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Archive for the ‘Pressroom’ Category

OGP plans show US and UK commitment to aid transparency

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
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See below for a guest post from MFAN Partner Publish What You Fund about the Open Government Partnership that launched earlier this week at the UN General Assembly.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched in New York on Tuesday. The initiative is a “global effort to make governments better […] more transparent, effective and accountable” and is overseen by eight governments and nine civil society organizations. Forty-six governments have so far agreed to take part, with Canada being the latest signatory.

To become a member, participating countries must make an Open Government Declaration; deliver a country action plan; and report on progress. Country plans were released as the OGP was launched. The US and the UK made important commitments to aid transparency, including to publish information in line with a common standard. The inclusion of aid transparency in their plans at this time is important; as we approach the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, major donors need to be leading by example.

Notably, the UK has committed to publish aid information “from all government departments who spend overseas development assistance (ODA) in line with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standards”. Hopefully the US will publish a timeline for reporting requirements soon, and ensure the comparability of its data with IATI.


Bread for the World Applauds Former President Bush’s New Global Health Program

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
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See below for a press release from MFAN Partner Bread for the World on former President George W. Bush’s appeal to Congress to continue to fund critical global health programs worldwide. President Bush gave remarks about the importance of global health during the inaugural summit for the George W. Bush Center last week.

Bread for the World Applauds Former President Bush’s Global Health Plans for Poor Women and Children

Washington, DC, September 15, 2011

Speaking at the inaugural summit of the George W. Bush Center, former President George W. Bush urged Congress and the private sector to continue U.S. leadership against AIDS, malaria, and other health issues plaguing poor countries.

“To heal the world’s sufferings, the United States must lead,” Bush said during the center’s “Summit to Save Lives” held recently in Washington, DC. The event brought together heads of state, policy makers, community leaders, and global health advocates to discuss ways to improve the health of poor women and children in the developing world.

“We are delighted that President Bush is weighing in to protect funding and promote continued reform in U.S. foreign assistance,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “This week’s bipartisan cooperation on global health is a welcome break from the gridlock that has characterized efforts to reduce our national debt.”

President Bush is credited with starting the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) nearly 10 years ago. Bread for the World strongly advocated for these programs.

“These investments in global health have saved millions of lives, and we hope Congress will form a circle of protectionaround programs that serve the poorest people in the poorest places,” said Beckmann. “As the FY 2012 appropriations negotiations progress, we hope that Congress will protect successful foreign aid programs such as those started by President Bush. They are crucial to our national security.”


MFAN Co-Chair Jim Kolbe and Oxfam’s Paul O’Brien to Speak on Kojo Nnamdi

Friday, September 16th, 2011
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On Monday, September 19th the Kojo Nnamdi Show will feature MFAN Co-Chair Jim Kolbe, former Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Paul O’Brien, Vice President of Policy and Campaigns at Oxfam America to discuss the future of foreign aid and the trajectory of reform, continuing a conversation that began two years ago.

The show will explore foreign assistance in this tense budget environment: “One year ago this week, President Obama elevated global development as a “core pillar” of U.S. foreign policy, alongside diplomacy and defense. But as Congress and the White House struggle to find billions to cut from the federal budget, some advocates worry Washington’s commitment to reducing global poverty is wavering. We explore the future of American foreign aid.”

The program will air at 1:00PM EST; you can listen to the show here or stream it live on MFAN will be live tweeting, so be sure to follow @ModernizeAid for updates!


MFAN Principal Bill Anderson Warns Against Cuts to USAID’s Operating Budget

Monday, September 12th, 2011
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See below for an op-ed from MFAN Principal G. William Anderson, visiting professor at Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs, as he argues against House-proposed cuts to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) operating budget, demonstrating how such cuts would effectively end reform efforts underway while severely impacting U.S. foreign policy for future generations. This piece originally appeared in Devex.


A Make-or-Break Moment for US Foreign Policy

G William Anderson

In the final moments of the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the Texan congressman pleads with his fellow lawmakers to provide the most basic necessities to the fragile Afghan government. While his colleagues supported military aid to the mujahedeen in their fight against the Soviet Union, they balk at funding basic education and social development. We all know how that story ended.

We now face another make-or-break moment for U.S. foreign policy and U.S. foreign assistance.

The consequences of massive cuts to foreign aid often take a generation to manifest, but once they do, they are devastating. Following the Cold War, the U.S. Agency for International Development was gutted, pure and simple. Deprived of its resources, human capital and technical expertise, USAID was unable to respond to mounting global challenges. After 9/11, our political class woke up to the realization that our civilian capacity was wholly inadequate to support reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. Defunding USAID became a classic example of the U.S. government cutting off its nose to spite its face.

Today, the country’s top international development agency once again finds itself in the cross hairs of budget hawks. However, Congress is taking aim at a very different USAID. More than any other government agency, USAID has committed itself to a reform agenda — called USAID Forward — that will make our foreign assistance dollars more effective, efficient, and transparent. It is gradually rebuilding its planning, implementation and evaluation systems so that the agency will be more accountable, not only to the recipients of aid, but to Congress and the American people. However, since foreign assistance is a convenient political football, these reforms may amount to nothing, yet another victim of Washington’s partisan squabbles.

Of all the cuts to emerge from last month’s House Foreign Affairs Committee draft authorization bill and the fiscal 2012 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee bill markup, the cut from USAID’s operating expenses budget may turn out to be one of the most painful for U.S. foreign policy. There are few budget line items less sexy than USAID’s OE budget, and it lacks a vocal constituency among NGOs. It is an easy target. Yet sufficient OE funding for USAID is critical to the execution of U.S. foreign policy, since it funds the salaries and training of our development practitioners, as well as the administrative costs of USAID-managed programs. At the moment, this includes the long-term strengthening of critical programming and accountability systems. The OE budget keeps the lights on in our overseas missions and makes sure that we can replace development practitioners as they retire.

