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Year in Review: A Look Back at Aid Reform in 2015

Friday, December 18th, 2015
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As 2015 comes to a close and we head into the final year of the Obama Administration, we want to take some time to reflect on all that we as a network have accomplished these last twelve months to move the needle on U.S. aid reform. With your energy and support, we continued to push on our pillar issues of accountability and country ownership and the policy priorities we laid out in these areas in our paper, The Way Forward: A Reform Agenda for 2014 and Beyond.

MFAN’s Continued Work to Strengthen Accountability & Country Ownership

MFAN hit the ground running in 2015 on accountability and country ownership. MFAN partner Save the Children released a new report early in the year tracking USAID’s Local Solutions initiative in six countries. MFAN and Brookings hosted an event to highlight the findings of a new policy paper from the MCC, Principles into Practice: Transparency. Continuing on the transparency and data use track, MFAN in partnership with AidData, the State Department, and USAID hosted Do More With Data: Moving U.S. Government Aid Transparency Forward, an event that brought together internal and external drivers of USG foreign aid transparency to explore ongoing and new efforts to make data more accessible.

This year we welcomed Dr. Patricia Morris to the MFAN Executive Committee. Pat took over as the new President of Women Thrive Worldwide, a longtime MFAN partner, in January. We also welcomed a new staff member in 2015, as Stephanie Cappa joined the MFAN hub as our Senior Government Relations Manager.

Heading into the Spring, MFAN and Devex launched Reform for Results, an online series to engage the broader development community on progress made and emerging opportunities on MFAN’s policy priorities from The Way Forward. The series featured a video interview with U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Deborah Birx, OpEds from MFAN Co-Chairs George Ingram, Carolyn Miles, and Connie Veillette, Honorary Co-Chair Senator Richard Lugar (Ret.), and Executive Committee members Ben Leo, Tom Hart, and Tessie San Martin.

MFAN’s Country Ownership Working Group released a policy brief outlining recommendations for how to better measure country ownership, which, for example, can be applied to USAID’s Local Solutions initiative. The paper was met with enthusiasm by USAID, as they are currently working on developing and integrating new metrics into their ownership work. The Country Ownership Working Group also welcomed Save the Children’s Nora O’Connell and Oxfam’s Greg Adams as its new co-chairs in 2015, following on the great leadership of Tessie San Martin of Plan and Rodney Bent.

In July, MFAN launched its new ACCOUNTdown to 2017 campaign to track progress made toward strengthening the accountability and country ownership of U.S. foreign aid. The campaign will take stock of where Congress and the Administration are in meeting their reform commitments and outline further steps that can be made before the end of the 114th Congress and the Obama Administration. Also in July, coinciding with the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, MFAN released its Principles of Public Sector Domestic Resources Mobilization, outlining how the U.S. government can effectively help partner countries mobilize domestic resources for development.

As part of our continuing work to highlight MFAN’s policy priorities and engage with the Obama Administration, the Co-Chairs sent letters to OMB Director Shaun Donovan, outlining our priorities and how the Administration can make progress on them in its final year, and MCC CEO Dana Hyde, outlining our recommendations for the MCC’s forthcoming five-year strategic plan. In addition, MFAN Honorary Co-Chair The Honorable Jim Kolbe testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the value of the MCC.

The Obama Administration’s Second-to-last Year

Early in the year, President Obama demonstrated his enduring commitment to development and effective foreign assistance in his State of the Union address and, following shortly after, his FY16 budget request. In the State of the Union address, the President called for a “more effective global effort” to combat development challenges like the Ebola crisis. The budget request included a number of provisions to help advance reform, including additional flexibility for food aid, a funding boost for the MCC, and an increase in USAID’s Operating Expenses budget.

Also early this year, USAID Administrator Raj Shah stepped down from his post after leading the agency for five productive years. Administrator Shah was a long-time champion for effective development, spearheading efforts such as USAID Forward, the Local Solutions initiative, and the establishment of USAID’s evaluation policy. In April, we released an MFAN-led community sign-on letter calling for a new USAID Administrator. Just two weeks later the announcement was made that MFAN co-founder Gayle Smith was nominated.  As the community anxiously awaited Gayle’s confirmation, MFAN organized another community sign-on letter in June to urge the Senate to confirm her as USAID Administrator.

At the end of April, the much anticipated second Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review was released. We were pleased to see the document focus on transparent and accountable governance and the better use and analysis of data, and the emphasis on building internal capacity at State and USAID in the area of monitoring and evaluation. We look forward to continuing to work with the State Department on the implementation of this QDDR in the New Year.

This fall marked the much-anticipated launch of the Sustainable Development Goals at the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. President Obama strongly endorsed the ambitious in his address during UNGA.

Foreign Aid Reform on Capitol Hill

The year was also an active time in the fight to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective in Congress. This spring the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a landmark hearing on food aid reform, convened by SFRC Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD).  The hearing was an opportunity to highlight the importance of legislative efforts like the Food for Peace Reform Act, introduced by Senate champions Bob Corker and Chris Coons (D-DE) earlier in the year, and to make the case for why the current systems to needs to be improved in order to deliver more for hungry people around the world. To capitalize on the moment, MFAN, as part of a broad coalition of international development organizations, signed on to a statement of support for food aid reform.

In October, the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015 was introduced in the House by Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and in the Senate by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD). Just a few weeks after introduction, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee took up and approved the bills. MFAN and InterAction also organized a community sign-on letter in support of the bill and the MFAN Co-Chairs sent a letter to Secretary Kerry urging his support, recognizing that the State Department has been a hurdle to getting the bill passed in previous congresses.

Meanwhile, the Senate confirmed Gayle Smith as the new USAID Administrator in November, seven months after being nominated. MFAN and our partners were pleased that the Senate finally took action to fill this important position.

Onward to 2016

We are rounding out 2015 on a high note, as the House of Representatives recently unanimously passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act. In the New Year, we hope to see the Senate take similar action so that we can see this legislation enacted. We look forward to a busy 2016 as MFAN and our partners continue to push Congress and the Administration to prioritize accountability and country ownership to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective and sustainable. Early next year we will be holding our next public check-in on our ACCOUNTdown to 2017 campaign and will continue to update our ACCOUNTdown Dialogue Series, so stay tuned!

 

MFAN Community Reacts to House Passage of Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act

Thursday, December 10th, 2015
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Less than three months after being introduced, the House of Representatives passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 3766). This bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) would codify important reforms to ensure that U.S. agencies involved in foreign assistance are doing rigorous and consistent monitoring and evaluation and are making comprehensive, timely, and comparable aid data publicly available. MFAN and our partners are pleased to see both the House and Senate taking swift action to move this important bill through.

See below for a roundup of reactions from around the MFAN community to the news of House passage, and also check out blogs from Oxfam and ONE.

MFAN: MFAN commends the bill sponsors Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) for their continued leadership on aid effectiveness and their effort to see this bill signed into law. We also thank Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) for moving swiftly to pass this important legislation.

The Lugar Center’s Senator Richard G. Lugar (Ret.): More than ever the expenditure of every U.S. taxpayer dollar must be effectively spent in the development space, not just for taxpayer accountability, but also for greatest impact for those receiving our assistance.  Legislation requiring increased accountability of these funds, both by requiring greater transparency and strengthened systems for monitoring and evaluating these programs, takes an important step in ensuring effectiveness. I applaud the U.S. House of Representatives in recognizing the important role that they play in bringing greater transparency and accountability to U.S. foreign assistance and congratulate my former colleague, Congressman Poe, on his continued leadership of this important policy.

USGLC’s Liz Schrayer: We applaud the House of Representatives for unanimously passing important legislation today that continues our efforts to ensure the accountability and effectiveness of our nation’s foreign assistance programs. This bipartisan legislation will further strengthen America’s global leadership and advance our interests and values around the world. We urge the Senate to join the House by passing the companion legislation sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin before the end of the year.

