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Archive for the ‘White House’ Category

MFAN: Reflecting on the 50th Anniversary of Kennedy’s Inaugural

Thursday, January 20th, 2011
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Today, 50 years ago, President Kennedy delivered an inaugural address that set the tone for US engagement for decades to come. Through the address Kennedy sought to renew US leadership in the world, guided by a moral imperative to oppose those who limit opportunity and freedom. Kennedy said, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” These words then paved the way for the first-ever Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the establishment of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – commemorating its 50th anniversary this year.   The best way to celebrate President Kennedy’s infamous address is to build on his legacy for alleviating poverty worldwide by strengthening USAID, while reforming and refocusing our efforts to meet present day challenges. See below for excerpts from Kennedy’s speech that speak to the national security and moral reasons why America has an obligation to fight poverty:

“To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right.”

“To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge: to convert our good words into good deeds, in a new alliance for progress, to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty.”

“My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

Chairman Berman Says It’s Time to Finish Foreign Aid Reform

Thursday, December 9th, 2010
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In a new piece in The Washington Times, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) calls for Congress and the Administration to complete and institutionalize their work to make foreign aid programs “more effective, more efficient and more accountable.”

HCFA_April 222009_042209 Hillary and BermanBerman applauds the initiative of the Obama Administration in pursuing two separate reviews of foreign assistance – the Presidential Study Directive that produced America’s first-ever government-wide global development policy, and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) led by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development that is due out next week.  He cautions, however, that the “real challenge…will be to use the results of this review to implement meaningful reforms with lasting impact.” He goes on to say, “That’s where Congress comes in.”

The authorizing committee chairman points to his own efforts this Congress to rewrite the outdated, now 50-year old Foreign Assistance Act, and urges the both the Executive and Legislative branches of government to come together to enact “common-sense reforms.”

Here are the excerpted principles Berman lays out to ensure durable reform:

“Foreign assistance programs not only reflect American values and principles but serve as essential means for protecting U.S. economic, foreign-policy and security interests,” Berman concludes. “Only by mandating the new structures and processes in law can we establish the level of bipartisan support and executive-legislative consensus that will guard against backsliding and retrogression.”

To read the full article, click here.

CAP Proposes Way Forward on Aid Reform in the New Congress

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
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In a new report called “U.S. Foreign Aid Reform Meets the Tea Party,” MFAN Principal and Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress John Norris explores how foreign assistance reform can succeed in the new-look 112th Congress.

“While many have been quick to suggest that the November 2010 midterm elections will result in gridlock in Washington, there are good reasons why foreign aid reform can continue to gain traction,” Norris writes.  He goes on to make concrete recommendations on how to effectively implement the aspirations of President Obama’s global development policy, which was announced in September and is the first of its kind in the history of the U.S. government.  “This new U.S. foreign aid policy framework was well received by a wide spectrum of organizations and commentators, ranging from some traditional aid critics to major groups, such as the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, that have long supported reform efforts,” Norris notes.  “All welcomed an effort to bring greater clarity, discipline, effectiveness, and simplicity to our aid programs.  Articulating a new policy direction, however, is different from making it happen.”

John_NorrisNorris also discusses the role of the soon-to-be-released Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) and how it might – or might not – clarify the relationship between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department.  “It is also noteworthy that neither the new policy directive nor the likely results of Secretary Clinton’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR, have fully resolved a long-simmering tug of war between the State Department and USAID,” he comments.  “Instead, under its current review, the administration revived or partially revived some important policy and budget functions within USAID, leaving the agency with a degree of autonomy. Yet the administration also made it abundantly clear that the agency still operates under the broad policy guidance of the secretary of state, and that State Department officials will remain deeply engaged in decision-making on many key aspects of development while taking an even more prominent role in managing complex crises.”

