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Archive for the ‘USAID’ Category

USAID Releases 2011 Annual Letter

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
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Last week the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, released its first-ever annual letter. In the introduction, USAID Administration Rajiv Shah looks back on the Marshall Plan and President Kennedy’s argument that advancing opportunity and freedom is central to America’s security, prosperity and national conscience. Shah frames the letter as an opportunity to show Americans that “by doing good, we do well,” and to demonstrate how he is leading an effort to revitalize and reform the agency to make U.S. development assistance more effective and sustainable.

The letter then runs through three sections that make the case for reform and explain how USAID fits into the broad range of U.S. development efforts. The first section, “The Modern Development Enterprise”, begins with Shah writing about his experience in Haiti. He notes, “Crises often bring clarity—a sense of urgency that leaves no room for hesitation or red tape…As USAID staff launched the largest humanitarian relief and search-and-rescue efforts in history, the speed, skill and dedication they showed was awe-inspiring. They responded quickly, overcame bureaucratic hurdles, worked inclusively with a broad range of partners and made smart, calculated choices to get better outcomes.”

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USAID, MCC Budget Hearing Seeped in Partisan Bickering

Monday, March 21st, 2011
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Last Wednesday, USAID Administrator Raj Shah and MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the President’s FY’12 budget request and the future of foreign assistance programs. Yet, Shah and Yohannes barely got a word in edgewise as members on both sides of the aisle succumbed to partisan debate over whether the U.S. can afford to pay for foreign assistance programs. And the debate was hardly constructive.

Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) remained above the fray, kicking off the hearing with some promising comments about the need to emphasize partnerships with the private sector and be more accountable with our aid dollars—with the ultimate goal of promoting economic growth. Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) hit on some important reform principles both USAID and MCC have implemented into programs and policies whether those principles are about emphasizing science and technology as part of USAID Forward or embracing transparency and accountability with MCC compacts. Ultimately, Berman said the committee should be focused on ensuring that every tax dollar is put to best possible use but that doesn’t mean we should cut foreign assistance funding.

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MFAN-WTW-AJWS Celebrate International Women’s Day

Thursday, March 10th, 2011
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Don Steinberg-IWD eventYesterday in honor of International Women’s Day, MFAN co-sponsored an event with Women Thrive Worldwide (WTW) and the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) to discuss gender policy as a means to achieving more effective development. Deputy Administrator for USAID Don Steinberg provided a keynote address in which he spoke about the agency’s efforts to integrate gender policy across all programs. Acknowledging the changing landscape—with the creation of UN Women and recent commitments from President Obama and Secretary Clinton— and the growing awareness of the consequences for excluding women and girls from society, Steinberg said this was a time for action. Some of the action steps USAID has taken include: requiring a gender impact statement on all projects, mandatory training, a code of conduct for trafficking, and the creation of two senior positions for gender empowerment. After listing these steps, Steinberg said the agency is committed to making sure these gains “deepen and are irreversible” adding, “These are non-negotiable requirements for lasting peace and stability—not pet rocks in a rucksack.” He also talked extensively about his experience in Angola, serving as Ambassador there, and how he worked tirelessly to include women in a more balanced peace process.

Steinberg’s keynote was followed by a panel discussion moderated by former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, current Managing Director at the Glover Park Group. Along with Steinberg, the panel featured MFAN Principal and WTW President Ritu Sharma and AJWS President Ruth Messinger. In her opening remarks, Messinger forcefully articulated the role of civil society in elevating women and girls. She also reminded the audience that  in being determined advocates for women’s issues we must remember the need to work from the ground up—that we must take advantage of local civil society groups already pushing for women’s rights and build on their efforts.

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Secretary Clinton Defends FY’12 Budget Request to HFAC

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
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Clinton FY'12 HFAC

Yesterday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to defend President Obama’s FY’12 budget request for the State Department and USAID. After opening statements from Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) and Clinton, the committee immediately jumped to a marathon question and answer session—bringing the hearing to a near 4-hour mark. Most of the questions from Republicans and Democrats focused on the revolutions in the Middle East, particularly Libya. Secretary Clinton used this context as a jumping off point to make an eloquent defense of U.S. assistance and development programs and generally how the situation makes it even more important that we use every tool in our national security strategy to affect change.

In her opening statement HFAC Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen criticized the Administration for not doing more to foster the democracy movements in the Middle East, saying “We have failed to effectively use our resources to help build strong, accountable institutions that protect basic human rights.” Ros-Lehtinen discussed the UN Human Rights Council and called for conditioning U.S. funding: “Just as administration officials talk about smart power and smart sanctions, when it comes to the U.N., we need smart withholding.”  She also challenged the Administration to consider its “mis-placed priorities” arguing, “The Administration should not propose massive increases in global health and climate change while cutting key programs like counter-terrorism programs.” After running through some constituent letters that ask “what is the return on our investment?” Ros-Lehtinen closed with a forceful message:  “Our funding baseline has to change. The real question is not, is this activity useful? But rather, is this activity so important that it justifies borrowing money to pay for it and further endangering our nation’s economy?”

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MFAN Statement: Budget Landscape Increases Urgency of Foreign Assistance Reform

Monday, February 14th, 2011
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February 14, 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:

As Congress begins debate this week on funding the government for the remainder of 2011, we support current spending levels in the international affairs budget. Foreign assistance is not a nice-to-have perk in a world where complex challenges defy narrow solutions; it is a must-have pillar of our foreign policy alongside diplomacy and defense. In addition, now more than ever, foreign assistance reform must move forward, in order to make sure we can get the most out of every dollar we spend on development.

We are acutely aware of the dangers a growing deficit and debt-to-GDP ratio pose to economic growth and security in the United States.  But disproportionately drastic cuts in the foreign assistance budget being considered by the House of Representatives this week would undo a decade’s worth of progress against global poverty and disease, and adversely affect our security, prosperity, and leadership in the world.

For around 1% of the federal budget, experts from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and other agencies are empowered to work hand-in-hand with our diplomats and members of the Armed Forces to help build accountable institutions and increase stability in “frontline” states like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen.  These professionals are also deployed to help boost private-sector and middle-class growth and reduce poverty in developing countries, the fastest-growing markets in the world. Our development efforts in these countries are crucial to opening up export opportunities for American businesses and building stable, long-term trading partners and allies. Were we to pull back, the void left behind would surely be filled by other countries that do not share our values.

We must also finish the job of implementing the serious reforms to U.S. foreign assistance that have been pushed forward on a bipartisan basis over the last decade.  The focus now should be on two key actions, which will increase the effectiveness of all of our development programs, particularly marquee efforts like the Global Health Initiative and the Feed the Future agricultural development program:

  • Enacting USAID Forward: To transform USAID into a modern development enterprise so that it can make the best use possible of limited resources and achieve more dynamic results, the budget should provide strategic resources for strengthening accountability and evaluation; changing inefficient procurement practices; and investing in innovation, science, and technology.
  • Implementing the President’s Landmark Development Policy: To ensure that all U.S. development activities are more coordinated, efficient, and effective, the budget should focus resources on bolstering economic growth and democratic governance around the world, while at the same time being more selective about who gets our assistance and cutting programs in places where U.S. partners are ready to take more ownership and responsibility.

We call on the Administration and Congress to work together to complete the reforms and build a modern development enterprise for the U.S., so that we can maximize the returns on our development investments at a time of complex budgetary and geopolitical challenges.