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Archive for March, 2011

USAID, MCC Budget Hearing Seeped in Partisan Bickering

Monday, March 21st, 2011
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Last Wednesday, USAID Administrator Raj Shah and MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the President’s FY’12 budget request and the future of foreign assistance programs. Yet, Shah and Yohannes barely got a word in edgewise as members on both sides of the aisle succumbed to partisan debate over whether the U.S. can afford to pay for foreign assistance programs. And the debate was hardly constructive.

Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) remained above the fray, kicking off the hearing with some promising comments about the need to emphasize partnerships with the private sector and be more accountable with our aid dollars—with the ultimate goal of promoting economic growth. Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) hit on some important reform principles both USAID and MCC have implemented into programs and policies whether those principles are about emphasizing science and technology as part of USAID Forward or embracing transparency and accountability with MCC compacts. Ultimately, Berman said the committee should be focused on ensuring that every tax dollar is put to best possible use but that doesn’t mean we should cut foreign assistance funding.


The Global Agricultural and Food Security Program (GAFSP): An Innovative Fund to Fight Hunger

Friday, March 18th, 2011
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Today’s post is the third in a Feed the Future/Reform blog series that MFAN has been coordinating with key members of the community. To read the first post by Bread for the World, click here. To read the second post by the World Food Program USA, click here.  To see what ActionAid USA’s Director of Policy and Campaigns has to say about GAFSP and its alignment with foreign assistance reform principles, read below. You will see many aspects of country ownership reflected in the post – be sure to comment or share your thoughts!

A Guest Post by Neil Watkins

Director of Policy and Campaigns at ActionAid USA

ActionAid is an international anti-poverty agency working in 50 countries, taking sides with poor people to end poverty and injustice together. Watkins currently serves as the Northern CSO representative on the Steering Committee of the GAFSP.Women farmers

A critical, but less well known component of the USG’s Feed the Future Initiative is the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). Launched in April 2010, the fund embodies many of the principles of aid effectiveness, including country ownership, a strong monitoring and evaluation element, and provisions to ensure transparency and civil society participation.

The GAFSP was established in April 2010 following commitments made by leaders at the G-8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy in 2009 to support global food security. The fund, with a small secretariat at the World Bank, has received nearly $1 billion in pledges from 6 donors including the United States, Spain, Korea, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada and Australia. Unfortunately, the US has only delivered $67 million of its pledge to date; the remainder is currently caught up in the debate around the FY2011 budget.  Congress needs to act with urgency to meet our pledge.

One of the innovations of the GAFSP is its governance structure. It is governed by a Steering Committee that includes 12 voting members (the aforementioned 6 donors, along with 6 developing country governments), as well as 11 non-voting but fully participating members. Non-voting members include three civil society representatives (including a farmers organization leader from Africa and Asia); three representatives from the United Nations system; and representatives from the five development banks which serve as the supervising entities for GAFSP projects. As the fund has evolved, in practice there is little difference between voting and non-voting members: all discussions and decisions are taken with all members present.

In June 2010, the GAFSP Steering Committee approved five grants totaling US$224 million for Bangladesh, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Togo and Rwanda. In November 2010, more than $100 million in grants were approved for Mongolia, Ethiopia, and Niger. The successful country proposals demonstrated a high level of need, an effective agricultural investment plan, and a coherent project proposal.

left_scThe GAFSP has adopted the Rome Principles — agreed to by 193 nations at the World Food Security summit in November 2009 — into its governance structure, planning, and implementation procedures. All GAFSP funds support country-led agricultural development strategies. In Africa, the fund specifically supports countries that have advanced through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program CAADP process. The CAADP process, launched at a summit of African heads of state in Maputo in 2003, commits African governments to spend at least 10% of their budgets on agriculture and includes a peer and technical review process to ensure development effectiveness.

