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A Win for Aid Effectiveness: House Passes Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act

December 8th, 2015
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December 8, 2015 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Carolyn Miles, and Connie Veillette

Today the House of Representatives overwhelmingly demonstrated bipartisan commitment to making U.S. foreign assistance more accountable by passing the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 3766) by voice vote. MFAN commends the bill sponsors Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) for their continued leadership on aid effectiveness and their effort to see this bill signed into law. We also thank Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) for moving swiftly to pass this important legislation.

MFAN strongly supports this bipartisan legislation, which would codify important reforms to ensure that U.S. agencies involved in foreign assistance are focused on rigorous and consistent monitoring and evaluation of programs and on making comprehensive, timely, and comparable aid data publicly available. By reinforcing its existing commitments to transparency and evaluation through legislation, the U.S. government can better track, measure, and allocate scarce aid resources. At a time when the U.S. is facing an unprecedented number of humanitarian and development challenges around the globe, efforts to ensure our foreign assistance is being spent effectively, like this legislation, must be prioritized.

We urge the full Senate take up and pass the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act immediately. A companion bill (S. 2184) was introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and was unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 10. Having now passed with resounding bipartisan endorsement from the full House, this legislation should likewise be supported by the Senate and sent to the President for his signature.

MFAN Letter to MCC CEO Dana Hyde: Priorities for MCC’s Five-Year Strategic Plan

December 8th, 2015
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December 4, 2015

The Honorable Dana J. Hyde
Chief Executive Officer
Millennium Challenge Corporation
875 15th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
Attn: Ms. Beth Tritter

Dear Ms. Hyde:

On behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), thank you for your continued leadership to advance effective U.S. foreign assistance and for the opportunity to provide feedback on the forthcoming five-year strategic plan of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

Since its founding, the MCC has been on the cutting edge of the U.S. global development landscape, especially in the areas of strengthening the citizen-state compact and catalyzing inclusive growth.  Continued innovation and leadership in these essential areas should be clearly reflected in the MCC’s vision for moving forward.

Building on the broad endorsement of the Sustainable Development Goals in September, we urge the MCC to seize the moment by laying out a strategic plan for implementation of the global goals to promote inclusive growth, reduce inequality, and support effective, accountable, and inclusive local institutions in the countries where it works.

The MCC’s leadership on this front should include strong public commitments in the five-year strategic plan in the following critical areas:

  • Promote country ownership – Country ownership of development has been a fundamental aspect of the MCC’s approach from the beginning. The MCC should commit to increase its use of country systems, including government, civil society, and private sector, to ensure the lasting value and sustainability of its programming.  Innovative initiatives like the MCC’s community-driven development programs in Indonesia and the Philippines should be expanded to additional countries, and lessons from these efforts should be incorporated into operations more broadly for greater impact and sustainability.
  • Catalyze domestic resource mobilization – MCC should continue to respond to country interest in this area in both compacts and threshold programs, in conjunction with the U.S. commitment to double investment in DRM at the recent Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa.
  • Accountability to local citizens – MCC should ensure it is consistently meeting its own standards for transparency, consultation, and learning and seek to further strengthen those policies and approaches. The MCC should deepen its support for the local supply, demand, and utilization of data – including countries’ own budgets – and establish guidelines to give local partners and beneficiaries a greater role in the evaluation process.
  • Reduce inequality – MCC should make a public commitment to design all of its projects with an eye towards reducing inequality, which, as the IMF has well documented, inhibits economic growth. The MCC should ensure that initial analyses include an explicit focus on the poorest beneficiaries and an assessment of the impact on reducing inequality in its social analyses.
  • Further leadership on gender integration – MCC has been a leader in developing policies and tools for gender and social analysis from compact consultation to implementation. It should deliver on the commitment to make its sex-disaggregated data public by the end of 2015, and ensure that it is driving gender integration consistently and comprehensively throughout all of its work, rigorously monitoring the impact on poverty reduction, growth, and inequality, and sharing lessons learned with the broader development community.

Thank you again for the opportunity to provide input into the MCC’s five-year strategic plan.  We look forward to continuing our work together and would welcome the opportunity to consult further with you and your team before finalizing the plan.

Sincerely,

George Ingram
MFAN Co-Chair
Brookings Institution

Carolyn Miles
MFAN Co-Chair
Save the Children

Connie Veillette
MFAN Co-Chair
The Lugar Center

Community Letter to Congress: Pass the Foreign Aid Transparency & Accountability Act

December 7th, 2015
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MFAN logo with url Print

Dear Representative:

On behalf of both the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network – a coalition of international development practitioners and foreign policy experts committed to strengthening development as a key component of U.S. foreign policy – and InterAction – the largest alliance of U.S.-based international development and humanitarian NGOs, with over 180 member organizations operating in every developing country – we are writing to express our strong support for the “Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015” (H.R. 3766) sponsored by Representatives Ted Poe and Gerry Connolly.

