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Archive for the ‘MFAN Statement’ Category

MFAN Statement: Food Aid Reform Act Would Maximize Efficiencies and Save Lives

Thursday, May 16th, 2013
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May 16, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

We strongly commend House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Africa Subcommittee Ranking Member Karen Bass (D-CA) for introducing the Food Aid Reform Act (H.R. 1983). The legislation includes common sense reforms that would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. food aid. If adopted, the reforms proposed in this legislation would more feed more people, more quickly while saving taxpayers $500 million over the next ten years.

Since its founding, MFAN has advocated for bold action on food aid, an area where better policies would maximize efficiencies and save additional lives. In 2011, MFAN committed itself to advocate for common sense reforms, including eliminating restrictions on the use of local and regional food procurement; repealing inefficient cargo preference provisions; and scaling down food aid monetization, which Government Accountability Office research has demonstrated is “inefficient and can cause adverse market impacts.” The wide-ranging reforms proposed by Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Bass would significantly advance these objectives. The Food Aid Reform Act eliminates superfluous costs by ending monetization, reducing U.S.-only procurement requirements, and exempting food aid assistance from cargo preference.

The bill is timely, coming shortly after the President’s FY2014 budget request’s bold proposal to improve the Food for Peace program that distributes emergency food assistance. MFAN joined much of the development community in support of the President’s plan to enhance the long standing commitment of the American people to respond to emergencies and reduce hunger and poverty around the world, by reducing inflated procurement and transportation costs, continuing shipping commodities from the U.S. while removing harmful restrictions on purchasing food locally and regionally, and funding more sustainable practices that encourage agricultural self-sufficiency and food security. The Food Aid Reform Act legislation acknowledges these reform priorities and would provide humanitarian organizations with additional flexibility to respond to food emergencies.

With improved coordination, U.S. development and agriculture policies have the potential to catalyze lasting change in countries that struggle with chronic food insecurity, ultimately terminating dependence on U.S. assistance in the long term. If adopted and implemented, this legislation would replace an antiquated system with a data-driven, evidence-based approach to sustainable food security while preserving the deeply valued connection between farming communities in the U.S. and the developing world.

MFAN applauds the introduction of this strong reform legislation by Chairman Royce and Rep. Bass and urges other members of Congress to work with them in passing needed changes to our food aid system. When budgets are under severe strain and global hunger afflicts so many, we cannot afford to delay these important reforms.

International aid groups support food aid reforms proposed by Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member Karen Bass

Thursday, May 16th, 2013
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Food aid reform statement

May 16, 2013 (Washington, DC)- This statement is delivered on behalf of the following endorsing organizations: American Jewish World Service, Bread for the World, CARE, Church World Service, The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, Oxfam America and Partners in Health.

The endorsing organizations listed above applaud bi-partisan legislation introduced yesterday by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Karen Bass (D-CA). The Food Aid Reform Act (HR 1983) offers long overdue reforms to the U.S. food assistance program, similar to what was included in the Administration’s FY2014 budget submission to Congress. These reforms—if enacted—mean the U.S. would be able to deliver lifesaving food assistance more quickly, more efficiently and to millions of more hungry people every year with the same taxpayer resources.

More than 870 million people suffer from chronic hunger. With such considerable global needs, and our federal budget under significant pressure, our efforts to provide sustenance and nutrition to the poor must be designed to ensure the greatest impact using limited available resources. In the sixty years that the U.S. has provided food aid to the world’s most vulnerable populations, humanitarian organizations have identified best practices that can significantly enhance these programs’ efficiency and cost-effectiveness. While dozens of studies have identified reforms that would increase the reach of our aid, outdated statutes limit flexibility and impede progress toward this goal. In the words of U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah, “…we’ve learned that the current approach to food aid can become—at times—an impediment to its very own mission.”

Both the President’s proposal and this legislation address many long-standing concerns that have been raised about food aid. The Royce-Bass bill would end the wasteful practice of monetization. Additionally, it would remove restrictions on the shipping of food aid that slow its delivery and inflate the cost to U.S. taxpayers. “Cargo preference” was originally intended to maintain certain maritime capabilities necessary during the Cold War. Today, foreign-owned shipping companies exploit this “Buy America” loophole by operating U.S. flagged carriers and charging premium rates to the federal government. The practice restricts competition, increasing expenditures for ocean freight and costing U.S. taxpayers approximately $140 million each year. The U.S. Agency for International Development estimates that up to half of its spending on food aid can be attributed to ocean transportation costs.

This bi-partisan bill provides the government with additional flexibility to respond to food emergencies: it maintains the ability to purchase and ship US commodities when it is the most appropriate tool, and allows for local purchase of food when such purchases ensure that food reaches hungry people in need faster and at a lower cost. We believe this bill could be strengthened by explicitly maintaining the structure for non-emergency food aid that has helped millions of chronically hungry families around the world.  We urge that as the bill moves through the legislative process that these important authorities are included.

