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Archive for the ‘Pressroom’ Category

MFAN in the News: President Obama’s MDG Speech

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
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Media hits

In what MFAN and the development community have been working toward, yesterday President Obama announced the new visionary U.S. Global Development Policy – the first of its kind by an Administration.  As MFAN’s Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram noted in their statement yesterday, “With his speech laying out a new U.S. approach to development at the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit, President Obama has outlined a future where development endures as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy, delivering greater results for people in poverty around the world and U.S. taxpayers.”

The Global Development Policy incorporates key MFAN principles like elevating development as a core pillar of U.S. national security, strengthening USAID, and engaging with civil society and the private sector to help find innovative solutions to our toughest development challenges.  This is a well deserved victory.  And MFAN Principals and members were out in force illuminating the nuance of this new policy and underscoring its significance to the media.  Below is a collection of excerpts from news stories and opinion pieces featuring MFAN experts from across the network:

  • In Politics Daily, MFAN Co-Chair George Ingram discusses the time it will take to strengthen USAID.  Still, Ingram notes how the Global Development Policy fits into the bigger picture saying, “In the early months of his campaign [then Candidate Obama] issued an eight-page statement on development. It was something no candidate had done before. He talked in there about the need to elevate USAID and development — he talked about results and initiatives in the health area. What that tells me is that the statement Obama is making today is not something that has evolved over last months. It is something Obama brought into office with him.”


Berman Hopes Obama Speech at U.N. Will Build Momentum for Aid Revamp

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
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Sept. 21, 2010 – 8:03 p.m.

By Emily Cadei, CQ Staff

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard L. Berman and his staff have spent more than a year trying to lay the foundation for an overhaul of U.S. foreign aid, but their efforts have been slowed by the Obama administration’s lengthy reviews of the federal government’s international development strategy, the California Democrat said Tuesday.

With the president and key administration officials set to weigh in publicly over the next week on how to modernize the foreign aid system, advocates on the Hill and in the development community hope to gain momentum for a legislative overhaul that would move in the 112th Congress next year.

“I don’t have the ability to make foreign assistance reform happen myself,” Berman said Tuesday at a forum hosted by the Society for International Development- Washington. “We have to have buy-in from both parties, both houses and, most especially, the executive branch. This is not something that’s done over their opposition.”

President Obama is expected to outline his presidential directive on international development Wednesday at the United Nations as part of the U.N.’s summit on the Millennium Development Goals. Last week, the administration released an updated strategy for reaching those eight goals, which were established by the global community in 2000.

Berman pointed to Obama’s speech as a sign that the administration was ready to engage on the substantive policy issues his bill is trying to tackle. The State Department has solicited internal feedback on a partial draft of the legislation, known as the Global Partnerships Act of 2010, that was circulated this summer, but has not yet provided written feedback to the committee.

Berman has said that he would like to introduce the bill either by the end of this year or early next year. On Tuesday he confirmed that “nothing is going to happen this year in terms of movement of this legislation.”

“The hard work is only just beginning,” he added.

George Ingram, co-chairman of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, a coalition of development groups that supports the overhaul, said he expects the president’s speech to advance the ball on foreign aid, as will appearances by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rajiv Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), at a development conference in Washington next week.

“By definition,” Ingram said, this “brings to closure this policy formation time.”

“We’re moving . . . to action now. The administration will no longer have the excuse to Berman that we’ve got to get our act together,” he said.

Others are less optimistic: “Just another speech, or . . .” was the title of a blog post on Obama’s U.N. appearance written by Porter McConnell, a policy adviser at Oxfam America.

Little Detail Expected

Overall, development advocates do not expect the president to get into much detail on implementation of the new development policy, nor on the touchy subject of the long-running bureaucratic turf battles between the State Department and USAID over aid.

At Tuesday’s forum, attended by development professionals, Berman sought to dampen considerable grumbling about the State Department’s role in the review process and its desire to maintain control over foreign aid policy.

“I think you’re a little too cynical regarding the administration and the State Department,” he told audience members. “To the extent the State Department has a resistance to . . . my vision of USAID as a development leader of the U.S. government, I do believe a big part of that is because of the secretary’s personal commitment to development.”

Ingram, a former principal deputy assistant administrator at USAID, expressed hope that the administration would begin to address those sticking points in the coming days, or that at least officials will give some “insight of how those are being resolved.”

State Department Review

The State Department is expected to address many of the same bureaucratic questions in its Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which is anticipated in early October.

One senior congressional aide said it would be that review, rather than the events over the next week, that will get the policy discussion moving forward in earnest. “I think what will really break the ice here will be the QDDR, when that’s done,” said the aide, who was not authorized to speak on the record about the legislative debate.

