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Archive for July, 2010

MFAN Member Responds to President Obama’s MDG Plan

Friday, July 30th, 2010
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Below is a guest blog post from MFAN member Porter McConnell, Policy Advisor for Oxfam America’s Aid Effectiveness team, on today’s release of the U.S. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) strategy:

President Obama is releasing the US’s MDG strategy today…but where’s the bigger plan?

OxfamThe Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Summit is coming up in September. World leaders will discuss how to end hunger, send kids to school, keep mothers and their babies healthy, stop HIV/AIDS from becoming a death sentence, and all kinds of other poverty-fighting goals.

It’s a tall order. So President Obama asked USAID to produce a plan for doing the US share to meet the MDGs. Today, the White House releases that MDG action plan.

A plan to fight the MDGs is a great stepping stone in fighting global poverty, but it’s not the whole story. If the US is committed to fighting global poverty, President Obama needs to deliver a global development strategy at the upcoming MDG Summit.

Akayema reading a plan

I’m happy to report that the MDG action plan mentions a new “development policy” coming out soon. Why is it so important that the US come up with a plan to fight poverty? Until the US has some kind of mission statement, all of these piecemeal reform efforts are like a ship without a compass. Why bother investing in “game changing innovations” if we don’t know what destination we’re trying to get to?  Which innovations? To do what? How do we know when we’ve succeeded?

The good news is the White House may already have its mission.  In a document leaked this spring, here’s what they had to say:

“Helping to create a world with more prosperous and democratic states, able to meet the needs of their people and to be our partners in addressing common threats, challenges and opportunities.”

I think that’s a pretty great mission. Why not make it official?

And while you’re at it, tell us how you intend to get there. On the campaign trail, you committed to “Elevate, streamline, and empower a 21st Century US development agency.” I can’t think of a better way to put global poverty front and center!

And finally, show us how the US can make a truly lasting impact, and put ourselves out of the aid business. Borrowing a line from your own playbook, in the leaked document this spring:

“The US will respond directly to country priorities, making new investments in line with established national strategies and country development plans.  Where our partners set in place systems that reflect high standards of transparency and accountability, the US will empower responsible governments to drive development and sustain outcomes by working through national institutions rather than around them.”

President Obama, thanks for the MDG action plan. Looking forward to seeing that global development strategy at the MDG Summit in September!

130+ Businesses, NGOs, Think Tanks, and Individuals Sign MFAN’s Open Letter

Thursday, July 29th, 2010
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With the deadline fast approaching, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) is happy to report that over 130 organizations and individuals have endorsed the Open Letter to the President on the U.S. Commitment to Global Development.  We look forward to sharing the Open Letter with the community in the coming days.

Just to name a few of the signatories:

Alliance to End Hunger

Better World Campaign

Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty


International Housing Coalition



Truman National Security Project

You can still sign the Open Letter on our website or take a few steps listed below to help us spread the word on this important call to action:

  • Circulate the Open Letter
  • Download a badge for your Facebook, MySpace, or other profile to show you support more effective foreign aid and get your network to sign the letter
  • Tweet: “I signed a letter urging Pres Obama to increase U.S. foreign aid’s impact.  YOUR TURN! #ReformWithinReach”

Effective Foreign Assistance is a Moral Imperative

Thursday, July 29th, 2010
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By Mark Green, Ambassador and Congressman (ret.)

I recently began posting a series of pieces with some of the reasons why I believe (a) America needs foreign assistance reform and (b) Conservatives should take up the cause.  Done right, foreign assistance can play a crucial role in our foreign policy. Unfortunately, the status quo isn’t “done right” or, at least, done as well as it could be.

To summarize, here are my first five reasons:

Reason 1: Our current foreign aid system is organizationally incoherent.

Reason 2: We need to reform the system to make our precious taxpayer dollars go much further.

Reason 3: Foreign assistance reform is a great opportunity for Conservatives to reaffirm values and initiatives we care about. 

Reason 4: Simply put, Conservatives (and Republicans) have a long history of standing up for EFFECTIVE foreign assistance.

Reason 5: The combination of fragmented authorities and overlapping bureaucracies in our current assistance framework is watering down public diplomacy efforts.