These evidence-based reforms will significantly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our food aid program.  Chairman Royce and Representative Bass’s plan is a balanced approach to delivering food assistance and maximizing efficiencies. We urge the House Foreign Affairs Committee to swiftly approve the proposal. Our organizations thank Chairman Royce and Representative Bass for their leadership and stand ready to work with members on both side of the aisle to ensure that taxpayers’ dollars are used more efficiently and feed the greatest number of hungry people possible.

MFAN Statement: MFAN Welcomes Introduction of the Global Partnerships Act by Congressman Gerry Connolly

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
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May 2, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram, and Jim Kolbe:

We commend Congressman Gerry Connolly for introducing the Global Partnerships Act of 2013 (H.R. 1793), which would overhaul the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961 and make U.S. foreign assistance more efficient and effective. Importantly, this bill—whose original co-sponsors include Reps. Karen Bass and Earl Blumenauer—builds on strong leadership from former Congressman Howard Berman, who dedicated his time as Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to producing a new, rational legislative approach to U.S. global efforts to alleviate poverty, spur economic growth, combat disease, and respond to humanitarian crises.

Modernizing the FAA is a founding principle of our coalition, and we continue to believe this legislation will make our foreign assistance programs more responsive to current and future challenges and help to ensure that the important steps the Obama Administration has taken to implement these reforms are protected. We are particularly pleased that H.R. 1793 prioritizes the following reform principles:

  • Promote local ownership and partner with governments and citizens to set priorities;
  • Strengthen accountability and transparency through rigorous monitoring and evaluation to better inform budget planning;
  • Ensure program decisions are evidence-based;
  • Adopt a more integrated, coordinated, outcome-based approach to development that is flexible within and across sectors and agencies; and
  • Elevate USAID as the U.S. Government’s lead development agency.

The President’s latest budget request reaffirms his commitment to a more evidence-based, selective approach to foreign assistance while maintaining leadership on global health issues like HIV/AIDS and exercising new leadership with a strong proposal to reform the way the U.S. delivers food aid. MFAN hopes that other Members of Congress and Obama Administration officials will join Rep. Connolly and his co-sponsors to make permanent the reforms outlined in this legislation. We look forward to playing a constructive role in this effort to make our foreign assistance more effective and accountable.

 

International aid groups applaud reforms to food aid programs in Obama budget proposal

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
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April 10, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the endorsing organizations: ActionAid, American Jewish World Service, Bread for the World, CARE, Church World Service, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Maryknoll, The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, ONE, Oxfam America and Partners in Health.

The endorsing organizations listed above applaud the reforms to the U.S. food assistance program included in the Administration’s FY2014 budget submission to Congress. This budget reflects a strong commitment to helping the hungry in times of crisis as well as securing long-term food security for the world’s most vulnerable. The reforms the President proposes would make these critical programs more effective and efficient while expanding their reach to millions more people.

Food aid is one of the most important expressions of American leadership and values abroad. For just one-quarter of one percent of our federal budget, we deliver lifesaving support to many of the world’s 870 million chronically hungry people. The United States is the world’s most generous donor of food aid, but numerous independent studies and reports have concluded that our system for delivering that aid is plagued by inefficiencies and waste. Having witnessed firsthand the impediments to effective humanitarian response in the aftermath of crises and the waste associated with regulations on food aid programs, our organizations have advocated for common sense reforms to our outdated food aid system to ensure that both our disaster response and our long-term development efforts are more nimble, sustainable and responsive to local needs.

We welcome steps taken in this budget proposal that would significantly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. food aid by:

  • Removing outdated restrictions on the purchasing and shipping of food aid that slow the delivery of food and inflate its cost to U.S. taxpayers;
  • Providing humanitarian groups with greater flexibility to purchase food locally to reach more people without increasing the budget for this program by one penny;
  • Expanding local and regional purchase to ensure that food is procured closer to where it is needed so that it can be delivered faster;
  • Eliminating the need to “monetize” food aid, a process the Government Accountability Office has labeled, “an inherently inefficient use of resources”; and
  • Promoting sustainable solutions that build local food markets and support small producers to become more productive and resilient in countries that struggle to overcome chronic food insecurity.

Experts unanimously agree that purchasing locally-produced food from farmers in or near a region facing an emergency is far more cost-effective and provides faster relief than the current approach, which requires the shipment of U.S. commodities halfway around the globe. This view was recently validated by a study of a four-year, $60 million USDA pilot program for local purchase of food aid that resulted in food aid reaching recipients more than two months faster than in-kind food aid and at a significantly lower cost for the majority of commodities. The President’s request would provide additional flexibility to determine the most efficient way of procuring food aid.

Reform is long overdue and the Administration’s proposal is a solid step in the right direction.  Such a policy will begin the process of making our assistance more cost effective and reducing long-term food aid dependency. However, a bolder effort with greater flexibility will be necessary in FY2015 in order to truly meet the urgency of the moment. U.S. commodities must remain available to meet emergencies around the world, but rather than tying our humanitarian aid program to any single source, humanitarian groups should be provided adequate flexibility to respond to each emergency with the tools that will feed the most people in the most efficient way. The Administration should commit to phasing out this requirement in order to maximize efficiency and flexibility.

These reforms will significantly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our food aid program. We urge the Appropriations Committees to incorporate the President’s proposals in their Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations bills, and provide funding allocations for the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations bills that are sufficient to fund the initiative and other essential programs. Our organizations stand ready to work with the Administration and Congress to see these reforms through, ensuring that our food aid reaches the hungry faster and is a better use of taxpayer dollars.

 

MFAN Statement: USAID Offers Evidence of Reform Progress

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
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March 20, 2013 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

We strongly commend the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for releasing a comprehensive internal evaluation of progress on the USAID Forward reform agenda. The report highlights very positive and promising signs that USAID has begun to transform itself into a more effective, accountable institution. This progress could not have come at a better time; budget pressures demand better results, and the Agency will bear greater responsibility at the leading edge of U.S. foreign policy as our military leverage decreases in places like Afghanistan and the greater Middle East.

Strengthening USAID has always been one of MFAN’s primary objectives. We supported Administrator Rajiv Shah when he launched USAID Forward on the heels of the 2010 release of President Obama’s landmark Policy Directive on Development (PPD). The PPD sought to reshape the U.S. development approach around economic growth, selectivity, innovation, partnership, and evaluation. As the directive noted, a key avenue to reaching these goals involved a “long-term commitment to rebuilding USAID as the U.S. Government’s lead development agency and as the world’s premier development agency.”

The new USAID Forward progress report is rightly built around the key strategic tenets of the PPD:

  • Evaluation: The creation of the new USAID Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning has had a clear impact on the Agency’s ability to measure programs and thus make more strategic decisions. The report notes that since 2011, 186 in-depth program evaluations have been completed and published for the public. USAID’s important decision to create the position of Chief Economist – and bolster economic expertise across the Agency – has only strengthened the credibility of these evaluations.
  • Selectivity: Stronger evaluation has also allowed for important decisions about resource allocation and selectivity. The report notes that the Agency reduced total numbers of program areas by 22 percent and phased out agricultural programs and global health programs in 21 and 17 countries, respectively, where they were no longer needed. We look forward to USAID exercising increased focus in assistance programming in order to capitalize on opportunities where we can achieve real development gains.
  • Country ownership: USAID’s launch of a process to develop Country Development Cooperation Strategies (CDCS) – which involve close and cross-sectoral collaboration with recipient countries to set goals and adapt programs – was an enormously important steps towards giving partners and citizens more responsibility within the development process. Twenty CDCS processes were completed in 2012, and the Agency has ambitious goals to increase that number.  Efforts to expand country ownership were strengthened by the Agency’s efforts to direct more resources to local institutions.  The report notes a 50 percent increase in funding to local organizations since 2010, with 14.3 percent of mission funding now being awarded directly to local institutions.
  • Economic Growth and Innovation: The report notes that strengthening the Development Credit Authority (DCA) has allowed the agency to leverage more private capital – $700 million in 2012 alone – to support entrepreneurship and capacity building. As an example, the report notes that six USAID missions are now actively using and supporting mobile applications to catalyze development.
  • Partnership: In addition to strengthening relationships with recipient governments, institutions, and citizens, USAID has developed new partnerships with universities and other organizations in order to build local capacity and improve program outcomes.

There are other bright spots in the report, relating to both building internal human capital and committing to continued measurement and evaluation of reform progress. We believe the report itself is a strong signal by Administrator Shah that the Agency intends to be more transparent.

We hope USAID will push harder for progress in other areas. Administrator Shah has committed to closing seven USAID missions that have outlived their strategic usefulness by 2015. We encourage Administrator Shah to continue to pursue mission consolidation alongside the programmatic realignments outlined in the report, and we look forward to receiving more information on this issue. In addition, we urge USAID and other relevant players in the Obama Administration to more constructively engage with Congress on development issues in order to try to solidify these and other reforms through legislation.

MFAN looks forward to upcoming independent research and analysis from our partners that seeks to measure the true impact of these changes on the ground in developing countries. We also look forward to working with USAID to maintain the momentum of these critical reforms.