The administration’s slow-moving review process, however, means it will have to deal with a more skeptical House as it seeks to advance its development agenda. Berman maintained Tuesday that foreign aid should be a nonpartisan issue, but acknowledged that “regardless of what happens in November, we’re going to need to build a stronger support for reform on the other side of the aisle.”

Ingram said his coalition has always focused on building a bipartisan consensus on the aid overhaul, which he also called nonpartisan by nature. “I see no reason why we can’t keep it that way,” he said.

However, he continued, the coalition has not gotten “a lot of feedback” from Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who could become the panel’s chairwoman if the GOP wins the House in the November elections.

A version of this article appeared in the Sept. 22, 2010, print issue of CQ Today

Washington Post Preview of New Development Policy from Obama Administration

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
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Earlier today, Mary Beth Sheridan of The Washington Post published a preview of the new development  policy President Obama is scheduled to unveil this afternoon in his speech at the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit.  Two MFAN principals were quoted in the article. Click here to read the full article and be sure to visit ModernizeAid later today to get a read-out of President Obama’s speech.

Key Excerpts Below:

“What we’d like to do is focus selectively on a subset of countries, or regions, subregions, and try and make sure all our development resources . . . are being applied in those countries in a way to maximize economic growth,” said one senior official in the article, speaking on condition of anonymity before Obama’s speech at the United Nations.

Carol Lancaster, dean of the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a MFAN Principal, said, “It is not clear how the administration will choose its targets…it could be difficult to pull out of some countries because of diplomatic or congressional pressures.”

“A hint of how the new policy will work can be found in the president’s ‘Feed the Future’ program. It focuses on a small group of countries that have come up with detailed plans for their agricultural sectors. The countries have ’skin in the game,’ officials note – their own funds.”

“There used to be a debate that economic growth didn’t affect the poorest of the poor,” said J. Brian Atwood, who was USAID administrator under President Bill Clinton. Atwood currently serves as dean at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and is a Principal of MFAN. According to Bread for the World, a member of MFAN, “the administration’s strategy places stronger emphasis on support for inclusive, sustained economic growth…innovation and technology.”

MFAN Principal on a “Huge Missed Opportunity”

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
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MEXICO USToday, POLITICO published an op-ed by MFAN Principal and Senior Transatlantic Fellow of the German Marshall Fund Jim Kolbe in which he argues for definitive action on development and foreign assistance reform.  Kolbe cites the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit, currently underway, as the perfect opportunity to take concrete steps toward restoring U.S. leadership in the fight against global poverty and disease.  Kolbe specifically lists the following steps the Obama Administration should consider:

• “Say unequivocally that USAID is our lead development agency and give it the authority and resources to envision and implement programs in Washington and in the developing world;”

• “Create a business plan for operationalizing the MDG strategy and new development policy, making sure that it denotes clear lines of responsibility and accountability for U.S. development efforts; and,”

•” Pledge to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis to update the Foreign Assistance Act, which has not been overhauled since it was written in 1961, despite the fact that the Cold War ended 20 years ago and the world now faces totally different development challenges.”

Read the full piece here and see more key excerpts below:

“Reforming U.S. foreign aid would make certain taxpayer dollars are used efficiently to drive sustainable growth and development. Advocates and reformers have been anxiously awaiting the release of a new global development policy, which the Obama Administration has promised in coming weeks, to see how concrete progress will be made on this issue.”

“While good people are working hard every day in these agencies, this muddled management structure is no way to create the best possible outcomes or implement innovative policies effectively. It also weakens USAID administrator Raj Shah, a recognized international health expert, and his agency, which Secretary Clinton has said repeatedly she wants to revitalize into the “world’s premier development agency.” To make matters worse, the majority of USAID’s senior leadership positions remain unfilled.”

Thomas Nides to State?

Thursday, September 16th, 2010
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Thomas NidesThe latest in a string of suspects to replace Deputy Secretary Jack Lew is Thomas Nides, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Administrative Officer of Morgan Stanley, Washington Post’s Al Kamen and Politico’s Laura Rozen reported this week. Nides is on the short list of Wall Street executives because of close ties formed while working for the Clinton Administration and on Capitol Hill.

From Kamen’s story: “Nides, 49, has moved in and out of Democratic politics and the financial world since 1984. He worked for former House speaker Tom Foley, then as chief of staff to former U.S. trade representative Mickey Kantor in the Clinton administration before moving to Fannie Mae. He managed the 2000 vice presidential campaign of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), then worked for Credit Suisse First Boston and Burson-Marsteller before heading to Morgan Stanley in 2005.”

Nides’ relationship to John Mack—first at Credit Suisse—allowed him to serve as chief of staff to Mack, directing him through the financial crisis.  Nides is also chairman of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, a lobbying group for securities firms, banks and asset managers, though his term is up this year.

Though Nides has met with officials to discuss the position, no firm decisions have been made.  Does Nides’ experience make him suited to fill Lew’s shoes as Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources at State?  Let us know what you think below.