Moreover, official contributions and pledges to the Fund have been able to leverage additional commitments including from non-traditional donors (Korea) and the philanthropic sector (Gates Foundation). The Fund also operates with a high level of transparency, with all Board documents posted to its website within one week of approval, and detailed information and financed projects publicly available.

From the outset, the GAFSP has placed a strong emphasis on civil society participation, recognizing the vital role civil society organizations (CSOs) play in ensuring that its programs have the greatest impact for the most vulnerable. ActionAid has been encouraged by the inclusion of CSOs in the governance structure of the Fund and the responsiveness by the Fund to CSO input provided to date.

The following are some concrete examples of the successes that CSOs have achieved by serving on the GAFSP Board:

  • Instructions are now sent along with grant notices to countries that receive awards from GAFSP directing the countries to ensure meaningful stakeholder participation in the finalization of their proposals;
  • The project financed by GAFSP in Togo involved farmers organizations and civil society organizations in the drafting, finalization, and now implementation of the project;
  • We also successfully pushed the Private Sector Window, a smaller lending window of the GAFSP which specifically supports the private sector, to commit that Environmental and social safeguards apply to financial intermediaries involved in the Private Sector Window; and that the development indicators the IFC uses to evaluate development impact of PSW projects will be shared with the steering committee.

ActionAid is also working with farmer’s organizations and other CSOs to press the GAFSP to further empower civil society and farmers organizations:

  • At the request of the full steering committee, we are developing detailed benchmarks and guidelines for effective civil society participation at the country level to ensure much deeper engagement and participation of producers’ organizations especially;
  • Pushing the GAFSP to clearly identify and support projects that favor innovative models of agricultural development that are likely to have the most beneficial impact on poor smallholders, especially women;
  • Pressing the Private Sector Window to operate transparently, to directly support smallholders and their organizations, and to demonstrate development effectiveness; and
  • Ensure strong linkages and accountability with the Committee on World Food Security.

ActionAid believes the GAFSP is a promising vehicle through which donors should deliver agricultural development assistance. We are urging Congress to provide full funding for the United States’ pledge to the fund. The current shortfall from the US is a risk to the fund’s sustainability. We are also urging other G-20 countries that have not yet contributed to GAFSP to make pledges to the Fund, which is an important model of aid effectiveness in practice.

The Missing Link: Private Sector Involvement in Aid for Trade

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
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On Tuesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the World Bank hosted an event, Building Capacity for Trade in Developing Countries: Fostering Public and Private Cooperation in Aid for Trade. Supporting organizations included MFAN Partner the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, the Trade, Aid, Security Coalition, the Business Civic Leadership Center and the Business Council for Global Development. Tom Donohue, President of the Chamber, noted that more than half of US exports go to developing countries and reaffirmed the Chamber’s commitment to doubling US exports over the next 5 years, in support of Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI).

The Aid for Trade (AFT) agenda was officially launched at the World Trade Organization’s Hong Kong Trade Ministerial meeting back in 2005. According to MFAN Co-Chair Jim Kolbe who moderated the first panel with Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization and Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank Group, there are 4 main components of aid for trade: technical assistance, infrastructure building to link markets, productive capacity and adjustment assistance. In the private sector, the aid for trade agenda is often referred to as value chain management or sustainable management. In other words aid for trade is official development assistance for building developing countries’ capacity for trade. Lamy noted that the increased political energy around aid for trade has led to more funding for trade capacity building in developing countries over the past several years. He also said there has been progress in making sure developing countries better streamline their trade and development policies and identify clear priorities. Lamy emphasized the need for countries to “own” their priorities and for donors to match their requests – a concept many in our community know as country ownership. As for areas of improvement, Lamy said there need to be more impact assessments that can in turn help make the case that public funds for trade capacity building are a good investment. Finally, he noted that businesses are more or less focusing on the same agenda but there is not a strong connection between the official AFT agenda and the private sector.

Zoellick described the World Bank’s role in capacity building in 3 main ways: improving the overall competitiveness in countries (policy context), finding ways to help cut the costs (both hard and soft infrastructure), and through trade finance. He said it is important for multilaterals to recognize when they can play a supportive role in helping build coherence among the many players, identifying gaps, and supporting the developing countries’ role in the “driver’s seat.” Zoellick built on Lamy’s point about the importance of impact assessments and said that all across the field of development we are looking to connect with the results agenda, and this is a critical  component.

The high level panel was followed by brief presentations by 6 major companies – Cargill, FedEx, Google, IBM, Kraft Foods and WalMart – highlighting capacity building projects they are spearheading around the world, some focusing on telecommunications and logistics and others focusing on the promotion of intellectual property rights and innovation. John Murphy, Vice President of the Chamber, noted that bringing private sector voices into the AFT discussions along with multilaterals would be incredibly beneficial to all involved. The long term goal would be to transition from Aid for Trade to Investment for Trade.

Devry Boughner, the Director of International Business Relations for Cargill, shared their Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) where after a series of trainings, the companies involved would meet international certification standards in food safety and hygiene, and therefore could be competitive in the global marketplace. Boughner said that this process not only led to higher standards for food safety across the board, but led to cost efficiency in the supply chain. Chris Padilla, Vice President of Governmental Programs for IBM said trade facilitation is important to the bottom line and summed up his remarks in 2 words: “trusted partnerships.” Padilla talked about AEO’s or authorized economic operators. He said that through AEO’s, large volume importers can build special relationships with countries and their customs authorities leading to eligibility for faster clearance of goods.

Representatives from USAID, the State Department, the US Trade and Development Agency, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation were in attendance. This Chamber and World Bank event was a great first step leading up to the July 18-19 Aid for Trade Global Review in Geneva – over 260 case studies have already been collected and best practices will be shared. The goal of many of these case studies is to show that the sum is greater than all the individual parts, which will hopefully lead to better coordination and partnership with the private sector moving forward.

As Tom Donohue said when he opened the afternoon’s event, “There have never been so many opportunities for business and government to break down barriers to trade as now.”

Click here to watch a webcast of the event.

Feeding Hungry People While Feeding the Future

Friday, March 11th, 2011
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Below is the second installment of MFAN’s blog series highlighting the reform aspects of Feed the Future, the United States Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Feed the Future incorporates many key reform principles such as components of country ownership, strong monitoring and evaluation, and leveraging partnerships for enhanced results. To read the first blog in the series, Feed the Future: A Promising New Model of Development, click here. In this week’s post, Rick Leach, President and CEO of World Food Program USA focuses on both the short and long-term goals for food security as well as the importance of a comprehensive approach.

As Mr. Leach says, “This comprehensive approach makes foreign assistance more effective and leads to increased economic growth, which can open new markets for U.S. products and create new jobs at home.”

A Guest Blog Post by Rick Leach, President and CEO

World Food Program USA

The United States has been a long-standing leader in providing emergency food assistance to people in need around the world. From the food assistance provided under the Marshall Plan, which helped ensure prosperity for a generation of Europeans, to the lifesaving food provided in the wake of last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, U.S. food assistance has enjoyed decades of bipartisan support.

In recent years, support for food assistance has been unprecedented, as its efficiency and effectiveness continues to improve. Food is now reaching hungry people in need more quickly and more efficiently than ever before. The United States has increased the flexibility of food assistance by expanding prepositioning, so food is nearby when emergencies strike. And with U.S. cash-based assistance food also can be purchased locally, helping to revive and support local economies.

Now, with the administration’s new Feed the Future Initiative, the United States has matched its longstanding commitment to saving and rebuilding lives during emergencies with robust support for efforts to tackle an underlying cause of hunger.

