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Testimony of Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World Before SFRC Hearing

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
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July 22, 2009

Chairman Kerry, Ranking Member Lugar, and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify. I am David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad. I also serve as co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, a broad coalition of groups and individuals working to make U.S. foreign aid more effective in support of global development and the reduction of poverty.

I am grateful for this hearing and for the draft legislation that Senators Kerry, Lugar, Menendez, and Corker have developed. I especially appreciate the fact that you are working in a bipartisan way on this issue. The institutional changes you legislate will be better and more long-lasting if members of both parties, conservatives and liberals, contribute their points of view.

Now is the time for foreign aid reform. President Bush led a major expansion of foreign aid, and President Obama proposes to double foreign aid. A substantial majority of U.S. voters favor spending more on effective programs to reduce hunger, poverty, and disease in developing countries. It’s the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. But we all know that foreign aid could be spent more effectively. If this administration and Congress manage to improve the effectiveness of U.S. assistance, our dollars will more good for decades to come, and voters will continue to support increases in funding.

In a recent survey, 85 percent of registered voters agreed that we “need to modernize how foreign assistance is currently organized and implemented.” In a poll last November – in the depths of the economic crisis – 87 percent agreed that “in a time like this, we need to make foreign assistance more efficient and get more of our aid to people who really need it.”

I applaud the Obama administration and this Congress for the attention you have already devoted to international development, including foreign assistance reform. When I testified before this Committee in March, you were considering the terrible setback in progress against world hunger that has taken place over the last several years. You passed the Global Food Security Act. In his inaugural address, President Obama promised people in poor countries to “help make your farms flourish,” and the administration – led by Secretary Clinton – has now launched a global food security initiative. The President was able to convince the other G8 nations to work with the United States to help farmers in poor countries increase their production.

The administration’s 2010 budget request puts us on the path to doubling foreign assistance by 2015, including a major investment in global health and increased investment in agriculture. The administration’s budget also proposes to bolster the capacity of USAID and the State Department to carry out their development and diplomatic missions.

Secretary Clinton recently announced that the State Department and USAID are undertaking a quadrennial diplomacy and development review (QDDR). It will provide a short-, medium- and long-term blueprint for our country’s diplomatic and development efforts. This process will articulate a clear statement of foreign policy and development objectives, recommend management and organizational reforms, and propose performance measures. The QDDR process will incorporate perspectives from across the government, from Congress, and from nongovernmental experts.

The House of Representatives has already passed a State Department Reauthorization Bill and a Pakistan bill. Chairman Howard Berman’s stated priority for this Congress is foreign assistance reform, and, as of today, a bipartisan group of 83 members of the House have signed on as cosponsors of the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act, H.R. 2139. Mr. Berman’s staff are already working on a rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act.

Chairman Kerry, in your foreign policy address at the Brookings Institution in May you articulated the case for strengthening U.S. diplomacy and development assistance. With regard to foreign assistance reform, you called for clear goals, improved coordination, stronger development expertise and capacity, streamlined laws to untie the hands of aid professionals, and the empowerment of country teams to shape programs based on local needs.

The draft legislation you have now developed with Senators Lugar, Menendez, and Corker is a major step forward. I love the statement of policy. It calls for a reform of USAID and related agencies in order to better serve the U.S. commitment to global development and the reduction of poverty and hunger.

Much of your bill is focused on building the capacity of USAID, which is urgently required. USAID’s operational capacity has decayed. It no longer has budgeting or planning authority. It is not currently represented on the National Security Council. The Administrator position is still vacant, partly because several candidates have declined to take charge of such a weak agency.

Under this administration, the State Department has demonstrated a deep commitment to global development and poverty reduction. But it is crucial that some funding be dedicated single-mindedly to development. When we try to achieve defense and diplomatic goals with the same dollars, aid is usually much less effective in reducing poverty. In my mind, that’s the basic reason we need a strong development agency, with its own capacity to plan and carry out programs. These programs should be coordinated with other foreign policy purposes, but distinct from them.

Your bill’s section on transparency is especially important. President Obama has called for an “elevated, streamlined, and empowered 21st century U.S. development agency” that will be “accountable, flexible, and transparent.” The reform of U.S. foreign assistance gives us a chance to create a development agency that will be transparent to all Americans – to encourage public support and involvement in global poverty reduction and to facilitate public-private partnerships. Even more importantly, the transparency section of the bill will help people in developing countries know about U.S. assistance programs. If local people are more aware and involved, our aid programs will be more effective.

