range of voices. These programs are critical to millions of people around the world, they contribute to our mutual economic health, and are in the direct national security interests of the United States. Furthermore, this legislation implements strong, new accountability and oversight provisions to ensure that foreign assistance is being used as intended and delivering a return on our investment. Today marks an important step, but it is just the beginning. I am committed to continue working with the Committee members and Administration to build up our foreign assistance programs, not just to where they used to be, but to where they need to be.”

The Senators:

john-kerry-newspaper-hearings1. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA)

Riga summit - Opening Gala Dinner of the Riga Conference - 27 No2. SFRC Ranking Minority Member Dick Lugar (R-IN)

US Iraq3. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

83985149BS001_SMIALOWSKI4. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)

BenCardin5. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)

jim_risch-0x3006. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID)

Tell us your answers in the comments section.  The winner will receive undying affection from supporters of foreign assistance reform.

MFAN Statement: Initial Bill Passed by SFRC Adds to Aid Reform Momentum

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
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November 17, 2009 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

Today, Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), Ranking Minority Member Richard Lugar (R-IN), and a bipartisan group of Senators took a concrete step towards making U.S. foreign assistance more effective by passing the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009 (S.1524) out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Following last week’s nomination of Dr. Raj Shah to be Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the bill proposes important changes that would give the new administrator the necessary tools to lead U.S. development efforts by implementing and coordinating the pieces of President Obama’s ambitious agenda.  Among other things, S.1524 would establish the promotion of global development, good governance, and the reduction of poverty and hunger as U.S. policy; rebuild the policy, strategic planning, and human resources capacity at USAID; and create an independent Council on Research and Evaluation of Foreign Assistance (CORE) to evaluate the impact of all U.S. foreign aid programs.

Building on the visionary leadership they have shown in the movement to reform U.S. foreign assistance, Chairman Kerry and Senator Lugar made a strong statement today about Congress’ firm commitment to elevating development as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy, distinct from diplomacy and defense.  We hope that leaders in the Obama Administration will take note and work with both the Senate and the House of Representatives on their reform efforts.

CONTACT: Sam Hiersteiner at 202-295-0171 or shiersteiner@gpgdc.com.

MFAN Partners Speak Out on the USAID Nomination

Friday, November 13th, 2009
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MFAN Partners responded in force to the nomination of Dr. Rajiv Shah as USAID Administrator on Tuesday.  See below for a sampling of excerpts from official statements:

BFW color CMYK

Bread for the World

  • Incoming USAID Chief Needs Clout
  • “We are hopeful that Dr. Shah’s unique combination of knowledge about global health, agriculture, and other issues will allow him to provide a strong and indispensable development voice as major decisions are made about U.S. foreign policy,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president, Bread for the World. “Since he has lived in a developing country, he knows first-hand the importance of long-term, sustainable development – in contrast to the State Department’s typically short-term, political approaches.”

CGD

Center for Global Development

  • CGD President Nancy Birdsall on Raj Shah Nomination as USAID Administrator
  • “When pushed on the issue of sufficient stature to carry out the massive reform agenda at the agency, Birdsall responded, “While a year ago, we all may have been focusing on the issue of high-profile stature, at this point the question should be: what does Raj need to succeed? And what he needs is the Administration to bolster his capacity and authorities to successfully elevate and empower a distinct development perspective and voice in the important interagency debates happening right now – the PSD, the QDDR, rethinking our approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan.” So, concretely, what does that mean? Says Birdsall, “that means the White House needs to give him a seat at the National Security Council and the State Department needs to give him back policy and budget authority of USAID operations.”

InterAction

InterAction

  • Historic Challenges and Opportunities Face USAID Nominee
  • “The challenges are many, but USAID administrator‐nominee Shah has a historic opportunity to shape the way U.S. foreign assistance is done for at least the next 50 years. Rep. Howard Berman (D‐CA) and other congressional leaders are looking to the new administrator to help guide discussions around climate change, food security, a rewrite of the outdated 1961 Foreign Assistance Act and countless other issues.”

ONE

ONE Campaign

  • ONE Welcomes USAID Administrator Nominee Rajiv Shah
  • “Today’s nomination is a major step in the right direction. It is imperative that USAID has the resources and authority to deliver American investments abroad as efficiently and as effectively as possible. It’s also important they play a central role in the global development policy efforts currently underway at the White House, with the State Department and in Congress.”

Oxfam

Oxfam America

  • Oxfam America on Dr. Rajiv Shah, Obama’s Nominee for USAID Administrator
  • “Shah assumes responsibility over USAID at a crucial moment in history. For many years, USAID has been under-resourced and politically marginalized. But today’s international challenges – from the financial crisis to climate change — make it more important than ever to rebuild USAID from a compliance agency for NGOs and contractors to what it once was: the world’s most prestigious development agency…But there’s also growing momentum for a new era in US foreign aid, with a number of processes already underway that will reshape US global development policy. Additionally, bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to initiate foreign aid reform, as well as strengthen and elevate USAID.”

Save the Children

Save the Children

  • Save the Children Applauds the Nomination of Dr. Rajiv Shah for USAID Administrator; Urges U.S. Development Policy Reforms
  • “Save the Children is very encouraged by the nomination of Rajiv Shah – a man clearly committed to improving the health and well-being of the world’s poor,” said Charles MacCormack, President and CEO of Save the Children. “Dr. Shah’s expertise and accomplishments in global health, agriculture and science will enable him to provide a strong and unique voice for development at our nation’s foreign policy table. That strong voice, especially if backed by significant reforms to U.S. development policy, is critical to addressing the urgent needs of the world’s sick, hungry, and vulnerable children,” MacCormack added.

USGLC

U.S. Global Leadership Coalition

  • USGLC Applauds Choice of Dr. Rajiv Shah as USAID Administrator
  • “Rajiv Shah is a fresh and dynamic addition to President Obama’s foreign policy team. Dr. Shah will bring expertise and energy to a critical agency in need of strong, empowered leadership. His career in global development, global health and agricultural development give him real perspective to lead USAID. He is already an important player in the Administration’s food security initiative, and his additional background in fighting global poverty and promoting global health make him an ideal candidate for this important post.”