U.S. foreign assistance budgets and programs should be transparent and based on rigorous evidence and learning to ensure the effectiveness of every dollar spent. H.R. 3766 would both establish evaluation guidelines for U.S. international development and economic assistance programs and centralize public access to data and reports through the existing ForeignAssistance.gov aid transparency website. This legislation unanimously passed the House in 2012 and was again approved by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2015. A companion bill sponsored by Senators Rubio and Cardin was unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2013 and again in 2015.

Specifically, the legislation would: 1) require the President of the United States to establish and implement uniform monitoring and evaluation guidelines – with measurable goals, performance metrics, and monitoring and evaluation plans – across U.S. international development and economic assistance programs; and 2) require the Secretary of State to ensure the ForeignAssistance.gov website contains detailed information regarding U.S. foreign assistance on a program-by-program and country-by-country basis that is updated quarterly.  It would further require that analysis be undertaken by the Government Accountability Office to inform Congress on relevant agencies’ adherence to these benchmarks.

While some progress has been made in recent years, today fewer than half of the more than two dozen federal departments and agencies involved in delivering U.S. foreign assistance have published data to ForeignAssistance.gov, and not enough meaningful aid information has been included. The time has come for the President to issue and oversee a set of common guidelines on the monitoring and evaluation of these programs and ensure that important aid information is available to the public. American taxpayers, along with partner country governments and citizens, deserve to have the ability to access comprehensive, timely, and comparable data on U.S. international development and economic assistance.

Given its strong bipartisan support in the previous sessions of Congress, we urge you to support and swiftly pass the “Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act” to maximize the impact of our foreign assistance.

Sincerely,

George Ingram
MFAN Co-Chair
Brookings Institution

Carolyn Miles
MFAN Co-Chair
Save the Children

Connie Veillette
MFAN Co-Chair
The Lugar Center

Sam Worthington
President & CEO
InterAction

Endorsing Organizations (37):

Alliance for Peacebuilding
Alliance to End Hunger
Bread for the World
CARE USA
ChildFund International
Congressional Hunger Center
Data Transparency Coalition
Global Health Council
Global Poverty Project
Global Witness
Government Accountability Project
Habitat for Humanity International
Helen Keller International
IFES
InterAction
International Youth Foundation
Mercy Corps
Millennium Water Alliance
Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network
ONE
OpenTheGovernment.org
Oxfam America
PATH
Pathfinder International
PCI (Project Concern International)
Plan International USA
RESULTS
Save the Children
Smith Contracting
The Borgen Project
The Hunger Project
U.S. Fund for UNICEF
USAID Alumni Association
VEGA (Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance)
WASH Advocates
WaterAid America
Women Thrive Worldwide

Development Community Warmly Welcomes Gayle Smith as USAID Administrator

December 4th, 2015
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Seven months after her nomination, the Senate confirmed MFAN Co-Founder Gayle Smith as the next USAID Administrator on Monday with a vote of 79-7. The long-awaited confirmation vote was met with enthusiasm from our network. See below for a round-up of statements and blogs from MFAN partners welcoming Gayle Smith to her new post:

George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at Brookings: “We know that Gayle is eager to hit the ground running and we look forward to working closely with her to continue to strengthen the capacity of USAID to deliver results.”

Carolyn Miles, MFAN Co-Chair and President and CEO of Save the Children: “At a time when we are responding to major crises in places like Syria and Yemen, having a confirmed USAID Administrator could not be more urgent. While it has been disappointing that this nomination was held up for this long, putting those in need at risk, we are excited to now be moving ahead with such a strong leader.”

Connie Veillette, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Lugar Center: “Gayle Smith understands the importance of effective foreign aid and we fully expect her to speed up the momentum around institutionalizing key reforms, such as those included in the USAID Forward agenda and USAID’s Vision for Ending Extreme Poverty.”

Senator Richard G. Lugar (Ret.) of The Lugar Center: “I was extremely pleased to learn that the U.S. Senate has voted to confirm Gayle Smith as the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.  At this time of pressing global challenges including terrorism, conflict states and the largest number of displaced refugees since World War II, U.S. leadership in humanitarian, governance, global hunger, and economic development is critical.  With extensive expertise in development both through her work in Africa and as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director on the National Security Council focusing on these issues, Smith is no doubt eminently qualified to lead USAID, and I expect she will be able to take the leadership reins without hesitation.”

David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World: “We wholeheartedly welcome the Senate’s confirmation of Gayle Smith as the new administrator of USAID. This critical position has been vacant for much too long. Though the world is making unprecedented progress against hunger and poverty, the humanitarian crises we continue to face demand a leader at USAID with the experience and abilities of Ms. Smith. She has been a champion for those impacted by poverty and hunger, and we are eager to continue to work with her to ensure American leadership to achieve an end to world hunger by 2030.”

Ray Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America: “Oxfam America wholeheartedly welcomes Gayle Smith as USAID Administrator. Ms. Smith is an unequivocal champion of those facing poverty and injustice. We look forward to working with Ms. Smith to continue the modernization efforts afoot at USAID.  Smith’s packed agenda will include locking in reform efforts to put developing countries in the lead of their own development, delivering and communicating tangible results on key US priorities like Feed the Future and Power Africa, and getting ahead of recurrent humanitarian crisis by advancing USAID’s effort to promote resilience and emergency preparedness.”

Liz Schrayer, President and CEO of USGLC: “I commend the Senate for confirming Gayle Smith to be the next Administrator of USAID. I look forward to working with her to continue the game-changing transformations at USAID that are critical to advancing America’s economic and security interests – and delivering results to American taxpayers. Never before has the world seen so many humanitarian crises at one time. These challenges, coupled with the enormous opportunities to advance America’s interests throughout the world, require strong and effective leadership at USAID.”

Casey Dunning, Senior Policy Analyst at CGD: “Despite the rapidly expiring clock on this administration, filling USAID’s top post is critical for both the agency and for US leadership in global crises and development efforts abroad. The Syrian refugee crisis shows no sign of abating, just last week Liberia found new Ebola cases, and 700 million people still live on less than $1.25 each day. In all of these challenges (among many others), USAID is the leading US actor for response, prevention, and results.”

Gregory Adams, Director of Aid Effectiveness at Oxfam:  “After a long wait, Gayle Smith was finally confirmed Monday as the new USAID Administrator by the Senate.  This means the United States will finally have a new top development official back at work in charge of USAID.  And none too soon.  Since the beginning of this century, American presidents have viewed the US development program as an indispensable tool of American foreign policy. And a vacancy at the top of USAID has meant America was punching far below its weight as the world confronts serious challenges.”

U.S.-based NGOs to Appropriators: Oppose Increase to Cargo Preference Requirements

December 4th, 2015
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December 2, 2015

The Honorable Thad Cochran
Chair
Senate Appropriations Committee
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Barbara Mikulski
Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Committee
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Harold Rogers
Chairman
House Appropriations Committee
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Nita Lowey
Ranking Member
House Appropriations Committee
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairmen Cochran and Rogers and Ranking Members Mikulski and Lowey:

As international humanitarian and development organizations addressing global hunger and malnutrition, we strongly oppose any provision in the omnibus appropriations bill that increases the percentage or portion of U.S.-sourced food aid commodities that must be transported on privately owned, U.S.-flagged commercial vessels.

In April 2014, the Department of Homeland Security warned that increasing agriculture cargo preference (ACP) restrictions on U.S. food aid from 50 percent to 75 percent would increase transportation costs for U.S. international food aid programs by $75 million annually, and result in up to 2 million vulnerable people losing access to life-saving food aid from the United States. This proposed change to cargo preference follows the Budget Act of 2013, which eliminated mandated reimbursements to USAID from Department of Transportation intended to offset part of the ocean freight cost of international food aid programs.  The cumulative effect drastically increases the cost of shipping U.S. food and will have an overwhelmingly negative impact on the ability to operate food aid programs efficiently.

As you know, U.S. international food aid supports the food and nutrition needs of 56 million children and families on average each year and, consequently, helps to stabilize situations that can become threats to our national security. We strongly believe that funding for humanitarian food assistance should be used for its intended purpose: to provide lifesaving emergency and development assistance to the most vulnerable.  Evidence shows that ACP restrictions on U.S. food aid are inefficient and costly, and result in considerable reductions in the volume of food aid provided to populations in need.

Given the current number of global food security emergencies, it is more important than ever that U.S. food aid use taxpayer money responsibly by reaching as many people as possible. We urge Congress to reduce the burden of ACP on humanitarian food aid, and reject any efforts to increase agriculture cargo preference (ACP) requirements on U.S. food aid.

Sincerely,

Action Against Hunger
American Jewish World Service
Bread for the World
CARE USA
Catholic Relief Services
ChildFund International
Church World Service
Concern Worldwide US
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Feed the Children
Global Poverty Project
Interaction
Mercy Corps
Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN)
ONE
Oxfam America
Save the Children
The Borgen Project
The Hunger Project
World Food Program USA