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Archive for the ‘White House’ Category

Berman Applauds Obama’s New Development Policy, Eager to Partner on Foreign Aid Reform Legislation

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
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Gayle_Berman-30Apr09-cropHouse Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) issued a statement today praising President Obama’s new development policy that was released yesterday in conjunction with his speech at the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit.

Calling it a “powerful speech” that makes a “bold commitment to United
States global leadership in international development,” Berman applauded the principles in the new policy that reflect the committee’s own work on foreign assistance reform over the past year, in particular a planned overhaul of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act.

He closed by saying he looks forward to partnering with the Administration on new legislation for this “top priority.”

Congress of the United States

House Committee on Foreign Affairs


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Foreign Aid Reform Top Priority for Berman, Administration

Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, joined President Obama in making foreign aid reform a priority in alleviating poverty and strengthening U.S. national security.

“I welcome President Obama’s powerful speech at the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit, and his recognition that development is ‘not only a moral imperative, but a strategic and economic imperative.’  His bold commitment to United States global leadership in international development rests on a clear understanding that the purpose of development is ‘creating the conditions where assistance is no longer needed.’

“The Policy Directive the President signed yesterday echoes many of the themes and approaches of the foreign aid reform effort being undertaken by my committee. These include elevating and strengthening the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), underscoring the importance of country ownership and responsibility, improving coordination among U.S. government agencies and between the U.S. and other donors, expanding multilateral capabilities, leveraging more private resources, and setting in place rigorous procedures to evaluate the impact of policies and programs.

“Development assistance not only helps people to meet their basic needs and provide for their families, but also creates opportunities to expand markets for U.S. goods and services.  It strengthens our national security by ameliorating the conditions under which conflict, lawlessness and extremism often flourish.

“I look forward to working with the Administration to turn these principles into legislation that will maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of United States foreign assistance.”


MFAN Statement: Visionary New Development Policy Lays the Foundation for More Effective Foreign Aid

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
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September 22, 2010 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

The foreign assistance reform movement is celebrating a major victory today.  With his speech laying out a new U.S. approach to development at the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit, President Obama has outlined a future where development endures as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy, delivering greater results for people in poverty around the world and U.S. taxpayers.  The Obama Administration deserves enormous credit for creating America’s first development policy, which at long last provides a roadmap for more strategic, effective, accountable U.S. foreign assistance.

The committed efforts of MFAN members over the last two years helped shape the new policy, as evidenced by a fact sheet accompanying the launch in which the Administration pledged to:

  • “Elevate development as a central pillar of our national security policy, equal to diplomacy and defense, and build and integrate the capabilities that can advance our interests.”
  • “Establish mechanisms for ensuring coherence of U.S. development policy across the U.S. government” by “[formulating] a U.S. Global Development Strategy for approval by the President every four years…[establishing] an Interagency Policy Committee on Global Development, led by the National Security Staff…[and creating] a U.S. Global Development Council” from the private sector and civil society to “provide high-level input.”
  • Make a “long-term commitment to rebuilding USAID as the U.S. Government’s lead development agency – and the world’s premier development agency” by developing “robust policy, budget, planning, and evaluation capabilities” and giving the agency “leadership in the formulation of country and sector development strategies”;
  • “Underscore the importance of country ownership and responsibility” by “[responding] directly to country priorities”;
  • Emphasize sustainable outcomes, “hold all recipients of U.S. assistance accountable for…results,” and “drive…policy and practice with [disciplined analysis]; and,
  • “Prioritize partnerships” such as leveraging multilateral institutions, the private sector, and nongovernmental institutions.

As with most ambitious policy pronouncements like this, the devil will be in the details of implementation.  We look forward to supporting the Administration as the implementation phase takes shape, and it will be our responsibility to hold policymakers accountable for the groundbreaking commitments made in this new policy.  We will focus on key questions that remain unanswered, including:

  • If U.S. Ambassadors have oversight responsibility for foreign assistance in the field, how can we make sure our development programs work towards long-term, sustainable outcomes and not short-term political goals?
  • More broadly, how will USAID and the State Department work together to implement the new policy?
  • Will the Administration work proactively with Congress to overhaul the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to make sure the new development policy endures as one of President Obama’s key legacies?

For additional information, please contact Sam Hiersteiner at 202-295-0171 or

MFAN Member Calls for Action in Obama’s MDG Speech on Development

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
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Below is a guest blog post from MFAN member Porter McConnell, Policy Advisor for Oxfam America’s Aid Effectiveness team, on President Obama’s speech later today at the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit, in which he will outline the new U.S. global development policy:

President Obama: Just another speech, or…

President Obama speechThis week, world leaders are meeting in New York to plot a path to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. President Obama is giving a speech at the summit later today. The question is, will this be just another speech, or will this be the speech of a lifetime?