My main request is that you introduce this bill as soon as possible. Quite a few organizations have helped their networks across the country understand that foreign assistance reform is important to future gains against hunger, poverty, and disease. These organizations include Bread for the World and many religious groups, InterAction, Oxfam, the ONE Campaign, Save the Children, Women Thrive Worldwide, Mercy Corps, CARE, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, World Wildlife Fund, the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA), the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), the International Center for Research on Women, the International Women’s Health Coalition, the Global AIDS Alliance, and RESULTS. Our coalition also includes opinion leaders at the Center for Global Development, the Center for American Progress, and Brookings. Thus, tens of thousands of people around the country are now informed and eager for a chance to have their say. Once your bill is introduced, they can ask their senators to cosponsor, thus building broad support for this Committee’s work on foreign assistance reform.

As I said at the outset, now is the time for foreign assistance reform, and the main reason is leadership. We have a President and Secretary of State who are committed to reducing hunger and poverty in the world and to making our programs of assistance more effective. Your counterparts in the House have demonstrated their leadership on this issue. And this Committee has demonstrated exceptional ability to work together across the aisle on complex issues that are important to our nation and the world.

May God continue to bless your leadership.

Secretary Clinton Hits the Right Notes on Development

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
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July 15, 2009 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing
Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

We commend Secretary of State Clinton for her important address today at the Council on Foreign Relations, and we are particularly supportive of her inclusion of “elevate and integrate development as a core pillar of American power” and “integrate civilian and military action in conflict areas” in her list of the five foreign policy priorities of the Obama Administration. We believe, as she does, that we “advance our security, our prosperity, and our values” by alleviating poverty, fighting disease, and creating opportunity in the developing world.

Even more important than the Secretary’s development rhetoric were her pledges of action on modernizing the U.S. foreign assistance system. As President Obama said earlier this month, “Our aid policies have been splintered among a variety of agencies.” We are optimistic that Secretary Clinton will change this dynamic by more aggressively “integrating” development into the broader formulation of U.S. foreign policy and, through her recently announced Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), creating a more coherent and coordinated whole of-government approach to achieving U.S. development objectives, encompassing everything from foreign assistance to trade, defense, agriculture, and economic policy.

However, we remain concerned that Secretary Clinton’s plan to use the QDDR to “lash together” diplomacy and development, as one of her aides put it, will erode our ability to forge long-term solutions to poverty, disease, and lack of economic opportunity in the developing world. In this formulation, development is at risk of being used too often as a tool of diplomacy. For “smart power” to work, development must be more than a tool: it must be a goal of U.S. foreign policy. We look forward to working with Secretary Clinton and other Obama Administration officials to make sure that the right balance is struck on this important issue.

We call on the Obama Administration to take immediate steps to sustain the momentum Secretary Clinton created with her speech:

  • Immediately, an experienced development professional should be nominated as Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This person, who will co-chair the QDDR process, should be given a seat on the National Security Council from which to offer the development perspective on key foreign policy debates and help align the findings of the QDDR with U.S. foreign policy;
  • The White House should, as has been rumored, launch a Presidential Study Directive on global development policy, and take the lead role in making sure the findings of the QDDR feed into a comprehensive inter-agency effort on this issue;
  • Both the White House and the State Department must give vocal support to the reform efforts being pushed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D CA) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA); and,
  • The QDDR process must include input from a broad range of relevant stakeholders, including implementing partners, field professionals in and out of government, policy experts, other bilateral and multilateral donors, and aid recipients.

Contact: Sam Hiersteiner at 202-337-0808 or shiersteiner@gpgdc.com

For more information, please visit www.moderizeaid.net.

State Department Strategic Review of Development and Diplomacy Holds Great Promise

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
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July 10, 2009 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

MFAN commends Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her decision to undertake America’s first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which is further evidence that she is more committed to development than any Secretary of State in history.

In particular, we are hopeful that the QDDR will help the Obama Administration ensure its efforts to alleviate poverty, fight disease, and create political stability and economic opportunity in the developing world are coordinated, effective, and integrated into major foreign policy and national security debates. In an era of complex and interconnected challenges, this is critical.

The QDDR should also be a crucial step towards modernizing the outdated foreign aid system to ensure that U.S foreign assistance is effective; responsive to the needs and priorities of aid recipients; monitored and evaluated according to clear benchmarks; and transparent to U.S. taxpayers, partners, and recipients alike. And we are hopeful it will include recommendations for ensuring that the U.S. commitment to pursuing long-term development goals is sustained even when immediate diplomatic and humanitarian challenges arise.