Specifically, Norris proposes the following actions for partnering with Congress to implement the President’s vision and strategy for U.S. engagement in the developing world:

  • Focusing on countries where assistance will make a real difference;
  • Walking away from partner governments that are not committed to reform;
  • Curbing the tendency to use foreign aid to secure short-term political gains rather than achieving long-term development goals;
  • Bringing far greater clarity and direction to the maze of different government entities conducting assistance through specific regulatory and legislative fixes; and
  • Making a better case as to why foreign aid reform is the right thing to do, both in terms of our national interest and our basic values as Americans.

“For the president’s new policy directive to be effective soon and over the long term, then the administration must work with Congress in a bipartisan fashion to overhaul our foreign aid programs so that they all adhere to the new strategy.  This will require making some difficult choices and then sticking with them.”

To read the report, click here.

Foreign Aid Ranks Among the President’s Foreign Policy Headaches

Thursday, November 11th, 2010
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USAID in Pakistan-AFP MehriIn a recent post, Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin reported on the top ten policy areas where President Obama will potentially face Republican opposition. Chief among them is foreign aid. Rogin speculates that the White House may turn to foreign policy as the Republican-controlled House pushes back on the President’s domestic agenda. Still, he notes that victories abroad are a sign of cooperation – and the Obama administration has a history of finding key support from Republicans in Congress (e.g. Afghanistan surge). Rogin’s list of foreign policy “headaches” includes: Afghanistan, the new START treaty, containing Iran, defense budget reform, civilian nuclear agreements, Syria, Cuba, free trade, and State Department nominations.  See below for some excerpts:

On Afghanistan: “On the civilian side, new prospective State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) is poised to use her control over civilian aid to press the case for taking a tougher line on Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as her predecessor Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) did in 2010.”

On foreign aid: “As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama promised to double the foreign aid budget within five years. Likewise, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has promised to elevate development alongside defense and diplomacy as a key pillar of U.S. national security policy. Both those promises face increased resistance in Congress next year, as lawmakers look to make budget cuts in programs that lack strong domestic constituencies. “One of the main issue voters are talking about is out-of-control spending, and foreign aid won’t be exempt from cuts,” one GOP aide told The Cable.”

“The congressional drive to pass a wholesale reform of foreign-aid distribution has also been dealt a blow due to the GOP takeover of the House. The most comprehensive bill on this front was written by outgoing House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) — but his bill failed to move out of committee, and it’s unlikely that his successor, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), will take up the cause. Expect congressional Republicans to also resist large increases in the budget for the State Department, which is taking on increased roles all over the world, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan. The State Department’s budget for fiscal 2011 is still under consideration.”

On State Department nominations: “Senate Republicans have been holding up the nominations of scores of administration officials. The most visible holds are several U.S. ambassadorial nominees, such as Robert Ford to Syria, Frank Ricciardone to Turkey, Matthew Bryza to Azerbaijan, and Norm Eisen to the Czech Republic.”

“The nominations are held up by different senators for different reasons, some personal, some political. The increased GOP presence in the Senate won’t directly affect these nominations, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will have to approve the nominations again if they are not acted on this year.”

MFAN Partner on the Tea Party and the President’s Global Development Policy

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
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Sarah Jane StaatsLast week, MFAN member Sarah Jane Staats, director of policy outreach at the Center for Global Development, posted a piece on CGD’s Rethinking US Foreign Assistance blog taking a closer look at how the new divided Congress will impact global development policy. After noting that it is unclear where Tea Partiers stand on many foreign policy issues, she argues the general emphasis on reigning in government spending could benefit the reform agenda. She also notes the potential impact on trade issues and specific presidential initiatives like the Global Health Initiative and Feed the Future. Click here to read MFAN Principal John Norris’ piece for more on Tea Party foreign policy and see below for key excerpts from Staats’ piece:

“Of course, aid is about more than money; how rich countries design their aid programs is as important as how much they give. In this sense, the pressure on the budget could help drive aid reforms and force the administration and Congress to make tough choices about where and how we spend our aid dollars and push for stronger evidence on what works in development. The push to be more selective with our development assistance, focus on economic growth, and do a better job of measuring impact and results (and share it publicly) is already lined up in the presidential policy directive on U.S. global development policy and seems like a reform mantle that both parties could get behind.”

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