Bread for the World’s David Beckmann: Making all U.S. foreign assistance more transparent and accountable will help certify that our tax money is used efficiently,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “This legislation is especially important now that the global community has embraced new global goals that would virtually end hunger and poverty by 2030. It’s clear that more openness and transparency are key to helping the U.S. achieve better results and lead the charge of ending global hunger and poverty.

Oxfam’s David Saldivar: Even in these highly partisan times, Congress today has found that transparency in foreign aid is in everyone’s interest. We hope the Senate quickly follows suit since greater transparency and accountability in our foreign aid will help people in developing countries do more to lead their own development, and use US help more effectively to fight poverty.

InterAction: This bipartisan bill makes U.S. foreign assistance more effective and accountable, and has had strong support in both the House and the Senate under the leadership of Sens. Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin and Reps. Ted Poe and Gerry Connolly. In November, the bill was unanimously passed by both the House Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. InterAction thanks the House for moving quickly to pass this important legislation that is supported by a coalition of more than 35 NGOs, and looks forward to working with the Senate to pass the bill as soon as possible.

A Win for Aid Effectiveness: House Passes Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015
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December 8, 2015 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Carolyn Miles, and Connie Veillette

Today the House of Representatives overwhelmingly demonstrated bipartisan commitment to making U.S. foreign assistance more accountable by passing the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 3766) by voice vote. MFAN commends the bill sponsors Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) for their continued leadership on aid effectiveness and their effort to see this bill signed into law. We also thank Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) for moving swiftly to pass this important legislation.

MFAN strongly supports this bipartisan legislation, which would codify important reforms to ensure that U.S. agencies involved in foreign assistance are focused on rigorous and consistent monitoring and evaluation of programs and on making comprehensive, timely, and comparable aid data publicly available. By reinforcing its existing commitments to transparency and evaluation through legislation, the U.S. government can better track, measure, and allocate scarce aid resources. At a time when the U.S. is facing an unprecedented number of humanitarian and development challenges around the globe, efforts to ensure our foreign assistance is being spent effectively, like this legislation, must be prioritized.

We urge the full Senate take up and pass the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act immediately. A companion bill (S. 2184) was introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and was unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 10. Having now passed with resounding bipartisan endorsement from the full House, this legislation should likewise be supported by the Senate and sent to the President for his signature.

Development Community Warmly Welcomes Gayle Smith as USAID Administrator

Friday, December 4th, 2015
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Seven months after her nomination, the Senate confirmed MFAN Co-Founder Gayle Smith as the next USAID Administrator on Monday with a vote of 79-7. The long-awaited confirmation vote was met with enthusiasm from our network. See below for a round-up of statements and blogs from MFAN partners welcoming Gayle Smith to her new post:

George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at Brookings: “We know that Gayle is eager to hit the ground running and we look forward to working closely with her to continue to strengthen the capacity of USAID to deliver results.”

Carolyn Miles, MFAN Co-Chair and President and CEO of Save the Children: “At a time when we are responding to major crises in places like Syria and Yemen, having a confirmed USAID Administrator could not be more urgent. While it has been disappointing that this nomination was held up for this long, putting those in need at risk, we are excited to now be moving ahead with such a strong leader.”

Connie Veillette, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Lugar Center: “Gayle Smith understands the importance of effective foreign aid and we fully expect her to speed up the momentum around institutionalizing key reforms, such as those included in the USAID Forward agenda and USAID’s Vision for Ending Extreme Poverty.”

Senator Richard G. Lugar (Ret.) of The Lugar Center: “I was extremely pleased to learn that the U.S. Senate has voted to confirm Gayle Smith as the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.  At this time of pressing global challenges including terrorism, conflict states and the largest number of displaced refugees since World War II, U.S. leadership in humanitarian, governance, global hunger, and economic development is critical.  With extensive expertise in development both through her work in Africa and as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director on the National Security Council focusing on these issues, Smith is no doubt eminently qualified to lead USAID, and I expect she will be able to take the leadership reins without hesitation.”

