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Posts Tagged ‘foreign assistance’

CAP Proposes Way Forward on Aid Reform in the New Congress

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
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In a new report called “U.S. Foreign Aid Reform Meets the Tea Party,” MFAN Principal and Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress John Norris explores how foreign assistance reform can succeed in the new-look 112th Congress.

“While many have been quick to suggest that the November 2010 midterm elections will result in gridlock in Washington, there are good reasons why foreign aid reform can continue to gain traction,” Norris writes.  He goes on to make concrete recommendations on how to effectively implement the aspirations of President Obama’s global development policy, which was announced in September and is the first of its kind in the history of the U.S. government.  “This new U.S. foreign aid policy framework was well received by a wide spectrum of organizations and commentators, ranging from some traditional aid critics to major groups, such as the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, that have long supported reform efforts,” Norris notes.  “All welcomed an effort to bring greater clarity, discipline, effectiveness, and simplicity to our aid programs.  Articulating a new policy direction, however, is different from making it happen.”

John_NorrisNorris also discusses the role of the soon-to-be-released Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) and how it might – or might not – clarify the relationship between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department.  “It is also noteworthy that neither the new policy directive nor the likely results of Secretary Clinton’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR, have fully resolved a long-simmering tug of war between the State Department and USAID,” he comments.  “Instead, under its current review, the administration revived or partially revived some important policy and budget functions within USAID, leaving the agency with a degree of autonomy. Yet the administration also made it abundantly clear that the agency still operates under the broad policy guidance of the secretary of state, and that State Department officials will remain deeply engaged in decision-making on many key aspects of development while taking an even more prominent role in managing complex crises.”

Specifically, Norris proposes the following actions for partnering with Congress to implement the President’s vision and strategy for U.S. engagement in the developing world:

  • Focusing on countries where assistance will make a real difference;
  • Walking away from partner governments that are not committed to reform;
  • Curbing the tendency to use foreign aid to secure short-term political gains rather than achieving long-term development goals;
  • Bringing far greater clarity and direction to the maze of different government entities conducting assistance through specific regulatory and legislative fixes; and
  • Making a better case as to why foreign aid reform is the right thing to do, both in terms of our national interest and our basic values as Americans.

“For the president’s new policy directive to be effective soon and over the long term, then the administration must work with Congress in a bipartisan fashion to overhaul our foreign aid programs so that they all adhere to the new strategy.  This will require making some difficult choices and then sticking with them.”

To read the report, click here.

Seoul Development Consensus: Break from Washington Consensus or Same Song, New Singers?

Thursday, November 18th, 2010
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A Guest Post by Porter McConnell, policy advisor for aid effectiveness, Oxfam America

The US and other G20 nations meeting in Seoul, South Korea last week announced a Seoul Consensus on Development intended to replace the failed “one-size fits all” Washington Consensus. But will the Seoul Consensus prove itself to be different?

As the first non-G8 member to host a G20 summit, South Korea has made development a central part of the agenda, with a focus on boosting the growth of poor countries. And in September, President Obama released a Global Development Policy at the MDG Summit that hit similar notes, like going beyond aid and harmonizing policies on trade, food security, and climate change that affect millions of poor people. But did these two policies meet in Seoul?

This G20 meeting was an opportunity for the US to learn from the experience of G20 nations like South Korea. Half a century ago, South Korea’s annual per capita income was just $82, less than half that of Ghana at the time. Today it stands at $19,000 – an astonishing 200-fold increase. South Korea’s success is a story of self-determination. The South Korean government demanded full ownership over their development agenda, including foreign assistance. Often at odds with donors, the South Korean government diverted funding towards programs they felt could assist them, highlighting how poor countries can and need to create their own solutions, and rich countries need to concede the policy space for them to do that.

Ironically, many of the strategies South Korea and other Asian tigers used to become roaring economies are now unavailable to other developing countries, due to rules under the World Trade Organization, and enforcement by the International Monetary Fund.  One promising idea on the table at the G20 was for developed countries to provide duty-free, quota-free market access to all least-developed countries, essentially opening their markets to the poorest countries.  But the proposal did not survive intense negotiations.  President Obama focused instead on the unrealistic goal of finishing the stagnant WTO Doha Round trade negotiations, without committing to reconsider the US negotiating position. By not committing to “duty free, quota free”, President Obama missed the opportunity to deliver a concrete outcome of the new global development policy and bring other developed nations along.  Sadly, the G20 taking duty-free, quota free access for poor countries off the table sends the unfortunate message to poor countries that developed countries aren’t willing to take the immediate steps that matter.

Focusing solely on pro-growth policies won’t be enough to tackle poverty. When the Washington Consensus was at its height, the world economy grew by $19 trillion from 1981-2001, but people living in extreme poverty received only 1.5% of that wealth. In these difficult economic times, the G20 must pay special attention to the needs of low-income countries and poor people. The triple shocks of economic, climate and food price crises have pushed millions into extreme poverty. And many developing country governments now face yawning budget gaps that could force brutal cuts to healthcare, education and social support. While continued aid to poor countries may not be sufficient, it is necessary.

The US and other rich countries should not use the economic crisis or the G20’s focus on growth to wriggle out of their commitments to the world’s poorest at a time when they need help more than ever.

Activists of Oxfam International don masks of the world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, far left, and pose in Tae Kwon Do costumes during a demonstration to draw attention to global poverty issues one day before the G-20 summit in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010.

Activists of Oxfam International don masks of the world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, far left, and pose in Tae Kwon Do costumes during a demonstration to draw attention to global poverty issues one day before the G-20 summit in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010.

The lack of progress in the global fight against climate change is one such instance. Poor people are on the frontlines of climate change and will shoulder the biggest burden, despite doing little to cause the crisis. Much of the advances we have made in the fight against poverty risks to be quickly wiped out by the devastating impacts of climate change. But with less than a month to go before the Cancun summit, the G20’s lack of progress – or even a commitment to progress – on climate change is very disappointing. Business leaders meeting at their “B20” business summit did what the G20 governments couldn’t do, demonstrating that they at least understand the urgency of climate change and put concrete proposals on the table. The US and other G20 members need to support the creation of a new, fair and accessible global climate fund, including provisions for country ownership and a participatory, inclusive and accountable process so climate finance is fully integrated into a country’s broader development strategies.

For the Seoul Development Consensus to stick, the G20 must resist the temptation to sing the same old song of failed economic policies and narrow self-interest. They must sing a new song by making the world economy work for poor people, and allowing countries the space to make their own destiny.

Shah Charting a New Course at USAID

Thursday, October 14th, 2010
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In a recent blog post by MFAN Partner the Center for Global Development (CGD), Connie Veillette, Director of Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program, emphasized the need to highlight the positive changes that have occurred recently at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) thanks to Administrator Rajiv Shah’s leadership.   While it is easy to get caught up in big picture reforms, she argues that now is an important time to look at some of the positive, incremental changes underway.  Administrator Shah has been taking concrete actions to reinvigorate USAID that could transform the agency into a “game-changing leader”.  Some changes being instituted at USAID that Veillette highlights in her recent post on Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance:

  • Policy and Planning Capabilities: The (re)creation of the Policy, Planning, and Learning Bureau will help the agency design country strategies and integrate sectoral approaches around clearly defined objectives, such as food security
  • Learning Culture: The (re)creation of Office of Learning, Evaluation, and Research, to  learn what works, what doesn’t, and make adjustments in policy and programming accordingly
  • Innovation: Initiatives that seek to harness science and technology, such as

-Designing a center for advanced research

-New Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) awards, partners with private research organizations

On the joint Brookings and CGD Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA) project, USAID received mixed scores.  Veillette calls attention to the fact that QuODA uses the most recent data available, which is from 2008, and looks forward to seeing if scores improve when updated information comes out.  She closes by commending the efforts of Shah saying, “All this is to say, let’s give credit where credit is due.  Administrator Shah’s confirmation occurred in the midst of two formidable policy reviews.  It was followed within days by the devastating earthquake in Haiti.  Shah has had to build the ship at sea without a full crew amidst turbulent waters while naysayers expected rearranged deck chairs rather than transformative change.  There are still many challenges ahead, but Shah is taking important steps to steer the agency in the right direction.”

SFRC Chairman Kerry Ready to Enact Reforms in New Development Policy

Friday, September 24th, 2010
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John Kerry with Barack Obama c WHSenate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry (D-MA) yesterday released a press release expressing his enthusiasm for President Obama’s new development policy, calling it “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.”

Kerry also highlighted the policy’s inclusion of several principles laid out in the Kerry-Lugar aid reform bill from this Congress, S.1524, which passed out of Committee last fall.

“I look forward to working with the Administration, as well as my colleagues in the House of Representatives and Senate, to enact these new reforms into law,” he stated.

Read the entire press release below.

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 23, 2010

CONTACT: SFRC Press Office, 202-224-3468

Chairman Kerry Congratulates The President On Elevating Global Development And Foreign Aid Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) released the following statement endorsing the goals for global development and foreign aid reform described in President Obama’s speeches yesterday and today at the United Nations:

“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.

”I am heartened that the President’s call for a bold and transformational development policy includes many of the main principles of the Kerry-Lugar Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act, which strengthens the capacity, accountability and effectiveness of our foreign aid programs.  I look forward to working with the Administration, as well as my colleagues in the House of Representatives and Senate, to enact these new reforms into law.”


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

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
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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.”