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Archive for the ‘White House’ Category

QDDR Blog Series: MFAN Co-Chair David Beckmann on Poverty

Thursday, March 18th, 2010
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The third installment in MFAN’s QDDR blog series comes from our Co-Chair, Rev. David Beckmann, who is president of the leading anti-poverty advocacy organization Bread for the World.  To see other posts in the series, click on the following names – George Ingram, Noam Unger.


The QDDR and Poverty Reduction

by Rev. David Beckmann

Bread for the World wants a reform of U.S. foreign assistance that will make it more effective in reducing poverty.

The Obama administration has already taken important steps towards reforming foreign assistance.  President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made development and global poverty reduction a higher priority in U.S. foreign policy.  They have achieved increased funding for development assistance and added staffing to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  They have also launched the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative (which thrills us at Bread for the World) and announced a more integrated approach to global health.


MFAN Statement: Obama Administration International Affairs Budget Request Further Strengthens Development

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
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February 1, 2010 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

MFAN strongly supports President Obama’s FY 2011 International Affairs budget blueprint, which reinforces the President’s commitment to ensuring that “development is established and endures as a key pillar of U.S. foreign policy”  by requesting  increases for foreign assistance programs.  Even at this challenging time, we believe robust funding for development is critical, because the complex problems we are trying to solve in Haiti, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere cannot be addressed solely with military firepower or diplomatic outreach.  We must continue to focus on alleviating poverty, fighting disease, and creating economic opportunity in the developing world, in order to improve people’s lives and help set them on a path towards self-sufficiency.

The challenging atmosphere surrounding this budget demands that policymakers do everything possible to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective and accountable.  Building on the unprecedented momentum created at all levels of government in 2009, we urge the Obama Administration to drive foreign assistance reform to a successful conclusion so that we are getting the best results possible for the people in developing countries we are working with, as well as U.S. taxpayers.

We eagerly await the findings and recommendations from two major Administration reviews – the White House’s Presidential Study Directive on Global Development Policy (PSD) and the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).  We call on the Administration to work closely with Congress on House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Berman’s (D-CA) anticipated rewrite of the outdated Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s bipartisan effort to pass the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009 (S.1524), which would strengthen the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under Dr. Rajiv Shah’s leadership and create new transparency and accountability measures for foreign assistance.  We stand ready to work with both branches on this important and transformative drive towards reform.

For more information, contact Sam Hiersteiner at or

President Obama’s State of the Union Address

Thursday, January 28th, 2010
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Obama State of the UnionIn his first State of the Union address last night, President Obama alluded to his campaign pledge to “strengthen our common security by investing in our common humanity.”  See excerpts from his speech below:

“That is the leadership that we are providing — engagement that advances the common security and prosperity of all people. We are working through the G-20 to sustain a lasting global recovery. We are working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science, education and innovation. We have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against climate change. We are helping developing countries to feed themselves and continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS. And we are launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bioterrorism or an infectious disease — a plan that will counter threats at home and strengthen public health abroad.”

“As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores. But we also do it because it is right. That is why, as we meet here tonight, over 10,000 Americans are working with many nations to help the people of Haiti recover and rebuild. That is why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan, we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran, and we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity.”

Read the full text of his speech here.

Media Explores Roles of Civilian and Military Responders in Haiti Relief Efforts

Friday, January 22nd, 2010
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As the effort to provide aid to Haiti continues,  questions have emerged about whether the massive humanitarian response is being handled properly from a organizational perspective.  Should Dr. Rajiv Shah, the new USAID Administrator, and his civilian colleagues be coordinating the response?  Should the U.S. military lead the way?  Below is a sampling of opinion pieces and news stories on this issue:

  • U.S. Military Should Have Reached Haiti Sooner (CNN-Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, January 14) Regarding the airport, he said, “You need to put the right commander there who’s going to be a battle captain and keep those aircraft flowing. You come in, you drop off what you have, you put the sick and wounded on and then move out. No one is standing any time on the airfield. You can be in and out in a half hour.”
  • MFAN-related: Helping Haiti: Eight Key Points (Huffington Post-Anne Richard, January 19) American troops can protect a neighborhood or building, but aid agencies do a better job designing ways to protect women and young girls from predatory men after a crisis. Soldiers can quickly establish links to other militaries and peacekeepers, but diplomats and international relief experts are also needed. Aid agencies can work with communities and stay for the longer term. The U.S. military can fly in, set up and staff a brand new clinic while aid agencies can reinforce networks of existing clinics and help local staff. All of this is needed.
  • U.S. Military Plays High-Profile Role in Haiti Relief Effort (Newshour-Andrew Natsios & Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, January 19) [Natsios]: But the international disaster assistance system is not based on military leadership. It’s based on civilian leadership. It’s USAID, under federal law, that has that leadership role. But there are 60 of these disasters a year that AID responds to, and no one ever hears about them because they don’t get into the news. And they’re very effectively run. And most of them, the military doesn’t get involved.
  • MFAN-related: Haiti’s Tragedy and the Inevitable Controversy (Huffington Post-J. Brian Atwood, January 20) USAID has a large mission in Haiti and its personnel know the people and the structures of Haitian society. They can provide guidance and assure that our military will be seen as a benign force. In addition, organizations like CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and UNICEF prefer to work under civilian not military direction.  The Haiti operation is an all-government response, but USAID/OFDA is appropriately in the lead. The President has designated Dr. Rajiv Shah, the USAID Administrator to coordinate the USG response and by all accounts he is doing an outstanding job.
  • White House Eager to Project Image of Competence in Relief Efforts (The New York Times, January 21) The White House has won praise for its Haiti relief efforts, which have included Mr. Obama’s pledge of $100 million in aid and the deployment of 10,000 troops to Haiti, and a promise of more. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cut short a trip to the South Pacific and rushed home so she, too, could visit Haiti. “It’s important to give people a sense that you’re making progress,” he [John Simon] said

We encourage readers of the ModernizeAid blog to weigh in on this debate in the comments section below.

POLITICO features MFAN Principal on Obama’s Commitment to Global Development

Friday, January 8th, 2010
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Politico features MFAN Principal and Policy Director of the Foreign Assistance Reform project at Brookings Institution Noam Unger as he evaluates the Obama Administration’s progress on foreign assistance reform. Unger argues that, despite a slow start, recent developments will make for a promising new year — so long as rhetoric and vision start to match policy and structure.  Unger writes:

“In 2010, we should learn whether the administration’s modernization of development policies and operations will result in a strong development agency, closely coordinated with State, but with the independence and clout to effectively champion development considerations in interagency policy deliberations. Such an agency could serve as a focal point, helping the U.S. provide global leadership on development issues, but that vision has not yet come into focus.”

Watch the video below, and be sure to comment on whether you agree or disagree with Unger’s assessment.