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On the Record: Senator Kerry on Foreign Aid Reform

January 24th, 2013
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During his time as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator John Kerry (D-MA) became a vocal proponent for effective foreign assistance. As his confirmation hearing to become the next Secretary of State gets underway, we wanted to take a moment to look back on some supportive statements made by Chairman Kerry over the last four years. We hope that Kerry will continue to hold onto his support for foreign assistance and the International Affairs account and look forward to seeing what his leadership may bring for U.S. development efforts.

The following are excerpts from a speech made by Senator Kerry titled “Diplomacy and Development in the 21st Century” delivered at the Brookings Institution on May 21, 2009:

  • “So these realities really do present a brave new world for which we have to dramatically redesign our foreign policy. If we are to meet these challenges, this much is clear: development and diplomacy have to retake their rightful place alongside defense at the heart of American’s foreign policy. And yet today, for all of our past successes, there’s a growing realization that our diplomatic and development capacities are simply not prepared for the task ahead. And when you consider our meager investment in it, it’s easy to understand why.”
  • “We need to clarify the policies and the goals of our foreign assistance. There is no overarching policy for U.S. foreign aid today or for development today.”
  • “Second, we need to bring greater coordination to those aid efforts. We have over 20 agencies implementing a slew of aid programs, often with very diffused and even conflicting goals.”
  • “Third, we must strengthen our professional expertise in capacity and the delivery of aid. The need has never been greater to train and cultivate a generation of highly skilled public servants.”
  • “To attract top talent, we need to promote a results-based culture of accountability in transparency and we need to restore intellectual capacity in policy and strategic planning to ensure that USAID is a place where innovative ideas can take shape and take hold.”
  • “Fourth; we need to streamline outdated laws and heavy bureaucracy in order to untie the hands of workers. The last time the United States Senate authorized the Foreign Assistance Act was the year I arrived in the Senate in 1985. That Bill runs over 400 pages long and is full of confusing directives, reporting requirements, and procedural roadblocks.”
  • “We need to empower country teams to shape programs, to determine needs, and even take calculated risks if they see a real strategic opportunity.”
  • “We need cutting edge programs that push the envelope on ending global poverty and other problems and our development agencies ought to be leading the charge in that effort.”
  • “To that end, we are going to support efforts in legislation to promote the accountability to enhance transparency, to track performance with benchmarks or otherwise, and to distill the lessons that have been learned in a more comprehensive institutionalized way so that it’s not haphazard when you’re recommitting the next error and suddenly someone comes in and you say oh, God, we’ve got to look at what we did.”


The following quote is from Chairman Kerry on the release of President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD-6) in September, 2010:

  • “I am pleased to join with the President in support of a new development vision to address the leading moral, strategic and economic challenges of the 21st century.  The President has outlined a comprehensive development policy based on measurable outcomes, country ownership, sustainable economic growth and multilateralism – a policy that will build capacity in the developing world, not dependence.”


The following quote by Chairman Kerry comes from a committee statement on the introduction of the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act, of which Kerry was a lead author:

  • “I believe this legislation will go a long way toward improving our immediate ability to deliver foreign aid in a more accountable, thoughtful and strategic manner. We need cutting edge programs that will push the envelope on ending chronic poverty, combating global climate change, reducing hunger, supporting democracies, and offering alternatives to extremism.” “We need cutting edge programs that will push the envelope on ending chronic poverty, combating global climate change, reducing hunger, supporting democracies, and offering alternatives to extremism.”


The following are excerpts from a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report on the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act:

  • “A viable whole-of-government approach demands a lead actor who is able to tap into a wide range of capabilities and expertise, but ultimately has the authority to make final decisions about programs, resources, and implementation objectives. The committee believes a more optimal way to ensure whole-of-government expertise while providing for proper coherence and coordination is to consider a ‘centers of excellence’’ approach, which would house specialized capabilities and resources focused on a discrete set of objectives in a specific institution.”
  • “Streamlining, flexibility and prioritization are essential so that agencies know where to focus resources and efforts. The committee believes that streamlining procurement rules, earmarks and restrictions is equally important in order to allow greater discretion and authority for civilian agency leaders.”
  • “Country teams should have a much greater role in determining programmatic and funding priorities in partnership with local actors.”
  • “Development requires better coherence, stronger inter-agency coordination and improved rationalization to determine which agencies will undertake different foreign aid programs. The U.S. needs to provide a unified development voice to demonstrate our commitment to development issues, fighting poverty and hunger and engaging with the world.”
  • “…It is increasingly important that we have the means to evaluate and measure cases of development successes and failures, and to better understand what programs work, which do not, and what are the conditions that determine effectiveness.”
  • “Finding a way to better integrate evaluation with innovation and program design would improve the effectiveness, impact, scope and creativity of our development efforts.”
  • “In order to best achieve foreign assistance objectives, maximize the resources of the United States Government, ensure programming coherence, avoid duplication and fragmentation, and enhance an effective whole-of-government approach, direct responsibility for coordinating all development and humanitarian efforts of the United States Government in a country shall reside with the USAID mission director, under the overall direction of the chief of mission.”
  • “The committee strongly feels that U.S. citizens and recipients of U.S. foreign assistance should, to the maximum extent practicable, have full access to information on U.S. foreign assistance and development programs.”

Obama’s Global Development Legacy

January 17th, 2013
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Please see below for a guest post from Jeremy Konyndyk, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Mercy Corps. This post is a part of a Huffington Post series examining the most pressing challenges facing President Obama in his second term, and outlines several ways President Obama can cement his legacy on global development. Jeremy also participated in a  Huffington Post live web chat to further discusses Obama’s second term priorities for global development, which you can watch here.

President Obama has been a strong supporter of foreign aid throughout his first term, which is not surprising for someone who spent part of his childhood in developing countries and was the son of a development expert. But unlike his predecessor, he has yet to translate his support into an enduring legacy. By the end of his first term, President Bush had established a new aid agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation; signed legislation creating an enormous new aid program to combat HIV/AIDS; and begun ramping up U.S. aid to Africa, on track toward ultimately tripling it. Obama has made some good headway in his first term, producing the government’s first global development policy and an innovative new policy on disaster resilience, launching new efforts to combat global hunger, supporting reforms to the U.S. Agency for International Development and committing to greater aid transparency. But while Bush’s major development achievements continue to enjoy broad bipartisan support, President Obama’s achievements remain more tenuous and could be reversed in the future. As he enters his second term, the president should take several steps to cement his legacy on global development.

First, he should work with Congress to pass major foreign aid legislation. This will take more work than pursuing reforms under executive authority, but it will also enable him to be more ambitious — changing legislative parameters rather than working within them — and more confident that his reforms will endure. President Bush’s tenure provides a good example. His PEPFAR program to fight HIV was legislated through Congress, and four years after he left office it is going strong and enjoys robust congressional support. Conversely, his attempt to restructure the foreign assistance architecture — pursued independently of Congress — gained little congressional support and has been largely reversed under Obama.

Obama’s reform agenda, which has already faced congressional skepticism, risks the latter fate. But the political stars may be aligning to enable more ambitious — and durable — legislative reforms. The House unanimously passed Rep. Ted Poe’s (R-Texas) modest but important bipartisan aid reform bill at the end of the last session, and the Senate came close but ran out of time. Both chambers appear open to sensible aid reform legislation. With John Kerry, one of the Hill’s biggest aid reform advocates, moving to the State Department, Obama will have the perfect person to broker an even more ambitious deal: reforming the Foreign Assistance Act, which has not been rewritten since its passage during the Kennedy administration. The world has changed a bit since then, but U.S. law has not kept pace. Instead, the FAA has ballooned from 49 pages to over 400, with add-ons, workarounds and legislative barnacles (earthquake aid to Italy from 1976: still in there!) that hobble the coherence of U.S. aid. Reforming the FAA could enable Obama to lock in many of the reforms he is pursuing on his own and could also build congressional buy-in for his signature Feed the Future initiative, as President Bush did with PEPFAR legislation. Even better, just-departed Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) has already done the legwork of developing a blueprint for a comprehensive FAA rewrite.

Second, President Obama should rein in the military’s forays into foreign aid. One downside of President Bush’s development legacy was an unprecedented expansion of military involvement in aid. Just as you would not want an aid worker leading a tank battalion, it turns out that soldiers are not terribly effective aid workers. The military can bring valuable tools in some circumstances, like major logistical capacities in the immediate aftermath of tsunamis or earthquakes. But in a classic case of mission creep, the military’s embrace of aid has expanded well beyond its comparative advantages, frequently overlapping with existing civilian capabilities. Not only has the GAO found that this duplication wastes taxpayer resources at a time when the Pentagon needs to trim budgets, but research in Afghanistan and elsewhere has shown that it can also be damaging and counterproductive to U.S. policy objectives. In his second term Obama should direct the Pentagon to use the looming budget drawdown to right-size its aid efforts and to issue new rules limiting any future Pentagon involvement in aid.

Finally, the president should fix the impasse between terror financing regulations and humanitarian aid. Last year, amidst a dire famine in Somalia, the U.S. found itself blocked from sending aid to the famine zones, in part because of a 2-year-old tussle over nebulous terror financing rules. The government eventually issued a limited waiver allowing aid to go forward, but doing so took so long that tens of thousands of people had already starved to death by the time U.S. aid began to flow. This was an extreme case but not an isolated one: A parallel challenge surfaced following last year’s earthquake in Iran, and another may be emerging now in Mali. President Obama could issue an executive order to avoid repeating this scenario, and he could also work with Congress to put in place a more comprehensive fix.

Obama now has four more years to seal his development legacy and a host of good options for doing so. None of these tasks would be easy, but all would have a huge impact on U.S. development policy and those it assists around the world.


VOTE: What Voice Needs to be Added to the President’s Global Development Council?

January 15th, 2013
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Last week, we kicked off a contest asking people who they think should fill the remaining three seats on President Obama’s Global Development Council.

Here are the names we received:

  • Seth Berkley, CEO, GAVI
  • Larry Cooley, President and CEO, Management Systems International
  • Paul Farmer, Co-Founder, Partners in Health
  • William Foege, epidemiologist (credited with devising the global strategy that led to the eradication of smallpox in the late 1970s)
  • Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for global health, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Melinda Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • John Githongo, CEO, Inuka Kenya Trust (Kenya)
  • John Harvey, Managing Director for Global Philanthropy, Council on Foundations
  • Rokeya Kabir, Founder and Executive Director, Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS)
  • Martha Kwataine, Executive Director, Malawi Health Equity Network (Malawi)
  • Jim Leach, former Iowa Congressman and current Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Jennifer Lentfer, Founder, How Matters
  • Andrew Natsios, former USAID Administrator
  • Jeffrey Sachs, economist and Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University
  • Richard Thaler, economist and professor of behavior science and economics, University of Chicago Booth Business School
  • Gregs Thomopulos, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Stanley Consultants, Inc.

What we found most compelling among our responses, however, were the common areas of expertise in addition to names that were suggested.

Looking at the list of nine nominations the President has so far made to the Council, what voice is missing? A faith leader? A developing country perspective?

Please take a moment to vote below for the voice you think would be the most valuable addition to the Global Development Council. Voting will take place until Friday, January 25. Stay tuned for the results!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Honoring Senator Lugar’s Commitment to Development

January 14th, 2013
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Please see below for a guest post from Jenny Ottenhoff , Policy Outreach Associate at the Center for Global Development.

I’m excited to share that the Center for Global Development (CGD) and Foreign Policy magazine will honor US Senator Richard Lugar with the 2012 Commitment to Development “Ideas in Action” Award.  The award, bestowed annually since 2003, recognizes an individual or organization for changing the attitudes, policies, and practices of the rich world toward the developing world.   While the Senator’s contributions to US foreign policy over his four decades of service are too many to list here, I’ll highlight three attributes that I think illustrate these credentials:

Senator Lugar’s career is marked by a long-view and consideration of challenges that loom beyond most policy horizons.  He was instrumental in the 2009 Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, often called the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill for the three co-authors, which authorized up to $1.5 billion a year for five years for non-military development assistance to Pakistan.  The bill promoted investments in jobs, growth, and democracy building in one of the most critical fronts in the US effort to combat violent extremism.  While dealings between the US and Pakistan has been punctuated by controversy, the bill helped to introduce greater balance to a strategic relationship that has long been dominated by short-to-medium term security concerns.

Senator Lugar was also a leading voice on Capitol Hill for elevating development as a critical tool of US foreign policy alongside defense and diplomacy.  As the Republican leader of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has been instrumental in pushing for a more effective US development strategy and for US foreign assistance programs that promote capacity, accountability, and transparency.   He has also championed US efforts against global hunger, sponsoring legislation that would re-orient US foreign assistance programs to focus on promoting food security and rural development in countries with large, chronically hungry populations.

Finally, Senator Lugar has brought enthusiasm for innovative new solutions to the legislation he proposed and supported. For instance, the Vaccines for the Futures Act – introduced by Senator Lugar in 2007 – looked beyond usual mechanisms to speed the development of vaccines for global killers like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and endorsed new market-based approaches like Advanced Market Commitments (AMCs), which encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines for diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and pneumonia that primarily affect poor countries. This approach has helped to make new pneumococcal vaccines available in 19 countries and is predicted to cover 40 countries by 2015—averting as many as 650,000 deaths within the next four years.

In the words of Moises Naim, Senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and CDA selection committee co-chair: “Senator Lugar sets the bar for American policymakers dedicated to improving US foreign assistance and global development.”

I invite you to join me and members of the selection committee on January 29, 2013 when we present the Senator with the award during a public event at CGD.


Public, Private, and Civil Society Partnerships in Action

January 14th, 2013
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See below for a guest blog from Yasmina Padilla, Food Security Project Coordinator for Save the Children in Nicaragua. This is the eighth post in our field feedback series and the fourth in Save’s “Aid Reform Stories from the Field” series. Click the links to read posts from Save the Children in Guatemala, Malawi, and EthiopiaWomen Thrive in Ghana; Oxfam America in Uganda; Management Sciences for Health in Bolivia; and PATH in Kenya.


Managua, Nicaragua

We like to think of development as a team sport requiring all players to work together toward the same goal. The game gets particularly exciting when you add new players to the team at half time.

Save the Children has served children and families in Nicaragua for almost 80 years. Three years ago, we began partnering with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. (GMCR), based in Vermont, on a project to increase the income and food security for families of workers on coffee farms. By helping families to diversify their crops, improve storage techniques, and bring crops to market, they can better withstand periods of food scarcity during the months between coffee harvests.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) joined the partnership two years ago, adding an ambitious health component through their regional “4th Sector Health” project. Implemented by Abt Associates, 4th Sector Health develops public-private partnerships and supports exchanges between countries to advance development through health in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Nicaragua, 4th Sector Health is working with Save the Children and GMCR, along with local civil society partners, to boost maternal and child health and nutrition for the same coffee-growing communities.

USAID’s 4th Sector Health also recently funded an experience-sharing trip for Save the Children staff from five Latin American countries, who were involved in implementing GMCR-funded projects. The participants learned from each other’s experiences and are replicating best practices in their own programs, serving to increase their impact and sustainability.

The alliance between USAID, Save the Children, and GMCR is intended to maximize the use of resources and help identify new solutions to challenges affecting these communities. Sometimes the alliance organizations face challenges of their own—coordinating work plans, reporting on technical outcomes, and carrying out their separate missions.

Public-private partnerships, otherwise known as the “Golden Triangle,”are a hot topic in the field of international development. Donors like USAID have invested millions of dollars in partnerships with the private sector, yet some development experts have questioned the development impact of such partnerships in achieving real benefits for the poor and marginalized in developing countries.

As part of its recent reform efforts, USAID has put more attention towards improving its public-private partnership model. For one, USAID is including technical experts in health and nutrition such as Save the Children in some partnerships, recognizing that U.S. civil society groups lend valuable expertise in maternal-child health and other technical areas. Moreover, USAID is steering the private sector towards achievement of concrete development targets through their partnerships, as well as ensuring that companies are held to certain standards, such as respect for workers and environmental stewardship.

From my perspective, this alliance between Save the Children Nicaragua, USAID, and GMCR, is having a transformative impact on the communities in which it operates.

Photo Credit: Gerardo Aráuz

Martha Lorena Diaz is one of many enterprising women working with us, whose partner, Jose Manuel Benavidez, is a coffee farmer on a cooperative that sells to GMCR. Martha was initially given five hens and now keeps 40 in her small business, earning about one dollar a day from selling the eggs and chickens. Save the Children project training sessions have helped Martha to identify nutritious sources of food for her three children, particularly during the lean months when she struggles to provide enough food for them. Martha now makes a corn flour drink to boost her childrens’ daily vitamin intake. Moreover, health promoters, trained by Save the Children, visit her neighborhood and others to monitor child health and nutrition and treat sick children in their communities, which are often far from the closest health center.

Successful partnerships, such as the one between USAID, GMCR, and Save the Children Nicaragua, are critical to achieving lasting results in the communities that we all serve. With an increase in USAID’s partnerships with private sector and NGO players, who are committed to making a real difference in the lives of families in Nicaragua and elsewhere, I believe our team will prevail.