The Administration first released its plan for the US role in meeting the MDGs in July. This plan is a step in the right direction, but one billion poor people are counting on us to turn those words into action. The President will need to confront some tough choices. It’s time for the American people to hold him accountable for concrete actions to help people around the world beat poverty once and for all.

Thankfully, the US isn’t in this alone: President Obama needs to call on other world leaders to make their own robust plans, and their citizens need to hold them to it. But after world leaders have all packed their bags and returned home, the real work begins. The only way to turn the corner on the MDGs is for the Administration to undertake tough reforms to make our aid work for poor people.

The Administration has made a start:  country ownership is at the heart of the Global Health Initiative, Feed the Future, and USAID’s Implementation & Procurement Reform. But to take country ownership from lip service to reality, the Administration and Congress must fix the tangled web of competing agendas that undermine ownership at every turn. That means an overhaul of our Cold-War era foreign assistance legislation, and a seat for USAID on the National Security Council, so our efforts to fight global poverty aren’t diverted to serve narrow diplomatic and security ends. As Ethiopian Minister of Health and Global Fund Chair Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus remarked to policymakers this summer, “People say country ownership is confusing. It’s not confusing, it’s actually really clear. What’s missing is the commitment to implement it.”

We must send the message to President Obama that now is not a moment for a symbolic speech, now is the time for urgent action. If the global economic crisis has taught us anything, it’s that global poverty is a fundamental threat to our shared efforts to build a secure, prosperous and just world. Together we must beat global poverty, and the only way we do that is by recognizing that poor people themselves are critical to the solution.

Photo: Pete Souza,

OMB Watch Calls on Obama to Commit to Aid Transparency at MDG Summit

Monday, September 20th, 2010
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Last week, OMB Watch, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that seeks to increase government transparency and accountability, delivered a letter to President Obama calling for the U.S. government to publicly commit to greater transparency in U.S. foreign aid at this week’s UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

moulton_sm“In the ten years since that historic statement, it has become increasingly clear that money is not all that matters in development,” wrote Sean Moulton, Director of Federal Information Policy at OMB Watch. “Effective and accountable governance are also necessary, the basis of which is transparency.”

Specifically, the letter calls for the administration to:

  • Publicly announce at the MDG Summit a commitment to transparency in U.S. aid and an exhortation for aid transparency globally;
  • Commit to vigorously and expeditiously implement the aid transparency initiative announced in USAID’s MDGs strategy;
  • Ensure the U.S. actively participates in the International Aid Transparency Initiative to ensure the standards deliver for U.S. needs;
  • Explore other appropriate international efforts, such as technical assistance, to improve transparency and coordination in aid;
  • Demand high standards of transparency from international aid institutions to which the U.S. contributes; and
  • Encourage high standards of transparency from recipients of U.S. aid.

The letter echoes recent appeals for aid transparency from other governance and development experts, such as the London Declaration for Transparency, the Free Flow of Information and Development, adopted at an international civil society conference last month. In addition, this week Transparency International released a report calling for transparency to combat corruption, which can stymie progress toward realizing the MDGs. Recent reports from MFAN Partners Publish What You Fund and Oxfam America have focused specifically on the transparency of U.S. aid.

“To achieve the MDGs by 2015, we need to know what actions are being taken and what results are being seen,” Moulton goes on to write. “This requires donor countries, such as the United States, to provide full disclosure of aid flow and activities. It also requires recipient countries and organizations to enhance their own spending transparency.”

Read the full letter here.

Rieff: Clinton’s “Muddled” Approach to Development

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010
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Yesterday, The New Republic foreign policy blog, “Entanglements,” posted a piece by David Rieff examining Secretary Clinton’s recent speech on the Global Health Initiative (GHI) at Johns Hopkins’ SAIS.  Rieff discusses Clinton’s speech in terms of the Obama administration’s approach to development – questioning whether there is enough funding and bureaucratic support to realize the numerous goals Clinton laid out.  Rieff offers a critical review of GHI and other development efforts:  the decision to have three agencies in charge of GHI’s day-to-day operations; policymakers’ claims of development assistance as a tool of “public diplomacy” and a way to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and the continued priority funding for military programs.  Despite the critical tone, Rieff raises some interesting points about the overall direction of the Obama administration’s approach to development.  Read full text of the post here and see key excerpts below: