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Archive for the ‘MFAN Statement’ Category

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associated with regulations on food aid programs, our organizations have advocated for common sense reforms to our outdated food aid system to ensure that both our disaster response and our long-term development efforts are more nimble, sustainable and responsive to local needs.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  • Removing outdated restrictions on the purchasing and shipping of food aid that slow the delivery of food and inflate its cost to U.S. taxpayers;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.

Groups Welcome the Release of Administration Proposal for International Food Aid Reform

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
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Below is a joint statement, which was released earlier today on the rumored changes to the U.S. approach to food aid in President Obama’s FY14 budget request. The statement welcomes reports that these changes may include useful reforms and is endorsed by 12 organizations, including MFAN.

food aid groups

Washington, DC, February 26, 2013 – The above groups welcome reports that the Administration may propose helpful reforms to the U.S. food assistance program in its FY2014 budget submission to Congress. We urge the Obama Administration to include a bold reform proposal that builds upon the United States’ historic leadership as the world’s most generous donor of food aid.

When 870 million people around the world go hungry every day, making every food aid dollar count is not only a responsible use of taxpayer money, it is a moral imperative. For that reason, it is critical that any reforms seek efficiencies rather than cuts, and do not alter the basic programmatic focus of the U.S. food aid program. These programs help to feed 55 million people in need around the world, supporting both emergency responses and addressing chronic hunger.

Our organizations strongly support effective foreign assistance to address humanitarian crises and development challenges. We know from our work on the ground that this aid saves lives.  That is why we have advocated for common sense reforms to our outdated food aid system that would allow the United States to continue providing life-saving assistance for millions of people around the world, even in this period of a constrained federal budget.

Making every dollar count for hungry people means adding flexibility to our overseas food assistance so that proven methods such as local and regional purchase (LRP) are part of the food aid toolbox. The recent release of an independent evaluation report of the USDA LRP Pilot Program, established under a provision of the 2008 farm bill, confirms that this approach is a triple win: providing considerable cost savings, faster humanitarian response, and support for the local farmers and agricultural markets that are the key to providing long-term global food security.

Making every dollar count for hungry people also means reducing the inefficient and potentially market distorting practice of selling U.S. commodities to fund non-food components of programs designed to support agriculture, nutrition and food security. It would be far more efficient to fund these activities directly, instead of through circuitous and inefficient route of monetizing food aid.

In a June 2011 report, the Government Accountability Office found that the use of monetization resulted in at least a 30 percent loss of resources to non-emergency food aid projects conducted from 2008-2010.

In the current budgetary climate, policymakers cannot afford to ignore any credible proposal to maximize the use of taxpayer dollars while maintaining and even increasing program reach and impact. Our organizations stand ready to work with the Administration and Congress to reform our international food aid system so that we can continue to respond to the scourge of global hunger today and build toward a hunger-free future tomorrow.

 

MFAN Statement: Food Aid Reform Necessary; Administration Urged to Release Proposal

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
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February 19, 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:

The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network is intrigued by reports that the Obama Administration may propose changes to the U.S. approach to providing overseas food assistance, including reforms that could make this assistance more cost effective and allow us to reach more people around the world in need of help.  While we don’t yet have details of these proposed changes, we believe strongly that improving the effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. food aid is long overdue and could provide millions more people with life-saving assistance—all without increasing the budget for these programs.

The current approach to delivering food aid is outdated and in need of reform.  In an era of decreasing budgets, policymakers simply can’t afford not to consider any credible proposal to maximize the impact of taxpayer dollars.  We urge the Administration to make its proposal public and include it in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget request, and we urge Congress to give it careful and complete consideration.

MFAN Statement: Senate Does Disservice to Americans, Allies & Foreign Assistance Recipients by Killing Transparency Legislation

Friday, January 4th, 2013
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January 4, 2012 (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 disappointed that one Senator’s objection earlier this week killed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 3159), which had been scheduled for passage by unanimous consent after the House approved it without objection last week.

Because the bill came so close to becoming law, we are optimistic about its prospects in the 113th Congress and we plan to redouble our efforts to support its passage.  We remain grateful for Texas Rep. Ted Poe’s leadership in introducing the bill, and for the support of original co-sponsor Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) and 55 other Members of the House who endorsed the legislation. We also applaud Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and John Kerry (D-MA) for shepherding the bill in the Senate. Finally, we thank our MFAN partner organizations for the hard work they did in pushing for the legislation’s passage.

The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act would have an unmistakably positive impact on the effectiveness and accountability of our foreign assistance. It would institute a more uniform approach to monitoring and evaluation (M&E) across all of our assistance programs, while also updating and expanding the Foreign Assistance Dashboard public information website. Equally as important, it would foster more consistent and comprehensive interaction between the Administration and Congress on development issues.

The American people deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent and what they are achieving, and our international partners and foreign assistance recipients themselves need clearer and more consistent information in order to strengthen the impact of programs on the ground. We look forward to working with the 113th Congress on these issues, and we hope the Obama Administration will show its support for the legislation as well.