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Archive for December, 2009

MFAN Lauds Secretary of State Clinton for Commitment to Development

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
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Sec. Clinton Tribute

Last night before an audience of more than 1,000 guests, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition – an MFAN partner composed of 400 public- and private-sector leaders and organizations – honored Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her lifelong commitment to public service and her efforts to elevate America’s smart power tools of development and diplomacy.

Upon receiving the award, Secretary Clinton gave remarks that highlighted her commitment to elevating development and diplomacy in a “smart power” approach to U.S. foreign policy:

“We know that too often our efforts have been undermined by a lack of coordination, too little transparency, haphazard monitoring and evaluation, an over-reliance on contractors who work with too little oversight, and by relationships with recipient countries based more on patronage than partnership.  We know that development works best when it is based not in aid, but in investment.”

(L) MFAN Principals Nancy Lindborg of Mercy Corps and Bill Lane of Caterpillar, Inc.

(L) MFAN Principals Nancy Lindborg of Mercy Corps and Bill Lane of Caterpillar, Inc.

Sec. Clinton also acknowledged the new faces of the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Mr. Daniel Yohannes and Dr. Rajiv Shah, respectively.

“Development is and must remain the key. And I am delighted that with me tonight are two of our new leaders. I hope you’ll get to meet Daniel Yohannes, who is sitting right here, who is the new president of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Daniel came to this country from Ethiopia as a young, young man, took advantage of the extraordinary opportunities available in America, pursued his dreams, fulfilled them, became very successful, and now is giving back.

“And I am also proud to have a gifted partner and champion who will soon be at the helm of the U.S. Agency for International Development. It took us time to find the right person, but Raj Shah was worth the wait. And Raj will be reporting directly to me. He will always have a seat at the table as we formulate policy and chart our next steps. Together, we will ensure that USAID is once again the premier development agency in the world.”

MFAN Co-Chair David Beckmann applauded the evening’s guest of honor, saying, “In a short period of time, Secretary Clinton has already done a great deal to elevate the importance of U.S. efforts to help poor people around the world.  I am especially excited that we will soon have a strong leader in place at USAID – Raj Shah – to support Secretary Clinton by providing the dedicated leadership and voice we need on development issues as well as by reinvigorating the Agency in carrying out our development work.”

Click here for more photos of the event.

MFAN STATEMENT: Senate Must Confirm Dr. Rajiv Shah as USAID Administrator

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
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December 8, 2009 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

MFAN commends the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for unanimously approving Dr. Rajiv Shah’s nomination as Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  We call on the full Senate to confirm Dr. Shah without delay for three key reasons:

  • Successful outcomes to our most pressing national security challenges, including the war in Afghanistan and instability in Pakistan, depend just as much on the effectiveness of in-country development programs as they do on our combat operations or diplomatic efforts.
  • The Obama Administration has launched major new initiatives to promote agricultural development/food security and global health in the world’s poorest countries.

The success of these efforts, each of which will save lives in the developing world and bolster security and prosperity at home, depends on Dr. Shah’s confirmation by the full Senate so that his voice can represent U.S. development policy and interests as part of these ongoing discussions.  Should he be confirmed, the Obama Administration must immediately take steps to empower Dr. Shah with the resources and authorities he needs to elevate development in U.S. foreign policy and rebuild USAID into the world’s premier development agency.  These steps include giving Dr. Shah a seat on the National Security Council and supporting the Senate’s efforts, through S.1524, to restore policy planning and monitoring and evaluation capabilities to USAID.

For more information, contact Sam Hiersteiner at shiersteiner@gpgdc.com or visit www.moderizeaid.net.

Noteworthy News — 12.3

Thursday, December 3rd, 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:

  • US envoy criticizes civilian effort in Afghanistan (Reuters, December 2) - Holbrooke signaled his concerns over efforts involving the United Nations and scores of foreign aid and development agencies before a meeting at which U.S. and European ministers are expected to discuss how to improve the reconstruction drive.  “We have a unified military command but we have an ‘un-unified’ international effort that involves the United Nations, individual countries, hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands, of NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and other international institutions.”  “We believe that we need to coordinate that civilian effort better,” he added.
  • New aid chief lays out plans to fix USAID (FP Blog-Josh Rogin, December 1) - Shah will report to directly to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, not Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew, he wrote in the answers, obtained by The Cable. But it’s not yet determined if he will have control over the “F bureau” at State, 60 percent of which is staffed by USAID personnel, he said.  “It is critical that we rebuild all types of capacity at USAID, including policy expertise,” Shah wrote to the committee. “I believe USAID must be able to inform policy decisions, develop strategies, and implement programs effectively and efficiently.”  “This is part of a larger struggle over the shape and direction of our country’s global development efforts,” Kerry said. “Our aid program is in need of a course correction.”
  • Money Can’t Buy America Love (Foreign Policy- Andrew Wilder and Stuart Gordon, December 1) - National security interests have always had a major influence over development assistance priorities, most notably during the Cold War. But never has aid so explicitly been viewed as a weapons system — a fact that is having a major impact on the development assistance policies and priorities of the United States and indeed of many other Western donors.  The primary objective of U.S. aid to countries such as Afghanistan is also shifting — from development for its own sake to the promotion of security. The result is that funding for insecure areas takes priority over secure areas.
  • Addicted to Contractors (Foreign Policy-Allison Stanger, December 1) - Waging war through contractors also means a lot of waste. Money must change hands multiple times in a foreign country — a standing invitation for corruption. The contracting apparatus spawns a web of complex financial transactions that the U.S. Congress cannot effectively oversee. Funding it is equally problematic; Washington continues to finance the struggle against terrorism through supplemental appropriations as though they were emergency operations.
  • The Downside of ‘Smart Power’ (New Republic-Jesse Zwick, November 30) - But there was a catch: Emphasizing aid’s strategic rationale also meant changing its very nature. Several months ago, I spoke to Brian Atwood, who ran USAID from 1993 to 1999 during the Clinton administration. USAID’s underlying philosophy, he pointed out, had traditionally hinged on a very long-term vision of American interests–a faith that alleviating poverty and other social ills would somehow ultimately benefit the United States. It wasn’t pure altruism, but, in practice, it was certainly closer to altruism than the vision of aid as a strategic tool put forth by “smart power” proponents. “You need an aid administrator who can think long term and work on preventing crises,” he told me–as opposed to simply responding to crises, a task that occupies much, if not most, of the secretary of state’s time.

