blog logo image

Posts Tagged ‘Berman’

Berman Defends Foreign Assistance

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Bookmark and Share

Yesterday on the House Floor, Congressman Howard Berman, Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke about the importance of the International Affairs Budget and why the Republicans’ proposed budget cuts  threaten American national security.

According to Congressman Berman, the proposed cuts by the GOP would:

• Scale back weapons and training to build the capacity of key partners in the fight against terror, such as Yemen, Pakistan, and the Philippines.
• Restrict financing for the purchase of U.S. military equipment to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge
• Limit defense items and services that enable other countries to cooperate with us on counter-terrorism efforts
• Put an end to the “civilian surge” in Afghanistan, leaving the military to perform civilian jobs
• Impede efforts to train Iraqi police and security forces

To read his full statement, click here.

CQ Article Reports on the Future of Foreign Aid Reform

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
Bookmark and Share

In an article out today, CQ reporter Emily Cadei writes about the fading opportunity for an overhaul of US foreign assistance given the Republican takeover of the House in Congress. Cadei notes that legislative efforts – particularly House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman’s Foreign Assistance Act rewrite – will face the most resistance from Republicans looking to use the fragmented system as a means to cut foreign aid funding altogether. Two MFAN members, Sarah Jane Staats of the Center for Global Development, and Greg Adams of Oxfam America were quoted in the piece. See key excerpts after the jump:

At the request of the Obama administration, Berman held off trying to move a bill while the White House and State Department conducted their own development policy reviews. The former was concluded in September, while State’s review still awaits release. Berman’s plan was to introduce a bill next year.

“Berman was very patient,” said Sarah Jane Staats, director of policy outreach at the Center for Global Development, which largely supported the chairman’s legislation. “Now we see maybe too patient.”

However, supporters of a foreign aid overhaul in the development community remain hopeful that with the completion of the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review in the coming weeks, the administration will step up its engagement with Capitol Hill.

Staats said the shift in control of the House could force the White House to be more proactive. It “will require the White House to work much more closely and negotiate . . . if they want to move forward on development,” she said.

Gregory Adams, director of aid effectiveness for Oxfam America, said Congress can respond to the administration’s new proposals — outlined in the president’s policy directive on development and the forthcoming quadrennial review — in fiscal 2012 appropriations.

CGD Takes on Aid to Pakistan

Monday, October 25th, 2010
Bookmark and Share

In two recent posts on MFAN Partner the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) blog, Rethinking US Foreign Assistance, CGD experts take on US aid in flood-raged Pakistan.  Molly Kinder, senior policy analyst, takes a closer look at a recent study from Jishnu Das (World Bank) and Tahir Andrabi (Pomona College) that finds “trust in foreigners is malleable,” especially in response to a humanitarian crisis.  This report specifically analyzed a four-year period following the northern Pakistan earthquake in 2005. It’s interesting to note that the authors acknowledge that winning hearts and minds is a priority of US foreign policy, and that aid is “a vehicle towards this end.”

Kinder disagrees with the findings of the report for two major reasons: 1) Conditions in Pakistan are worse presently than they were five years ago and 2) trust in foreigners does not necessarily translate to trust in US policy. See below for key excerpts:

“While these findings are powerful, the weakness in the authors’ conclusion is that trusting Western people is not the same as trusting U.S. policy and motives. A villager closest to the earthquake fault line may trust an American or Western relief worker who comes to his or her village, for instance, but may still vehemently object to U.S. drone strikes and oppose military action in the FATA region. Yet the survey questions did not ask whether the villagers trusted American policy – an omission that significantly limits the policy implications of the study. Das and Andrabi’s primary policy implication is that exposure to people matter more for attitudes toward people than does broader policy.”

“Today, Pakistanis are far more mistrustful of U.S. motives for giving aid.  Consider, for instance, these quite typical newspaper headlines in Pakistan: “U.S. pilots fly Pakistan flood aid to win hearts and minds,” reported the Dawn newspaper on August 10th.  “$224 million pledged to win ‘hearts, minds” said the Nation’s headline on August 24th.   Rarely is U.S. aid mentioned in a newspaper article without the term “hearts and minds” right alongside it.  On this point, I wholeheartedly agree with the study’s authors: the more the United States seeks out a public relations boost from its aid, the less likely it is that this will materialize In this context, the “first with the most” posturing of U.S. officials may in fact be counterproductive: the more the United States tries to take credit for their aid and aims to improve its image, the less genuine their motivation will be perceived.”


Berman Applauds Obama’s New Development Policy, Eager to Partner on Foreign Aid Reform Legislation

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
Bookmark and Share

Gayle_Berman-30Apr09-cropHouse Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) issued a statement today praising President Obama’s new development policy that was released yesterday in conjunction with his speech at the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit.

Calling it a “powerful speech” that makes a “bold commitment to United
States global leadership in international development,” Berman applauded the principles in the new policy that reflect the committee’s own work on foreign assistance reform over the past year, in particular a planned overhaul of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act.

He closed by saying he looks forward to partnering with the Administration on new legislation for this “top priority.”

Congress of the United States

House Committee on Foreign Affairs


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Foreign Aid Reform Top Priority for Berman, Administration

Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, joined President Obama in making foreign aid reform a priority in alleviating poverty and strengthening U.S. national security.

“I welcome President Obama’s powerful speech at the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit, and his recognition that development is ‘not only a moral imperative, but a strategic and economic imperative.’  His bold commitment to United States global leadership in international development rests on a clear understanding that the purpose of development is ‘creating the conditions where assistance is no longer needed.’

“The Policy Directive the President signed yesterday echoes many of the themes and approaches of the foreign aid reform effort being undertaken by my committee. These include elevating and strengthening the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), underscoring the importance of country ownership and responsibility, improving coordination among U.S. government agencies and between the U.S. and other donors, expanding multilateral capabilities, leveraging more private resources, and setting in place rigorous procedures to evaluate the impact of policies and programs.

“Development assistance not only helps people to meet their basic needs and provide for their families, but also creates opportunities to expand markets for U.S. goods and services.  It strengthens our national security by ameliorating the conditions under which conflict, lawlessness and extremism often flourish.

“I look forward to working with the Administration to turn these principles into legislation that will maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of United States foreign assistance.”


Rep. Berman Reiterates Commitment to Foreign Assistance Reform

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
Bookmark and Share

berman-042508In remarks today at the first event of the 2010-11 program year for the Society for International Development’s (SID) Washington, DC Chapter, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) reaffirmed his plans to introduce a comprehensive foreign aid reform bill that would replace the existing outdated Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

Amid uncertainty around potential shifts in Congress with the upcoming mid-term elections in November, Berman said there is “nothing partisan” about foreign aid reform, and that he will continue to work with both sides of the aisle and both houses in developing new legislation and moving it forward next year.  He also reminded the broader development community of the need to “keep our eye on the ball” with respect to the importance of the overall reform agenda, “even if it doesn’t have all the parts people had hoped for.”

Berman also said he continues to work with the Obama Administration, and that we should expect to hear details about the President’s new development policy tomorrow during his speech at the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit.

On the issue of why foreign aid is important, he said that in addition to being the right thing to do, it is also in our economic and national security interests, and that it is ultimately a “sound investment in a better, safer world.”  Equally important, however, is ensuring we receive “maximum effectiveness and efficiency” for our aid dollars.

Berman went on to point out how the current Foreign Assistance Act is bogged down by 140 goals and 400 objectives, and that foreign aid is fragmented across 12 federal departments, 25 agencies, and 60 government offices “without a coherent strategy.”  “Funding,” he explained, “is earmarked down to the last penny.”

He emphasized the importance of more rigorous monitoring and evaluation for foreign aid programs, and how partner countries in the developing world must budget more predictably in order to plan more responsibly.

Lastly, he talked about the need to restore technical expertise and capacity at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and complimented USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah for his commitment and ongoing efforts to reform the agency.  In particular, Berman said he hopes his new legislation will provide more flexibility for the Administration and missions in the field.