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Archive for January, 2011

MFAN Member John Glenn Writes to the Importance of the International Affairs Budget

Monday, January 31st, 2011
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John GlennJohn Glenn, policy director at MFAN Partner the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), reminds everyone that foreign aid spending makes up just 1% of our budget in a recent blog post. Given the Gallup/USA Today poll released last week—the latest poll in a string which points to the misconception of foreign aid spending in the U.S.—Glenn argues it’s time for the development community to be better communicators about the importance of the International Affairs budget. Read Glenn’s full piece here and see excerpts below:

“The problem isn’t that we are spending too much on promoting global development, strengthening our alliances, and dealing with global threats. Rather, we must do a better job communicating the actual size and importance of our International Affairs budget. Most Americans may not know that National Security leaders from Secretary of Defense Bob Gates to Joint Chiefs Chair Mike Mullen, as well as 90 percent of currently serving or recently retired officers, believe the military alone is not enough to protect America, and we need the tools of development and diplomacy to keep us safe.”

“As one in five U.S. jobs is related to international trade and nearly half of our exports now go to the developing world, a strong and effective International Affairs budget is critical to our economic prosperity. And when we provide life-saving medications and education to people in the developing world, we are not only demonstrating the best values of America, but ensuring people have real opportunities to succeed.”

GOP Voices Make the Case for Effective Foreign Aid

Friday, January 28th, 2011
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Daily Caller logoFormer Ambassador to Tanzania and Congressman from Wisconsin Mark Green, Managing Director of the Malaria No More Policy Center, along with MFAN Co-Chair and former Republican Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and a Senior Advisor to McLarty Associates, and MFAN Principal and former President and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) Rob Mosbacher, Chairman of the Mosbacher Energy Company of Texas, put forth a strong defense for foreign assistance in a new op-ed in The Daily Caller. Green, Kolbe and Mosbacher urge policymakers to not cut short the achievements that aid has delivered over the last decade by slashing the budget, and instead focus on making US foreign assistance more efficient and effective—creating tremendous opportunities for the US to build markets and generate stability worldwide. Read the full op-ed below.

The Daily Caller

More effective foreign assistance can pay real dividends

Mark Green, Jim Kolbe, and Rob Mosbacher

January 28, 2011

As a new Congress gets into gear, both Republicans and Democrats have a solemn duty to do the people’s work and to make sure their taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely. U.S. foreign assistance is already under the microscope, as it should be, but we believe policymakers should focus on making it better instead of slashing budgets. Foreign assistance accounts for less than 1% of our federal budget, and our investments in it can pay real dividends for the cost.

The world has changed dramatically even in the last decade, becoming more interconnected and full of challenges that defy narrow solutions. Our foreign assistance is a projection of our responsible leadership in the world; it is more important than ever to our security and economic interests. We must take the politics out of this debate and get down to the facts.

In terms of our national security, we provide extensive counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency assistance to “frontline states” such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. These civilian-led programs help build and train national army and police forces, support democracy and the rule of law, and improve destitute living conditions that can fuel extremism and anti-American sentiment.

Military leaders from Secretary of Defense Gates to Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen to Afghanistan Commander Petraeus have issued strong calls for strengthening civilian programs that take some of the burdens off of our war fighters, with Gates saying recently that helping countries develop “is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”


Showing US leadership through innovation in foreign assistance

Thursday, January 27th, 2011
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saramesserSara Messer, policy manager for aid effectiveness, at MFAN Partner ONE, recently posted a blog about the recurring themes of innovation and competitiveness in President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this week. She took the opportunity to highlight the many reforms already underway at the U.S. Agency for International Development, the State Department, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Below are excerpts from Messer’s recent post:

“On reform, we saw a slew of new proposals and strategies for improving US foreign assistance this past year, from the President’s Policy Directive and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, to USAID’s new FORWARD reforms. All of these aim to reorganize agencies, reduce redundancies and red tape, and focus on monitoring and evaluation of programs to guide future funding decisions.”

“But in addition to just changing the way the US government delivers assistance, real change for the developing world will likely stem from new ideas, fresh thinking and harnessing science and technology to improve lives. USAID has already started upgrading its Office of S&T and has created the Development Innovation Ventures fund that will invest in promising innovative development breakthroughs and help bring successful ventures to scale.”

