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Posts Tagged ‘foreign aid reform’

MFAN Statement: Initial Bill Passed by SFRC Adds to Aid Reform Momentum

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
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November 17, 2009 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

Today, Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), Ranking Minority Member Richard Lugar (R-IN), and a bipartisan group of Senators took a concrete step towards making U.S. foreign assistance more effective by passing the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009 (S.1524) out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Following last week’s nomination of Dr. Raj Shah to be Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the bill proposes important changes that would give the new administrator the necessary tools to lead U.S. development efforts by implementing and coordinating the pieces of President Obama’s ambitious agenda.  Among other things, S.1524 would establish the promotion of global development, good governance, and the reduction of poverty and hunger as U.S. policy; rebuild the policy, strategic planning, and human resources capacity at USAID; and create an independent Council on Research and Evaluation of Foreign Assistance (CORE) to evaluate the impact of all U.S. foreign aid programs.

Building on the visionary leadership they have shown in the movement to reform U.S. foreign assistance, Chairman Kerry and Senator Lugar made a strong statement today about Congress’ firm commitment to elevating development as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy, distinct from diplomacy and defense.  We hope that leaders in the Obama Administration will take note and work with both the Senate and the House of Representatives on their reform efforts.

CONTACT: Sam Hiersteiner at 202-295-0171 or

MFAN Statement: USAID Nominee Shah’s Leadership Needed on Development

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
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091110_rjs_portraitNovember 10, 2009 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

We applaud the nomination of Dr. Rajiv Shah to be Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  We are hopeful that his unique combination of knowledge about global health, agriculture, and other issues will allow him to provide a strong and indispensable development voice as major decisions are made about U.S. foreign policy.  Congress should confirm Dr. Shah quickly.

If confirmed, Dr. Shah will take leadership of America’s premier development agency at a time when we face complex challenges in the developing world, not just from conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also from transnational threats such as disease, poverty and lack of opportunity, hunger, climate change, and political instability.  This is why the Obama Administration has pledged to elevate development as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy alongside defense and diplomacy, and is already undertaking a whole-of-government review of how the U.S. engages with poor countries.  If confirmed, Dr. Shah will be the U.S. government’s lead voice on these urgent issues; therefore, the Obama Administration should take the following steps to empower him during these challenging times by:

  • Giving him a seat at the National Security Council from which he can bring a high-level and distinct development voice to critical foreign policy discussions, including the White House’s ongoing Presidential Study Directive on Global Development Policy;
  • Installing him as a co-chair of the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR); and
  • Revitalizing the agency he will lead by restoring USAID’s policy planning and budget capabilities, as well as the technical development capacity and expertise of the agency (as provided for in the bipartisan Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009, S.1524, which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider soon).

We look forward to supporting Dr. Shah and the Obama Administration in their efforts to strengthen development and make foreign assistance more effective and accountable for the 21st century.

CONTACT: Sam Hiersteiner at 202-295-0171 or

MFAN Partners Bread for the World and CARE Testify on Obama Administration’s Global Food Security Initiative

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
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David Beckmann photo On October 29th, Bread for the World President and MFAN Co-Chair Rev. David Beckmann testified at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health on “A Call to Action on Food Security: The Administration’s Global Strategy.”

Also on the panel were: Dr. Helene Gayle, President and Chief Executive Officer of MFAN partner organization CARE; Thomas Melito, Director, International Affairs and Trade Team at the U.S. Government Accountability Office; Julie Howard, Executive Director of the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa; and Richard Leach, Senior Advisor for Public Policy at Friends of the World Food Program.

In his testimony, Beckmann praised the Consultation Document that has been released by the State Department on the U.S. Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, calling it “a thoughtful, coherent, comprehensive approach to hunger and malnutrition.”  He added that it “includes several core principles that form a blueprint for broader reform of U.S. foreign assistance that Bread for the World and the other organizations in MFAN subscribe to: investing in country-led plans; enhancing strategic coordination both within the U.S. government and among international institutions, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and civil society; leveraging the assets and tools of existing multilateral actors; and establishing benchmarks and targets as part of transparent and accountable evaluation systems.”

Beckmann made an impassioned plea for an empowered, distinct U.S. development agency: “When we try to achieve defense and diplomatic goals with development dollars, aid is much less effective in reducing poverty.  In my mind, that’s the basic reason we need a strong development agency, with its own capacity to plan and carry out programs.  These programs should be coordinated with other foreign policy purposes, but distinct from them.”

He further called for the Coordinator of the administration’s food security initiative to be based out of the U.S. government’s lead development agency, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID): “Despite the fact that USAID continues to languish without an administrator, I strongly believe that the coordinator of the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative should reside at USAID. Agriculture production in poor countries is fundamentally a development issue and should be led by our chief development agency. For far too long, we have usurped the critical responsibility of USAID to lead on the key development issues of the day through the proliferation of new entities and work-arounds. This has led to a fragmentation of our development policies so severe that it has perpetuated a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more we farm out USAID’s authority, the more incoherent and convoluted our development assistance apparatus becomes.”

“We cannot afford to continue on this road. President Obama and Secretary Clinton are committed to elevating development as a coequal pillar of U.S. foreign policy alongside defense and diplomacy. To do so successfully, the U.S. government needs to have a strong and distinct development voice at the policy discussion table that can speak on behalf of development issues in a credible way. The new USAID Administrator should designate a high-level representative to coordinate the interagency efforts of the global food security initiative.”

In his other points, Beckmann urged that improved nutrition be a primary indicator of success, stating that “focusing our agriculture and food security investments on improving the nutrition of women and children will shape better, more targeted programs that have a lasting development impact… And, because nutrition is affected by other factors such as access to basic health care services and the protection of women and girls, measuring the impact of U.S. investments on the nutritional status of women and children will also tell us how well our overall development efforts are working.”

He also pushed for more consultation with civil society and governments in developing countries: “The United States should insist that the process of developing and implementing country-led food security plans include the network of local institutions focused on alleviating hunger and poverty.  By including local civil society organizations, faith groups, farmer cooperatives, private voluntary organizations, and local advocacy groups in identifying problems and solutions to hunger and undernutrition, the effectiveness of U.S. investments will increase.  Inclusive participation will also increase commitment at all levels, making the grants the U.S. provides more sustainable over time.”

Beckmann concluded his testimony by underscoring the historic opportunity the U.S. for foreign assistance reform: “The appetite for meaningful reform of our food security efforts – and more broadly our foreign assistance programs – is large right now. But the window of opportunity for enacting reform is small. We must collectively capitalize on this rare moment in history to help poor people around the world… To ensure its overall success, it is imperative that…the Initiative serve as a building block for lasting foreign assistance reform.”

In her testimony, Dr. Gayle called for the following elements of a successfulhelenegayle2008_thm food security initiative: 1) flexible approaches to food assistance; 2) moving away from the practice of monetization as part of modernizing our food assistance system; 3) gender integration and women’s empowerment; and 4) the creation of social safety net systems that prevent people on the margins from falling into extreme poverty.

New Senate Resolution Calls for USAID Administrator, Strengthened and Empowered Development Agency

Friday, October 16th, 2009
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Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) have introduced a resolution (S.Res.312) that calls for the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development to be named expeditiously as well as a strengthened and empowered USAID.

“The United States faces an ever-growing array of foreign policy challenges, and in nearly every instance, international development should be part of the solution,” said Sen. Dodd in a news release.

“Military and civilian leaders both agree: a strong development strategy is critical for our long term success,” added Sen. Durbin.

“We should have a strong USAID Administrator in place quickly to oversee the vital functions of our primary development agency so that it can serve as a constructive partner with other U.S. agencies,” said Sen. Cardin.

In addition to calling for “a highly capable and knowledgeable individual” to serve as USAID Administrator and “as the chief advocate for United States development capacity and strategy in top-level national security deliberations,” the resolution states that USAID “must be empowered to be the primary development agency of the United States and to serve as the principal advisor to the President and national security organs of the United States Government on the capacity and strategy of United States development assistance.”

In a statement for the record, Sen. Dodd said: “This resolution also recognizes the tremendously important role development plays in foreign policy, and puts the Senate on record as supporting an empowered USAID. I believe USAID should be a strong and independent voice in high-level U.S. foreign policy debates. If U.S. development policy and, by extension, U.S. foreign policy is to succeed in the long run, USAID must be an independent body that can advocate for what it knows best—how to effectively deliver and implement US foreign assistance, at the highest level. And it must have a serious seat at the table. Our foreign policy will neither be comprehensive nor sufficient to meet the challenges of the 21st century, without serious and unbiased input from America’s development experts.”

Cosponsors of the resolution thus far include Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) along with Sens. Kit Bond (R-MO), Roland Burris (D-IL), Paul Kirk (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Read the resolution:  Dodd Durbin Cardin Aid Resolution

MFAN Principal: Without Leader at USAID, Development Work Being Farmed Out to Other Agencies

Monday, October 12th, 2009
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Sheila HerrlingIn a recent piece on the Center for Global Development’s “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance” blog, CGD Senior Policy Analyst and MFAN Principal Sheila Herrling comments on the growing trend of work-arounds of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as the agency lingers in its ninth month without an Administrator appointed by President Obama.  Herrling points to a host of other actors currently taking a bite out of USAID’s development portfolio.

On the State Department: “Of course we can technically say the global development perspective has a leader in the Secretary of State, as she has responsibility for bringing the diplomatic and development voices, policies and programs to bear on meeting U.S. foreign policy objectives… But there are important development policies and programs outside of her jurisdiction – trade, investment, the multilateral development banks, etc.”

On the Defense Department: “In many respects, the Defense Department has become a leader on the development agenda… Attention, funding and human resources (military, diplomatic and development alike) are heavily focused on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and stability operations in Pakistan, under the control of military commanders and senior diplomatic envoys… In the need to respond to immediate threats, investments in long-term growth and institution building will be trumped by short-term imperatives.”

On the Agriculture Department: “Its point of entrée is Afghanistan, where Secretary Vilsack, apparently at the urging of envoy Holbrooke, has asked Secretary Clinton to transfer $170 million to USDA to play a more significant role in agricultural and economic development.  Note that it (just as USAID is doing) would have to hire the expertise to both send to Afghanistan and manage the program here in DC to be able to meet the terms of that request.”

In conclusion, Herrling writes, “…what I fear we are witnessing is a decapitation and slow amputation of every limb of what once was a powerful, respected, mission-focused agency… Why, in the midst of two important development policy and structural reviews – the State Department Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review and the White House Presidential Study Directive, would further fragmentation and confusion be the way to go?  Why, when today’s challenges are increasingly global in dimension and increasingly linked to global economic stability and development would the U.S. not be prioritizing an elevated, unified development-focused voice with the policy and budgetary means to credibly represent U.S. global development interests in the world?”