MFAN Statement: Shah Speech Touches on Important Elements of Reform
May 6, 2010 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:
MFAN congratulates U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah for his visionary speech yesterday to supporters of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. In the speech, Administrator Shah strongly endorsed elevating development as a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy and empowering it as a distinct discipline that requires unique resources and authority. Citing the fact that global hunger and extreme poverty have increased in recent years, Administrator Shah issued a call for reform of his Agency and America’s development apparatus overall, in order to drive more tangible results for recipients, implementers, and taxpayers.
He outlined a new agenda for USAID that mirrors this week’s leaked draft of the Presidential Study Directive on Global Development Policy (PSD-7):
- Commit to honoring the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
- Ensure country ownership and growth through trade, cost-effective and long-term investments, and diplomacy
- Use science and technology to develop and deliver transformative tools and innovations
- Insert development expertise into policy debates for conflict areas and frontline states
Administrator Shah also announced that USAID would reconstitute a policy planning bureau and as-yet-undefined budget vehicle, as well as drive procurement reforms and institute a new measurement and evaluation regime this year, which are all positive steps towards making U.S. foreign assistance more effective and accountable.
What was missing, however, was a stronger pledge to work with Congress to pass legislation supporting these much-needed reforms, particularly by rewriting the antiquated Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. We urge Administrator Shah to work with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA), who is likely to submit a rewritten bill this year. We also strongly encourage Administrator Shah to establish an open and consistent line of communication with Congressional leaders including Chairman Berman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), Ranking Minority Member Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN), among others.
In implementing PSD-7, the Administration also must ensure the Administrator Shah is fully empowered to lead U.S. developments. We look forward to working with the Obama Administration to reach this goal.