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MFAN Co-Chairs New Op-ed: More Sunlight on US Foreign Assistance

May 15th, 2012
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In a new op-ed in Devex, MFAN’s Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram, and Jim Kolbe argue that increased transparency in US foreign assistance will make these programs more effective and, ultimately, bolster their support. The co-chairs urge policymakers to enhance aid transparency measures to not only allow citizens of countries who receive US assistance to hold their governments accountable, but to share success stories of programs that are working and where efficiencies are being found as part of the larger foreign assistance reform effort. They write:

“Few decisions will have as large a global impact as the ones policymakers will soon make about the fate of the international affairs budget and the programs it funds, like the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and Feed the Future, which have helped improve countless lives over the last decade. Increased transparency, particularly on the part of the Obama administration, will go a long way toward ensuring that we come out of this budget round with the resources and momentum it will take to capitalize on progress toward development outcomes and reform.”

To hold the Obama Administration accountable for critical development reforms, MFAN launched a microsite, Policy to Action, which tracks how transparently key development agencies are implementing the reforms in DC and in the field. Click here to read more about MFAN’s push for aid transparency.

 

Mark Your Calendars — Week of May 14, 2012

May 11th, 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.

On Wednesday, MFAN will be hosting a panel discussion on a new CGD-CAP report, Engagement Amid Austerity: A Bipartisan Approach to Reorienting the International Affairs Budget. To learn more and RSVP, click here.

See below for a list of additional MFAN partner events:

 

EVENT: A Bipartisan Approach to Reorienting the International Affairs Budget

May 10th, 2012
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The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network invites you to the launch of a new report from the Center for American Progress and the Center for Global Development:

Engagement Amid Austerity: A Bipartisan Approach to Reorienting the International Affairs Budget

Featuring report co-authors:

John Norris, Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and

Peacebuilding Initiative, Center for American Progress

Connie Veillette, Director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program, Center for Global Development

And distinguished panelists:

Gordon Adams, Professor, School of International Service, American University, and Distinguished Fellow, The Stimson Center

Andrew Preston, Counsellor for Development, Foreign and Security Policy Group, British Embassy

Moderated by:

George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair

Wednesday, May 16
10:30 am – 12:00 pm
The Glover Park Group – 1025 F St NW, 9th Floor

Please join MFAN for a discussion on a new report from the Center for American Progress and the Center for Global Development. The report, Engagement Amid Austerity: A Bipartisan Approach to Reorienting the International Affairs Budget, calls for a more focused approach to how the U.S. delivers economic and security assistance.

We will be joined by the report’s authors to share their findings and recommendations followed by reactions from a distinguished panel and Q and A.

Please RSVP by Monday, May 14th to event@modernizeaid.net

Space is limited

 

Oxfam Takes on Implementation and Procurement Reform

May 10th, 2012
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This week, MFAN Partner Oxfam American ran an open letter to Congress about the need to support USAID reforms that empower local citizens to hold corrupt governments accountable and take ownership of their own development. The letter reads, “USAID is strengthening its ability to partner with us by eliminating large, inflexible contracts and by working more directly with local governments, businesses, and civil society organizations like ours.  These are crucial requirements for fighting corruption and defending human rights.” The letter is signed by sixteen leading anti-corruption and human rights activists calling on Congress to break the US government’s overreliance on contractors by investing modest sums in local watchdogs, businesses, and governments.

USAID’s effort to reduce its reliance on contractors and invest more directly in local government and civil society is referred to as implementation and procurement reform (IPR) and it is part of the broader USAID Forward agenda. Specifically, the agency plans to spend 30 percent of its funds through local actors by 2015 (up from 11 percent in 2011). In Oxfam’s Progress Report on IPR, they note that “USAID will boost its funding through host country systems to reach 25 country governments directly; they will cut out the middleman by hiring 576 local nonprofits directly.”

In a recent blog post, Oxfam’s director of Aid Effectiveness, Greg Adams, argues that a key outcome of IPR is tackling corruption and promoting human rights. He writes, “the US government has often bypassed local organizations and governments rather than working with them, missing opportunities to help local watchdogs root out corruption and strengthen democratic institutions, reducing waste, fraud, and abuse for the long-term.”

Oxfam is encouraging its members to take action by sending a note to Members of Congress, urging them to “follow the money.”

IPR has become a hot topic over the past several months in the development community. To learn more about the issue, from a variety of perspectives, read the pieces below:

 

How is USTR Implementing the President’s Global Development Policy?

May 3rd, 2012
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See below for a guest post from MFAN Co-Chair, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund U.S., and former Congressman Jim Kolbe. To learn more about this blog series, click here.

**

Most pundits and politicians, when they envision the purpose of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) office, are likely to think first of its role in opening foreign markets to U.S. goods and services.  Indeed, when President Obama made doubling U.S. exports in five years an economic and foreign policy goal, USTR took the driver’s seat in meeting the challenge.

But USTR has another mission—one of advancing U.S. soft foreign policy objectives through trade.  When one looks around at the tools available for development and sustained economic growth in the lesser developed countries of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, two stand out.  They are trade and foreign direct investment (FDI).  But neither tool can be used successfully without the commitment of the private sector—businesses deciding that consumers’ needs can be met and stockholders’ investments enhanced by buying and selling in other countries; and investors concluding that a reasonable return on investment can be found in making an investment abroad.

It is apparent from the USTR response to MFAN’s query to various federal agencies inquiring on agencies’ efforts to implement the Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) for its Policy to Action microsite, that USTR understands the importance of these tools.  They note that they lead the U.S. government in promoting a range of initiatives designed to boost trade, including Generalized System of Preferences and the African Growth and Opportunity Act; they push economic growth through regional integration; they seek to advance development through new bilateral trade and investment agreements; they participate in other trade initiatives, including the U.S. Feed the Future program.

These initiatives and commitment on the part of USTR are both substantial and vital.  But they leave unanswered two other vital questions:  does USTR—or any of the government development agencies—fully appreciate the dominant role that must be assigned to the private sector if trade and investment is to grow in the least developed countries?  And do they understand that policies of developing countries are very often the major impediment to such growth—regulatory, tax, tariff, procurement and the unsanctioned but often choking prevalence of corruption?

On this score the answer is not quite so clear.  Clearly, USTR has initiatives to deal with these issues.  But do they get the priority attention they deserve?  Will the President and his representatives raise them repeatedly in G-20, World Bank, WTO and other international forums?  Will USTR expend its energy to convince Congress of the centrality of these questions?

The development community would do well to acknowledge the significant contributions of USTR to promoting trade and investment as tools of development.  But at the same time the community cannot be complacent.  It must hold USTR accountable.  It must insist that USTR understand that public-private partnerships are not about some grant or joint venture to achieve a public good, but about giving the private sector primary responsibility for increasing trade and investment for sustainable economic development.