Kerry: Shah given opportunity to enact “bold and far-reaching reform agenda.”

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
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091110_rjs_portraitAt yesterday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee nomination hearing for USAID Administrator nominee Dr. Rajiv Shah, the nominee spoke eloquently about the role he intends to play in rebuilding America’s premier development agency into a leading global institution.  He also pledged to prevent further fragmentation of U.S. development programs and said he would be deeply involved in parallel reviews of U.S. development policy being done at the White House and State Department – the cross-government Presidential Study Directive (PSD) on Global Development Policy and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), respectively.

In their opening statements, the Committee’s two highest ranking members underscored the importance of reforming U.S. foreign assistance and the unique opportunity created by reform efforts already underway including SFRC’s bipartisan Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act (S.1524).  Ranking Member Lugar said S.1524 is an “essential input into this [reform] process” and that it “has attracted the strong support of most development groups, led by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.”  Chairman Kerry said, “This is a moment of significant challenge and change, fluidity, at USAID. But it’s also a moment when people across government recognize that empowering our development agencies and giving them the resources they need is absolutely essential to achieving our larger foreign-policy goals.”  Lugar (R-IN) followed by saying, “USAID must be a full participant in policy making and budgeting. It also must be able to independently evaluate the effectiveness of foreign assistance programs and provide coordination between agencies.”

Before Mr. Shah began his testimony, he was introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who described him as a “strong, creative, and results-driven leader” whose “nomination sends a clear signal that development and humanitarian aid are core components of U.S. foreign policy.”  Mr. Shah’s testimony covered his experience at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and his brief stint at the Department of Agriculture, as well as his vision for restoring capacity at USAID and making it responsive to 21st-century challenges.

Mr. Shah said, “It is an honor to appear before this Committee as the nominee for USAID Administrator at a time when there is such broad, bipartisan recognition of both the importance of development to our foreign policy and the critical need to improve the way we work to help achieve it. I would suggest that not since the founding of USAID in 1961 and the passage of the Foreign Assistance Act have we had such an opportunity to fundamentally re-imagine our nation’s development strategy and strengthen the organization that leads it.”

John KerryRichard LugarBob Menendez

Many of the questions directed at Mr. Shah communicated a sense of frustration with the Administration over the lack of consultation with Congress regarding the QDDR and the PSD.  Mr. Shah was asked to describe not only his vision for restoring USAID, but list specific steps he could take immediately toward reforming U.S. foreign assistance.  In response to Chairman Kerry’s question about his vision for USAID, Mr. Shah said, “we need to give our mission directors and our staff in countries the flexibility and the tools to think long term. We need to reinvest in the planning and evaluation capacities at AID…And we need to look at our contracting system and how we work with our external implementing partners to benefit from the areas where we do that well with great efficiency but improve on areas where we can save money and achieve outcomes more efficiently.”

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who chairs the Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, asked Mr. Shah directly about the line of reporting given the creation of the “F” Bureau at the State Department under the Bush Administration, which migrated many of USAID’s functions over to State and created the Director of Foreign Assistance title.  Mr. Shah responded that he would be “responsible for the development budget and the AID budget, and…engaged deeply with other key partners that are making those determinations, at OMB and elsewhere.”  More importantly, he will “absolutely” have a direct line of communication with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Other questions focused on specific sectors of development, asking Mr. Shah how he plans to engage with respect to global food security, global health, education, and good governance.  At the conclusion of the hearing, Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) noted his confidence that Mr. Shah would be confirmed and that he would do everything he could to “expedite” the process.

Click here for Shah’s Responses to Kerry’s Questions for the Record.

Click here for a Full Transcript of the Shah Nomination Hearing .

MFAN Member and Oxfam VP Talks Reform on CNN

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
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In the aftermath of President Obama’s announcement of his new Afghanistan strategy and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s nomination hearing for USAID Administrator nominee Dr. Rajiv Shah, MFAN member and Oxfam VP of Policy and Advocacy Paul O’Brien appeared on CNN’s “Amanpour” to address the importance of U.S. development efforts in Afghanistan and foreign assistance reform more broadly. Check out the video below: