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MFAN Principals Weigh in on Transparency with New Blog Series

May 2nd, 2012
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As part of an effort to reform our outdated foreign assistance system, the Obama Administration has taken steps to make U.S. aid more transparent, including by launching the Foreign Assistance Dashboard and signing on to the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Congress has also jumped on the bandwagon, with Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Howard Berman (D-CA) of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs having introduced the bipartisan Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012 late last year.

The U.S. is the largest global donor of foreign aid, yet several U.S. government agencies—with the exception of the Millennium Challenge Corporation—rank poorly among international donors according to MFAN partner Publish What You Fund’s first annual Aid Transparency Index 2011.

To get a better sense of how the Obama Administration is implementing measures to be more transparent, MFAN sent questions to a range of U.S. government agencies working on development issues; some of their responses were recently released on our Policy to Action microsite. As we asserted in our statement, “We now have initial evidence that reform is beginning to make our development assistance more strategic and effective. We urge Members of Congress to take note of this progress, particularly with budget negotiations underway.”

This week we’re kicking off a new blog series—the first connected to information on our microsite—that takes a critical eye to the specific agency efforts designed to make our foreign assistance more transparent and effective and attempts to assess the pace of progress in key areas of reform.

The first part of the blog series will include a piece by MFAN’s co-chair and former Congressman Jim Kolbe exploring the role of the U.S. Trade Representative in promoting economic growth in developing countries, and a piece from former USAID Acting Deputy Administrator Jim Kunder on USAID’s leadership role in the reform agenda. We have also invited several more of our Principals to respond more broadly to how the Obama Administration’s foreign assistance reform agenda is or is not bearing fruit.

And be on the lookout for MFAN’s upcoming transparency contest on Twitter—follow along @ModernizeAid—for the chance to win some swag!

 

MCC’s Inaugural Forum on Global Development

April 30th, 2012
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On April 25, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) held its inaugural “Forum on Global Development,” at the George Washington University (GWU) Jack Morton Auditorium, featuring an awards presentation that recognized an exemplary partner corporation, partner country, and individual partner. The event also included a brief panel discussion, several short speeches, and video presentations from Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the National Security Council; Michael Gerson, op-ed columnist for The Washington Post; and Sheila Herrling, MCC’s Vice President for Policy and Evaluation.

In his opening remarks, Daniel Yohannes, CEO of MCC, presented the case for the MCC’s development model, explaining that since it began in 2004, the MCC has been on the cutting edge of development reform insofar as it has always held partner countries to high standards and demanded that its investments show a positive return. Frank Sesno, the moderator of the event and CNN Correspondent, reiterated Yohannes sentiments, claiming that while much of the day’s news is “dominated by backsliding and conflict, the MCC’s efforts represent what’s right about the world.” He emphasized the role of social media and technology, pointing out that the younger generation is capable of informing and mobilizing large groups of people through platforms like Facebook and Twitter. He said that the success of development efforts often hinges on what he called “the power of story,” the use of narrative to inspire people to action.

Rep. David Drier (R-CA) spoke on the successes of the House Democracy Partnership, which he has spearheaded since its inception in 2005.  The House Democracy Partnership collaborates with sixteen developing countries to help strengthen democratic institutions.  The Congressman praised the MCC for not being as wasteful as past U.S. foreign aid programs, and said that “international development is one of the most exciting areas of U.S. foreign policy.”  He also mentioned that the Arab Spring could represent a great opportunity for MCC to do more extensive work in the Middle East and North Africa.

Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wollin presented the MCC’s Corporate Award to Visa Inc. and spoke briefly on the potential of e-banking to drive economic growth in the developing world. Accepting the award, Visa’s Global Head of Corporate Relations, Doug Michelman, styled himself as the “unapologetic capitalist” of the event and explained that Visa’s interest in improving access to financial services in the developing world is both philanthropic and business-minded in nature.  He said that “people have a right to high quality financial tools,” and that Visa is doing its best to extend its services to everyone on the planet, noting that an important aspect of Visa’s development strategy is recognizing that needs and solutions to problems are often local in nature.   

Ritu Sharma, co-founder and President of Women Thrive Worldwide and an MFAN Principal, presented the MCC’s Country Commitment Award to representatives of Mongolia. She praised MCC’s focus on gender integration and development, saying that it has already led many nations to focus on promoting gender equality.

Lastly, MCC’s Next Generation Award was presented to Johnny Dorsey, founder of FACE AIDS and the Global Health Corps, by actress Minka Kelly with remarks from Michael Elliott, President and CEO of ONE. Elliot praised Dorsey, saying that his generation is “both terrifying and inspiring.”  He concluded by saying he has tremendous hope in young people to solve issues related to global poverty. Dorsey spoke of the importance of mobilizing today’s youth in order to solve the problems of poverty and disease.  He said that not only are young people doing good work today, but the fact that they are inspired to solve these problems means that as they gradually become the next generation’s leaders, they will remain committed to alleviating poverty and improving health worldwide. He closed by saying that in today’s world it should be considered unacceptable for so many people to die prematurely because of a lack of access to basic medical services.

 

Mark Your Calendars — Week of April 30, 2012

April 27th, 2012
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Every Thursday, MFAN will post a list of upcoming events for the following week. For more information about each event and to RSVP, click on the links below. If your organization is hosting an event next week and you don’t see yourself on the list, please email info@modernizeaid.net.

See below for a list of MFAN Partner events:

 

MFAN and USAID Co-Host Event on Procurement Reform

April 19th, 2012
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The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network and

the United States Agency for International Development invite you to…

Implementation and Procurement Reform:

The Liberian Perspective

Featuring:

Minister Amara Mohamed Konneh, Liberia’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning

Steve Radelet, USAID Chief Economist

Introductory remarks by:

George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair

Tuesday, April 24th

2:00 – 3:00 pm

National Press uilding, 529 14th St NW, 7th Floor

Please join MFAN and USAID for a discussion on Implementation and Procurement Reform from a partner country perspective. Given the role of country ownership in current aid reform efforts, this is an opportunity to discuss government-to-government partnerships and IPR-related issues from this important perspective.

Please RSVP by Monday, April 25th to event@modernizeaid.net

*Space is limited*

About Minister Amara Mohamed Konneh: In 2008, Amara Mohamed Konneh was sworn in as the 16th Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs of the Republic of Liberia. He joined the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs (MPEA) after serving as Deputy Minister of State for Policy and Communications. Before that, Minister Konneh spent more than a decade working with development foundations and as a policy and financial systems analyst at the Vanguard Group of Investment Companies in Pennsylvania, United States. Minister Konneh is a core member of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Economic Management Team and is the coordinator of Liberia’s development strategy.

 

Mark Your Calendars — Week of April 23, 2012

April 19th, 2012
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Every Thursday, MFAN will post a list of upcoming events for the following week. For more information about each event and to RSVP, click on the links below. If your organization is hosting an event next week and you don’t see yourself on the list, please email info@modernizeaid.net.

See below for a list of MFAN Partner events: