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Archive for August, 2011

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: ‘American Aid is Lifting Liberia’

Monday, August 15th, 2011
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Over the weekend, The Washington Post ran an op-ed by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in which she elaborates on the partnership between Liberia and the U.S. that has helped set her country on a path to recovery, and even growth, following a decades-long civil war. She writes: “Thanks to our partnership with the American people, we are rebuilding roads, clinics, and schools, and expanding access to electricity, water, and sanitation. It is critical that this aid continues in next year’s budget.”

With economic growth averaging 7.2 percent in recent years, President Sirleaf hopes to one day reach a point when American aid is no longer needed—a principle guiding the thinking behind the Obama administration’s development initiatives. Yet, she reminds the reader that time is not yet and the critical support the U.S has offered, whether it’s providing greater access to clean water through the Global Health Initiative or basic infrastructure improvements, is still needed. In closing, she argues for continued U.S. investment, writing:

“Indeed, on a June visit to the United States, I met with congressional leaders and administration officials to make the case for sustained foreign assistance to Liberia. I explained that we are not seeking an open-ended commitment but, rather, support in the next few years of our transition. I am confident that such aid would, within a decade, allow Liberia to sustain its own development and end its need for foreign aid.”

To read the full piece, click here.


Following Through on Reforms

Monday, August 15th, 2011
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By Porter McConnell, Oxfam America’s policy and advocacy manager for Aid Effectiveness.

The OECD and international aid donors recently released a peer review on U.S. aid. Their verdict: reforms are great on paper, but they’re not yet delivering for poor people.

The review highlights new U.S. policies – the PPD, the QDDR and USAID Forward – that commit the U.S. to a coherent approach. But, fragmentation remains a huge problem.

There are 12 different departments, 27 different agencies, and almost 60 government offices involved in development, and U.S. efforts often work at cross-purposes. USAID, the lead development agency, is responsible for only half of U.S. assistance, so overseas programs may be prioritizing U.S. commercial or military interests over alleviating poverty and saving lives.

This kind of inefficiency leads to duplication, conflicting priorities, and wasted effort. And the recent debt ceiling negotiations on Capitol Hill demonstrate that the administration simply doesn’t have the luxury of inefficiency in this cutting mood.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

At this time of high budget deficits and higher political stakes, the U.S. needs to be more efficient than ever with its development dollars. This means the administration must tackle the hard parts of PPD implementation, like working with Congress on legislation that makes USAID’s reforms permanent. It means Congress needs to stop deluding itself that cuts to development assistance, just half of one percent of the federal budget, will balance the budget.

In aid reform, as in bowling, follow-through is everything. And follow-through requires the courage to make tough choices. Making tough decisions is the only way the administration and Congress can ensure these critical reforms go from great reforms on paper to real results for people living in poverty. This fall, it’s critical that we send a message to both branches to follow through with reform.

Learn more from the report, and stay tuned as we follow U.S. aid reform efforts into the field.


CCEFA Profile: Rep. Jim McDermott

Friday, August 12th, 2011
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See below for our latest Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance (CCEFA) profile of the Congressman from Washington, Jim McDermott. We’ve already profiled the Co-Chairs Ander Crenshaw and Adam Smith, as well as Representatives Keith EllisonDenny RehbergLaura RichardsonDennis RossAaron Schock, Lynn Woolsey, and Hank Johnson. Stay tuned for more!

Jim McDermott (D)

District: Washington’s 7th

Twitter: @RepJimMcDermott


  • Committee on Ways and Means
    • Subcommittee on Trade: Ranking Member
    • Subcommittee on Human Resources
    • Subcommittee on Oversight

Throughout his twelve terms, Rep. McDermott has made a lasting mark on Capitol Hill in the way of legislative achievements and unwavering focus on promoting global social welfare.  A leader in the House of Representatives, he sits as Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Trade within the House Ways and Means Committee and serves as one of the senior members on the committee at large.  Demonstrating his unparalleled resolve with respect to addressing and combating medical issues in the developing world, Rep. McDermott balances his committee duties with his chairmanship of the Congressional Task Force on International HIV/ AIDS, which he founded.

Rep. McDermott is unique among his colleagues in the CCEFA due to his inspiring background.  A physician by trade, he left politics in 1987 to take on a Foreign Service medical officer post in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), providing psychiatric services to the impoverished communities of sub-Saharan Africa.  Thus, while policy experience is imperative in executing the agenda of CCEFA, Rep. McDermott will play a special role in the caucus, for he has seen, firsthand, the power of U.S. engagement to help alleviate poverty and suffering worldwide.

From his return to the policymaking world in 1991 through the present day, Rep. McDermott has proven time and again that bolstering U.S. foreign assistance must be on the U.S. government’s agenda just as it is on his own.  To this effect, he has been quoted in saying, “During my time as a member of Congress, I have been a staunch supporter of foreign assistance for humanitarian efforts and promotion of economic development. I believe the U.S. has a moral imperative to play a leading role in promoting development assistance.”  Substantiating this rhetoric, Rep. McDermott cosponsored the 21st Century Global Health Technology Act, which improves coordination between U.S. federal bodies in their efforts to address global health concerns in the developing world.  Along these same lines, Rep. McDermott was also a cosponsor of H. Res. 176, which increased the visibility of World Tuberculosis Day and popular understanding of the crippling disease.  Shifting back to Africa, Rep. McDermott views his sponsorship of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) of 2004 as his crowning achievement in Congress.  AGOA has spurred U.S.-African trade to new heights since the legislation’s enactment and, in the process, it has helped create over 150,000 jobs in sub-Saharan Africa.  By joining CCEFA, he has effectively reaffirmed his commitment to improving the lives of sub-Saharan African nations and of the developing world as a whole.


Deputy Administrator Steinberg Addresses Reform at InterAction Forum

Thursday, August 11th, 2011
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U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg spoke at MFAN partner InterAction’s Forum 2011 yesterday, offering insight into the “new development landscape.” He assessed the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s recent review of U.S. development efforts, highlighting some of their recommendations:

“We’ve moved forward on aid effectiveness principles, including accountability, transparency and sustainability by focusing on procurement reform, country ownership, on-budget programs, and monitoring and evaluation….

“They warned that there is diminishing support for foreign assistance in the U.S. Congress in light of severe fiscal constraints and pressing domestic needs. They questioned whether the U.S. will maintain current assistance levels; much less ever achieve the 0.7 percent of GDP level.

“They again highlighted the confusion of 27 separate U.S. government agencies in the development arena, threatening policy coherence and risking redundancy. They warned that humanitarian and development priorities are increasingly influenced by national security concerns, especially counter-insurgency and stabilization operations.

“And they called on the U.S. to re-emerge as a thought leader, building on AID’s progress in re-establishing its policy bureau; conducting evidence summits and grand challenges; incorporating science, technology and innovation in our work; and launching new strategies in education, climate change, countering violent extremism, gender and the youth bulge.”

In preparation for this winter’s High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Deputy Administrator Steinberg laid out several key issues. The U.S. “must put results at the center of our development agenda,” “move beyond a focus on Official Development Assistance (ODA) to a broader concern with ‘development effectiveness,’” and ensure “realistic and transparent” coordination among donor nations and NGOs.

Deputy Administrator Steinberg’s full remarks are available here.

Secretary Clinton Addresses Food Security & Famine in the Horn of Africa

Thursday, August 11th, 2011
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Secretary Clinton appeared at the International Food Policy Research Institute this morning to address the ongoing famine and refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa, calling it “the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world today.” The Secretary discussed the tragedy unfolding in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, emphasizing the need for a rapid response and applauding relief efforts from the US, UN, and NGO communities.

Untitled from IFPRI Library on Vimeo.

Her remarks linked food emergencies to food security. As the world gradually awakens to the famine putting over 12 million people at risk of starvation, our long-term efforts will be crucial to the Horn’s future. Secretary Clinton highlighted the need for a multi-faceted response, helping the region through this crisis while preventing such crises from happening again. “Food security is the key.”

Though drought triggered the current emergency, Secretary Clinton made clear that the cycle of food shortages is not an act of God but a complex—and solvable—problem. She pointed to the level of vulnerability in Somalia versus that in Ethiopia and Kenya, two Feed the Future partner countries who “prove that progress is possible.” The Ethiopian and Kenyan governments, with help from international donors, have enabled their populations to adapt to shortages by investing in productive safety nets and market chains. Both nations have promised to commit 10% of their budget to agriculture—a target Ethiopia has already surpassed—and are incorporating gender and environmental analysis to ensure sustainability.

International commitments to long-term food security have been tempered by competing concerns. Secretary Clinton acknowledged our difficult budget circumstances, but she called for nations to maintain their support for food security, saying “we have to dedicate ourselves to doing development differently.” She announced another $17 million in U.S. funding for the region, on top of an additional $105 million announced by President Obama yesterday. The response, however, must go beyond immediate assistance and build sustainable food systems: Secretary Clinton looked to the private sector and individuals for investments that will avoid such disasters in the future.

Individuals wishing to support the relief efforts can visit InterAction’s list of NGOs active in the Horn of Africa or text AID to 27722 to donate $10 to the World Food Program USA.