“Throughout other programs, technological advances are receiving a lot of attention. In the Feed the Future initiative, the US approach to agricultural assistance includes technology innovations such as drought-tolerant crops that will increase food p5391031061_a017533761roduction and food security. And the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, with support from the US and others, recently incentivized the development of two new vaccines for two of the biggest killers of children, pneumonia and diarrhea. US support has also helped pave the way for research into new tools like microbicides for women to protect themselves against HIV.”

“At a time when government programs are on the chopping block and every dollar needs to be justified, it’s important that we support those programs that are making real reforms and changing lives for millions of people around the world. By standing with the administration to elevate our development work, America has the opportunity to showcase not just its military might, but its vision and leadership for a more prosperous world and the advancement of core US national interests.”

To read the entire post, click here.

MFAN Partners Sign Letter on IATI Standards

Thursday, January 27th, 2011
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On February 9th, the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Steering Committee will meet in Paris to finalize the global standard for aid transparency. The Steering Committee is made up of representatives from bilateral and multilateral donors, partner countries, civil society organisations and experts in aid information. Current members include: Australia, Betteraid, Burkina Faso, Civicus, Colombia, Development Gateway, Development Initiatives Poverty Research (DIPR), Dominican Republic, European Commission, Germany, Ghana, Malawi, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Publish What You Fund, Rwanda, Transparency International, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Kingdom, Vietnam and the World Bank.

The standards expected to be agreed will include:

  • an agreement on what information organisations will publish, how detailed the published information should be and what kind of detail should be included, for example whether it should include expected outcomes and payment conditions
  • a common system for categorising different types of aid spending /commitments with all participants using the same terminology and definitions so that it will be easier to share and compare information
  • a common electronic format that will make it easy to share information and thus reduce transaction costs
  • a code of conduct that will set out what information donors will publish and how frequently, how users may expect to access that information, and how donors will be held accountable for compliance.

In anticipation of this meeting, several civil society organizations have sent letters to aid donor countries to engage them on a discussion around the next set of aid transparency standards. Several MFAN Principals and Partners signed onto the letters, including: CARE USA; Sheila Nix, U.S. Executive Director, ONE; Oxfam America; Publish What You Fund; and Michael Klosson, Vice President, Policy and Humanitarian Response, Save the Children U.S. Acknowledging individual measures already taken to improve transparency, like the launch of the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, these CSOs argue the new standards resulting from the Steering Committee meeting must be compatible with donor country initiatives. The U.S. letter sent to U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah reads:

“The emerging ‘common aid language’ needs to be shaped by U.S. information and reporting systems and respond to U.S. accountability concerns. The Administration’s focus on results and accountability requires comprehensive and timely information on all resources being invested in a country, sector or area. Without the ability to compare U.S. spending to that of other donors, it is not possible to allocate or coordinate resources effectively or meaningfully assess their impact.”

For more information about IATI, click here.

MFAN Statement: RSC Budget Proposal Would Derail Progress on Foreign Assistance Reform

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
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January 26, 2010 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram, and Jim Kolbe:

We strongly oppose last week’s Republican Study Committee budget proposal, which would cut all operating expenses at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  The cuts would derail the comprehensive reform agenda underway inside the agency, at a time when its ability to perform effectively is crucial to our national security, our economic interests, and the lives and well-being of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people.

USAID is a crucial partner of the United States military in “frontline states” including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, where the agency’s civilian development professionals train security forces, support efforts to bolster democracy and the rule of law, and improve quality of life for people in areas where extremism thrives.  Secretary of Defense Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen, and Afghanistan Commander Petraeus have called for strengthening these civilian programs, noting that the military does not want, and is not designed or equipped to carry, the extra burden of leading development programs.  Secretary Gates also said recently that helping countries develop “is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”

The agency also builds critical agricultural growth programs, entrepreneurship initiatives, and community health efforts that help developing countries, the fastest growing markets in the world, mature and become better partners for U.S. exports and investment.  Just as the U.S. supported the Green Revolution in agricultural development in the 20th century – which helped countries like South Korea become strong trading partners and stalwart allies – we must continue this work by supporting the growth of vibrant private sectors and healthy middle classes, thriving civil societies, and empowered citizens in developing countries.

Most importantly, USAID Administrator Raj Shah is making progress on a tough reform agenda that would decrease inefficiencies; make the agency more selective, accountable and better at evaluating results; “graduate” countries that no longer need U.S. assistance; and uphold economic growth and empowered citizens as core goals of all development efforts.  We believe this reform effort must be given a chance to succeed, and we hope bipartisan Members of Congress will play a constructive role in making the agency more effective and accountable by helping to enshrine these and other foreign assistance reforms in law.