To get the most from the QDDR process, we hope the State Department will take the following steps:

  • The Obama Administration should immediately name an experienced development professional as Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This person should co-chair the QDDR process, and should be given a seat on the National Security Council from which to help align the findings of the QDDR with U.S. foreign policy.
  • In completing the QDDR, the State Department should examine all aspects of U.S. development policy, gathering input from, and seeking to align the policies of, agencies across the government that impact the U.S. approach to global development.
  • The QDDR process must include input from a broad range of relevant stakeholders, including implementing partners, field professionals in and out of government, policy experts, other bilateral and multilateral donors, and aid recipients.

MFAN members look forward to supporting the State Department as it undertakes the QDDR.

Contact: Sam Hiersteiner at 202-337-0808 or shiersteiner@gpgdc.com

For more information, please visit www.modernizeaid.net.

Call by Former Secretaries of State for Robust Development and Diplomacy Funding

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
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June 25, 2009 (Washington, DC) - This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

Today, eight former Secretaries of State published a Politico column calling for Congress to provide more robust funding for development and diplomacy and bring these civilian instruments of U.S. foreign policy into better balance with national defense efforts.  Perhaps most importantly, the former Secretaries said, “Providing the personnel and financial resources to manage our diplomacy and development policies is an urgent matter of national security.”

MFAN strongly supports this call, particularly as it relates to strengthening the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), America’s premier development agency which works to alleviate poverty, fight disease, and, as the signatories of the column said, help “developing countries achieve rapid, sustained and broad-based economic growth.”  As they also said, “such efforts are critical to helping us weather the worldwide recession that grips us.”

We agree, and would go further. We believe that providing robust funding and resources for development is only part of the recipe for changing the way the U.S. engages with the world and addressing the urgent challenges we face.  We must also modernize the U.S. foreign assistance system – our primary mechanism for carrying out development – in order to make sure that any resources committed to these efforts are spent effectively and get into the hands of people who need help most.  This will be a big challenge, due to the fact that the foreign assistance system has more than 60 different government offices carrying out development programs.  The legislation governing the system has not been updated in two decades.  The Obama Administration and Congress can change this situation by passing a strong FY10 International Affairs Budget and taking these key steps towards modernization:

  • Immediately naming an experienced and savvy USAID Administrator, and giving that person a   seat at the National Security Council so that he/she can bring a high-level development voice to critical foreign policy discussions;
  • Incorporating the Administrator into the process of developing America’s first-ever, government-wide National Strategy for Global Development, a move supported by House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA), who introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R. 2139) on the topic (which now has 53 bipartisan co-sponsors);
  • Clarifying the Administrator’s role in relation to other agencies involved in U.S. foreign assistance, including the State Department, MCC, and PEPFAR; and,
  • Empowering the Administrator to rebuild the policy and budget planning capacity at USAID, as well as restore the technical development expertise at the agency.

For more information, please visit www.moderizeaid.net.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Passes State Department Authorization Bill

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
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May 22, 2009 (Washington, D.C.)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing ForeignAssistance Network (MFAN) by MFAN Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) and other bipartisan Members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (HCFA) deserve credit for passing H.R. 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which would provide funding for the State Department to carry out diplomacy and development programs. These programs are critical components of a successful, 21st-century U.S. foreign policy and our national security approach. We urge the full House to pass the bill when it comes to the floor in coming weeks.

MFAN is particularly pleased that H.R. 2410 includes strong resources for development promoting foreign assistance programs that fight poverty and disease, create economic opportunity, and highlight American values in poor countries. Additional action is needed to make sure that these resources are used more strategically and efficiently.

To this end, we urge U.S. leaders to move forward with modernizing the U.S. foreign assistance system by supporting the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009 (H.R. 2139), which was introduced by Chairman Berman and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL). The bill calls on the Obama Administration to create America’s first-ever National Strategy for Global Development (NSGD), which would ensure that U.S. development efforts are better coordinated, monitored, and accounted for across the U.S. government. Just as importantly, the NSGD would make sure development efforts are better integrated into, and supportive of, our National Security Strategy.

We call on Congress to support these efforts because they will save more lives by making sure taxpayer backed foreign assistance is getting directly to people who need help most.

Media Contact: Sam Hiersteiner a shiersteiner@gpgdc.com or 202-337-0808.

For more information, please visit www.moderizeaid.net.