The OE budget is already severely constrained. Any significant reductions in the requested funding will threaten the fundamental capabilities of the agency to manage and account for U.S. foreign assistance.

After a period of neglect and decline, USAID began to claw its way back to health through Bush administration programs like the Development Leadership Initiative, which seeks to recruit new managers and younger technical experts, and the current USAID Forward initiative, which aims to save taxpayer money through improved efficiencies such as contracting and procurement reform. These programs would be decimated by the cuts currently being contemplated. The majority of USAID’s $985 million budget developed by the House of Representatives would be consumed by paying salaries and benefits, assuming that USAID funds their operations at fiscal 2010 levels. Nearly all those hired by the Development Leadership Initiative since 2009 would be laid off, and the next generation of development leaders would be asked to find work elsewhere. Overseas missions could lose as much as 18 percent of their staff. Forget about investing in innovation. Even buying a few new computers would put our overseas missions in the red. Some might not even be able to pay the rent. Is this a vision for global leadership?

USAID’s rebuilding is vital for the U.S. to address successfully the national security, economic, and foreign policy challenges the U.S. faces in the 21st century. However, these strengthening efforts only began in 2008, and the hardest work lies ahead.

The funding levels set by this recent round of reckless legislation will not only roll back the progress made in recent years at USAID. They could potentially break our nation’s foreign assistance system for good. As a USAID senior foreign service officer in the field, I witnessed how the cutbacks in USAID staffing in the 1990s nearly destroyed my agency. The result was a shortage of program managers, planners and technical experts who were critically needed in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention other poor countries whose growth over time would mean expanding U.S. exports and jobs.

In this era of fiscal austerity, we must avoid the wrong-headed actions of the past that crippled the capacity of our development staff and diplomats to both respond to and prevent crises. If we don’t support USAID’s fundamental institutional capabilities, how can we hope to respond to daunting, unanticipated challenges, such as famine in sub-Saharan Africa or bolstering new Middle Eastern democracies in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya?

Last year’s presidential policy directive on global development elevated development to the same level of strategic importance as diplomacy and defense. If the administration is serious about development, it must make the continuation of USAID’s reform and rebuilding processes a top priority in budget negotiations for 2012 and beyond and insist on adequate OE funding. NGOs, academics, government officials and concerned citizens must speak up now, or our nation’s days as a global leader in alleviating poverty and building stable economies may be numbered.

Should the House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee’s OE levels become law, USAID’s reform effort will be dead in the water, effectively derailing the president’s development agenda.

After the near-fatal slashing of the ’90s, USAID has painstakingly been brought back from the brink through bipartisan efforts under both the Bush and Obama administrations. If a second such sundering of the agency occurs, USAID is unlikely to survive as a significant and influential foreign assistance agency. This is a make-or-break moment for U.S. foreign policy and foreign assistance.


MFAN Statement: Gutting USAID’s Operating Budget Would Repeat Painful Mistakes of the Past

Monday, September 12th, 2011
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September 12, 2011 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

In the midst of a misguided and disproportionate effort to slash the international affairs budget, the House of Representatives has proposed to cut nearly 27% ($365million) from USAID’s operating budget for fiscal year 2012. Such a drastic cut would cripple the agency’s ongoing and aggressive internal reform effort, while undermining bipartisan efforts to increase the effectiveness and accountability of U.S. foreign assistance.

With such cuts, the development pillar of U.S. foreign policy—which supports the health, poverty alleviation, and economic growth programs that help strengthen our defense and diplomatic efforts—would be weakened at a time when we need all the tools of U.S. foreign policy to address complex global challenges. Although we acknowledge the fiscal reality America faces, we know that these disproportionate cuts will have unacceptable consequences because we’ve already seen it happen before.

USAID’s operating budget provides funds for basic needs such as the salaries and training of U.S. development professionals, and the costs of operating USAID overseas missions. The operating budget also funds USAID Forward, a comprehensive internal reform initiative that aims to reshape the agency as a more efficient organization for the 21st Century.

In addition, such a steep cut in funding to USAID’s operating budget would mean that:

  • USAID’s ability to more effectively oversee program implementation and monitor accountability and results would be weakened, just as it is being rebuilt;
  • USAID Forward’s aggressive efforts to cut waste and streamline bureaucracy, reform procurement, bolster accountability, and drive innovation would be undermined;
  • USAID could lose as much as 18 percent of overseas staff at the same moment the agency is being called upon to oversee more large-scale projects in more fragile states, including many handed off by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and;
  • The Development Leadership Initiative, a program started by President George W. Bush to infuse USAID with bright young talent to serve America abroad, would be halted and most likely reversed with reductions of those already hired.

The House’s proposed cuts to the overall budget would represent the deepest cuts in two decades: cuts that will hinder the U.S.’s ability to engage in activities and programs that serve the American people.  With respect to the operating budget, these cuts would represent a return to the failed policies of the post-Cold War 1990s, when USAID closed missions, fired staff, and ceded its budget and policy capacity. As a result, when USAID was asked to play a key role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq, the agency lacked the expertise it once had to train new leaders, respond to complex humanitarian emergencies, rebuild long-neglected education and health systems, and revitalize agricultural infrastructure, among other vital tasks. Instead, the military was forced to take on nation building tasks that our men and women in uniform were not trained to execute. We over-burdened our armed forces by under-resourcing our civilian agencies, an avoidable mistake that we risk making yet again.

We urge Congress not to repeat the mistakes of the past by slashing USAID’s operating budget. A strong, capable development agency is critical to the success of U.S. foreign and national security policy.