David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World: “We wholeheartedly welcome the Senate’s confirmation of Gayle Smith as the new administrator of USAID. This critical position has been vacant for much too long. Though the world is making unprecedented progress against hunger and poverty, the humanitarian crises we continue to face demand a leader at USAID with the experience and abilities of Ms. Smith. She has been a champion for those impacted by poverty and hunger, and we are eager to continue to work with her to ensure American leadership to achieve an end to world hunger by 2030.”

Ray Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America: “Oxfam America wholeheartedly welcomes Gayle Smith as USAID Administrator. Ms. Smith is an unequivocal champion of those facing poverty and injustice. We look forward to working with Ms. Smith to continue the modernization efforts afoot at USAID.  Smith’s packed agenda will include locking in reform efforts to put developing countries in the lead of their own development, delivering and communicating tangible results on key US priorities like Feed the Future and Power Africa, and getting ahead of recurrent humanitarian crisis by advancing USAID’s effort to promote resilience and emergency preparedness.”

Liz Schrayer, President and CEO of USGLC: “I commend the Senate for confirming Gayle Smith to be the next Administrator of USAID. I look forward to working with her to continue the game-changing transformations at USAID that are critical to advancing America’s economic and security interests – and delivering results to American taxpayers. Never before has the world seen so many humanitarian crises at one time. These challenges, coupled with the enormous opportunities to advance America’s interests throughout the world, require strong and effective leadership at USAID.”

Casey Dunning, Senior Policy Analyst at CGD: “Despite the rapidly expiring clock on this administration, filling USAID’s top post is critical for both the agency and for US leadership in global crises and development efforts abroad. The Syrian refugee crisis shows no sign of abating, just last week Liberia found new Ebola cases, and 700 million people still live on less than $1.25 each day. In all of these challenges (among many others), USAID is the leading US actor for response, prevention, and results.”

Gregory Adams, Director of Aid Effectiveness at Oxfam:  “After a long wait, Gayle Smith was finally confirmed Monday as the new USAID Administrator by the Senate.  This means the United States will finally have a new top development official back at work in charge of USAID.  And none too soon.  Since the beginning of this century, American presidents have viewed the US development program as an indispensable tool of American foreign policy. And a vacancy at the top of USAID has meant America was punching far below its weight as the world confronts serious challenges.”

MFAN Applauds Long-Awaited Confirmation of Gayle Smith as USAID Administrator

Monday, November 30th, 2015
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November 30, 2015

WASHINGTON – Seven months since her nomination by President Obama and nearly one year since the announcement that Administrator Rajiv Shah was stepping down, MFAN is pleased to see the Senate take action today to confirm Gayle Smith as USAID Administrator. Having a permanent USAID Administrator in place for the final 14 months of the Obama Administration is vital to sustaining strong U.S. leadership on development programs that are essential to our national interests and an expression of our core values.

“At a time when we are responding to major crises in places like Syria and Yemen, having a confirmed USAID Administrator could not be more urgent. While it has been disappointing that this nomination was held up for this long, putting those in need at risk, we are excited to now be moving ahead with such a strong leader,” said Carolyn Miles, MFAN Co-Chair and President and CEO of Save the Children.

Gayle Smith is a strong and experienced leader and, as a Co-Founder of MFAN, has long been a champion of the aid effectiveness agenda while ensuring development is an equal pillar of U.S. foreign policy.

“We know that Gayle is eager to hit the ground running and we look forward to working closely with her to continue to strengthen the capacity of USAID to deliver results,” said George Ingram MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at Brookings.

“Gayle Smith understands the importance of effective foreign aid and we fully expect her to speed up the momentum around institutionalizing key reforms, such as those included in the USAID Forward agenda and USAID’s Vision for Ending Extreme Poverty,” said Connie Veillette, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Lugar Center.

Under former Administrator Shah and Acting Administrator Alfonso Lenhardt, USAID has proven the critical role that foreign assistance plays in these challenging times. Now under the leadership of Gayle Smith, the Agency can move towards fulfilling the “long-term commitment to rebuilding USAID as the U.S. Government’s lead development agency and as the world’s premier development agency,” as articulated by the 2010 policy directive on global development.