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Archive for the ‘MFAN Statement’ Category

MFAN Statement: Sharp Differences in House and Senate Spending Highlight Threat to Critical Foreign Assistance Reform Efforts

Friday, July 26th, 2013
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July 26, 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 are greatly concerned that a decade’s worth of measurable progress on foreign assistance – marked by millions of lives saved, landmark systemic reforms, and bold programmatic innovation – is at risk in the current FY2014 appropriations processes underway in Congress. While the Senate Appropriations Committee proposal for funding international affairs protects the core of programs considered vital to our national security and foreign policy, the House Appropriations Committee has adopted a proposal that would drastically reduce funding for these same programs and reorder priorities in a way that would severely undercut U.S. global leadership on development. This is unwise at a time when our diplomatic and development programs are key levers of influence amidst turmoil in the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe.

Specifically, the FY2014 spending bills released by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are nearly $10 billion apart on funding for U.S. global health and development programs.  The spending plan for State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) approved Wednesday by the House Appropriations Committee includes huge and strategically damaging cuts. Multilateral assistance, which is a cornerstone of our cooperative engagement with allies to build self-sufficiency and ownership in developing countries, would be cut 61 percent. Our international disaster assistance, which is the lynchpin of the global response to unforeseen humanitarian crises, would drop 40 percent. Our development assistance, which funds programs that are successfully helping the world’s most vulnerable people overcome debilitating poverty and deadly diseases, would be slashed 26 percent.

In addition to the gutting of overall foreign assistance programs, the House budget contains substantial, ill-advised cuts to the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Operating Expenses budget of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The MCC, a bipartisan effort launched under President George W. Bush, has embodied many of the reform principles we are now seeing take hold across government as part of President Obama’s first-ever U.S. Global Development Policy, including a clear focus on broad-based economic growth achieved through country-led plans, evaluation of results, transparency, and policy reforms in partner governments. Meanwhile, Operating Expenses at USAID are supporting an agency-wide reform effort that has restored much-needed accountability, expertise, and capacity after years of steady decline.

Taken together and if passed, these cuts would represent a nearly full repudiation of the idea that the U.S. must lead the world on development. In contrast, the Senate’s FY2014 proposal for State and Foreign Operations maintains essential funding for USAID’s Operating Expenses and the MCC, as well as funding for international organizations—such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization—where the U.S. exercises a key leadership role.

Encouragingly, both Chambers have addressed initiatives to encourage more local procurement and we look forward to working with Congress to ensure that USAID and other agencies are given the flexibility they need to work through local partners in order to maximize development effectiveness and build sustainable local capacity.

As the appropriations process moves forward, we urge Congress to follow the Senate’s lead to maintain these smart investments in our nation’s security, prosperity, and leadership around the world.

 

MFAN Statement: Poe, Rubio Bills Would Strengthen Foreign Assistance Transparency, Accountability

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
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July 10, 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:

MFAN applauds Congressmen Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) for introducing the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013 (H.R. 2638; S. 1271). An earlier version of the bill received an encouraging response upon its initial introduction during the 112th Congress, where it sailed through the House with a unanimous vote of 390-0.

The bipartisan legislation would strengthen U.S. development programs that are critical levers of influence in an increasingly complex world by directing U.S. agencies involved in foreign assistance to employ more coherent, consistent, and transparent monitoring and evaluation.

This builds on work the Obama Administration has done to embed results-oriented learning practices in U.S. development programming, including new evaluation policies at the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of State, as well as a new U.S. commitment to participate in the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Specifically, the bills would improve accountability, transparency, and overall effectiveness first by requiring the President to establish uniform interagency guidelines—with measurable goals, performance metrics, and monitoring and evaluation plans—across all U.S. foreign assistance programs. In addition, H.R. 2638 / S.1271 would require the President to maintain and expand the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, a public website with detailed information regarding U.S. foreign assistance on a program-by-program and country-by-country basis. The site, which is currently populated by only five U.S. government departments or agencies, would be updated quarterly by all agencies that administer foreign assistance, and would allow American taxpayers and partner countries the ability to access and track comprehensive, timely, and comparable data.

The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act is an important step toward making lasting, statutory reforms that will ensure U.S. foreign assistance programs are more transparent, accountable, and effective.  We look forward to working with Members of both the House and Senate to enact this legislation during the 113th Congress.

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.