AFG_200306_WFP-Alejandro_Chicheri_0014WFP/Alejandro Chicheri

During the 2008 food price crisis, the world witnessed the destabilizing effects that food insecurity had on the world’s poorest people, causing riots in 40 countries. In response the United States and G8 leaders issued a call to action: improved global food security would require a comprehensive approach, one which combined short-term food assistance with long-term development initiatives. This call to action has resulted in an unprecedented consensus on how to effectively address global hunger, from government leaders to recipient countries and international development organizations. The U.S. response to this call to action is Feed the Future, which complements U.S. food assistance with investments in nutrition and agricultural development to comprehensively address the short and long-term impacts of hunger.

The United States and its partners are now employing this multifaceted approach to solve hunger in countries around the world, including Afghanistan where the United States is tailoring its assistance to meet diverse needs on the ground. In cities, such as Kabul, where markets continue to function, the most food insecure families receive vouchers, which enable them to purchase food from local retailers, thereby bolstering local markets. In order to maintain food security and rebuild lives and communities after emergencies, vulnerable populations are provided with food in exchange for their participation in training programs or infrastructure projects, which helps strengthen the capacity of the Afghan people and build the Afghan economy.

U.S. anti-hunger initiatives also provide children in Afghanistan with food assistance specific to their needs. If children do not receive proper nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life (from conception to two years of age) they can suffer permanent mental and physical damage. Therefore, young children and mothers receive nutrient-rich food and nutritional products to ensure proper early development. In support of national efforts to strengthen the education system, school-age children are also encouraged to attend school with the promise of a meal. This not only increases enrollment, especially for girls, but also improves cognition so children are able to learn and retain information.

Finally, the United States and its partners are now embarking on a global effort to expand agricultural and rural development. One example of an innovative program is the World Food Program’s (WFP) Purchase for Progress initiative, supported by the United States and other donors, which has begun purchasing wheat directly from small-scale Afghan farmers. This initiative is increasing the productivity and income of small-scale farmers, improving their long-term food security. In turn, the wheat purchased by WFP has been used to provide assistance to Afghan families affected by flooding and to produce fortified biscuits for school meals programs.

This comprehensive approach makes foreign assistance more effective and leads to increased economic growth, which can open new markets for U.S. products and create new jobs at home. And by more effectively addressing emergency needs and transitioning countries to stable, productive societies, the United States is also building peace around the world. This means improved national security and as Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said, “development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.” These investments are small but the reward is great. Providing food for hungry people today while growing food to feed future generations is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

MFAN Partner: Include the Defense Budget in a Plan to Control the Debt

Thursday, March 10th, 2011
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The Debt Reduction Task Force urges the federal government to deal with the national debt by slashing the budget, which includes defense spending. But the importance of defense spending cuts is usually unrecognized and often overlooked. Alice M. Rivlin, a member of the President’s Debt Commission, makes the case for cuts to the defense budget in a blog post, which first appeared on MFAN Partner the Stimson Center’s “The Will and the Wallet.” See excerpts from her argument below:

“The fundamental point is that failure to rein in rising debt poses  enormous risk to our economic vitality and national security in the near term, and avoiding potential catastrophe requires major efforts to limit all spending to the highest priorities and greatest needs—as well as raising additional revenue. We cannot afford non-essential spending for any broad purpose—health or education or defense—until we get our federal budget back on a sustainable track.”

“Slowing the rate of growth of entitlement spending, especially for health care, is essential to stabilizing future debt, but cannot bear the whole burden. Fortunately, there are substantial opportunities, both on the domestic and defense sides of the budgets to rethink priorities and spend money more effectively. No one can deny that there is enormous inertia and significant waste in the defense budget, especially, but not exclusively, in the contracting process. We have an obligation, in the face of the dangers of a debt crisis, to make sure the taxpayers’ dollars are well spent and that we are radically reducing the extent to which spending for weapons systems and military facilities are driven political power and industrial advocacy.”

“The rationale for including defense spending in a deficit reduction exercise has invoked the concept of shared sacrifice—everyone contributing in the face of shared danger. I prefer to think of it a shared opportunity—subjecting all spending, defense and domestic, to more rigorous tests for efficiency and effectiveness.”

To read the full post click here.