And now . . .Reason 6: Making our foreign assistance operate as effectively as possible is a moral and ethical imperative.

Conservative religious leaders have long voiced their support for helping the world’s poorest:

I deeply believe that if we as evangelicals remain silent and do not speak up in defense of the poor, we lose our credibility and our right to witness about God’s love and Word. — Rick Warren

If I were a parent in a poor, debt-riddled nation, cradling my dying child in my arms, my heart would be broken and I would cry out for a solution. My prayer is that the leaders of the world will heed these cries and will work together to solve this critical problem. As a follower of Jesus, however, I believe this is not just a political or economic issue, it’s a moral and spiritual issue as well.

— Billy Graham

In the present world order, the African nations are among the most disadvantaged. Rich countries must become clearly aware of their duty to support the efforts of the countries struggling to rise from their poverty and misery… Because all men and women bear God’s image and are called to belong to the same family redeemed by Christ’s Blood . . .

— Pope John Paul II

Mark Green villageDebates over foreign assistance – funding levels, delivery mechanisms, program structure, etc. – are too often dominated by development insiders.  These experts – government officials, aid contractors, etc. – are certainly experienced and informed, but their focus is naturally on their own particular portfolio, and when they do make larger points, they can become lost in a maze of bureaucratic jargon and process arguments.

As we talk about America’s relationship to the rest of the world, particularly the developing world, we need to remind ourselves why many of our most effective assistance tools were first launched.  It’s not because we wanted to create new “make-work” for bureaucrats or a new entitlement for our implementing partners. These initiatives were created for noble purposes — to help lift lives and build communities in challenged parts of the world. They were created because, as President Kennedy said,

“There is no escaping … our moral  obligations as a wise leader and a good neighbor in the interdependent community of free nations . . . as the wealthiest people in a world of largely poor people. . . .“

They were created because, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said,

Power matters. But there can be no absence of moral content in American foreign policy, and furthermore, the American people wouldn’t accept such an absence. Europeans giggle at this and say we’re naïve and so on, but we’re not Europeans – we’re Americans – and we have different principles.

They were created because as, President George W. Bush said,

. . .[W]e’re committed to development because it’s in our moral interests. I strongly believe in the timeless truth, to whom much is given, much is required. We are a blessed nation, and I believe we have a duty to help those less fortunate around the world. We believe that power to save lives comes with the obligation to use it.


If, in fact, this sense of compassion and moral obligation is part of what underpins our foreign assistance – from disaster relief to helping tackle the AIDS pandemic – then this same sense should push us to make sure we do it as effectively as possible.  As individuals, each of us makes choices as to the charities we’re going to support with our hard earned money. As we do so, we support those that can make our dollars go the furthest . . .that help us do the most good with what we can give. That same sentiment should apply when policymakers examine our foreign assistance framework – we need to make choices as to how we can do the most good with the limited resources that we can dedicate.

IMPACT blog: This Week at USAID – July 26, 2010

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
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Tomorrow’s MFAN and Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) co-hosted briefing was featured on USAID’s IMPACTblog weekly event calendar.  See all of the USAID-related events this week below:

  • Administrator Shah and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke will appear before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations for an oversight hearing on corruption in Afghanistan.

  • Administrator Shah will testify before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere about: The Crisis in Haiti: Are We Moving Fast Enough? He will also brief the Congressional Black Caucus about efforts in Haiti.

MFAN Principal and InterAction CEO Talks about Reform Within Reach

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
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Sam WorthingtonYesterday, Inter Press Service (IPS) posted an interview with MFAN Principal and InterAction CEO and President Sam Worthington.  IPS’s Aprille Muscara spoke with Worthington about the role of NGOs in providing emergency relief and long-term reconstruction in Haiti and how foreign assistance reform will lead to more effective development.  Worthington mentioned InterAction’s work as a Partner of MFAN, specifically citing the Reform Within Reach campaign, and outlined the principle steps for reform MFAN has been advocating for since its inception.  He also provided a clear definition of country ownership.  Read an excerpt from his interview after the jump and be sure to read the full interview: