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Posts Tagged ‘modernizing foreign aid’

How Global Health R&D Can Be a Bipartisan Tool for Economic Development & Diplomacy

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
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A guest post by David Cook

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI)

As a new Congress and the Obama Administration look for high value in government investments as they convene for the State of the Union address Tuesday, they should consider the proven value of investments in biomedical research and development to address the major diseases and health issues facing the world.

Today, in a speech at the Center for Global Development, Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), outlined the agency’s plans to modernize aid, including harnessing the potential of science and technology for game-changing innovations that would save lives, reduce costs, and foster growth both in the U.S. and in the developing world. USAID is working with other government agencies to “build on recent advances in science and technology, especially in high return areas such as vaccinating children, preventing HIV, malaria and TB and focusing on childhood nutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of life,” Shah said.

The U.S. has long held an advantage in science and technology, and its biotechnology industry is driving innovation to make lifesaving products – including cheaper and more widely available flu vaccines and novel vaccines for dengue virus – to protect hundreds of millions of people around the world. Health innovations that emerge from R&D also yield cost savings and economic improvements. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the U.S. has saved more than $3 billion since investing $32 million in the global campaign to eradicate smallpox because expenditures for smallpox treatment and vaccination are no longer needed.

IAVI_Logo_verticalGlobal health R&D also is putting people to work across the U.S. at research centers, academic institutions and biotech companies. For every $1 million the National Institutes of Health (NIH) spent on R&D in fiscal 2007, $2.21 million was generated in business activity in the U.S., according to Families USA. In Washington state alone, global health endeavors generate $4.1 billion of business activity, and nearly 3,700 residents work in global health research or service delivery, according to Research!America.

In addition, global health R&D can strengthen scientific and technological skills and infrastructure in developing countries, which can contribute to creating more vibrant economies. Economists examining trends from 1960 to 2000 found that, on average, $1 of science and technology investment resulted in a $0.78 increase in GDP, with developing countries reaping higher returns than industrialized countries. Some countries, such as China, India, and South Korea, earned returns on scientific investment of more than 100 percent. By making people healthier, the innovations produced by global health R&D also make economies stronger. Health economists have attributed up to 15 percent of the economic growth in developing countries from 1960 to 1990 to reductions in mortality.

Today, diseases that significantly impact the developing world require reforms that spur innovative new solutions. HIV/AIDS, which has been shown to decrease life expectancy and slow economic growth in highly impacted countries, is one significant example. While access to antiretroviral drugs has rapidly expanded in low- and middle-income countries enabling millions of people to lead productive lives, for every person who goes on treatment, two more are newly infected with HIV. Plainly, new methods of HIV prevention are needed if we are to sustain the progress made in stabilizing the most affected countries.

Thankfully, tremendous progress made over the last 18 months offers hope that R&D investments will produce those new methods and yield ways to eventually end the AIDS pandemic. In the fall of 2009, a trial in Thailand, a joint project of the U.S. and Thai governments, demonstrated that a vaccine can prevent transmission of HIV. The vaccine candidate showed a moderate efficacy of 31 percent. The quest for an AIDS vaccine has been further buoyed by discoveries by researchers at and affiliated with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the Vaccine Research Center of the NIH of several new antibodies that neutralize a broad swath of HIV variants, giving scientists targets that are valuable in designing a potentially highly effective vaccine. In mid-2010, South African researchers announced that in a trial funded by USAID a vaginal microbicide gel containing the antiretroviral drug tenofovir had reduced HIV infections in women by 39 percent. Finally, recent results from a global study funded in part by the NIH found that taking as a prophylactic a combination pill currently used to treat HIV reduced the risk of HIV infection by 44 percent among men who have sex with men.

These results provide evidence that science and technology, if properly funded and focused, hold the potential to deliver the type of innovations Dr. Shah alluded to in his speech today. As researchers in the U.S. and around the world are poised to build on this recent momentum, lawmakers looking to find common ground on how to spur the economy both in the U.S. and in the developing world have a great place to start in global health R&D. As Dr. Shah noted today, U.S. foreign assistance is not just USAID’s tag line of “from the American people” but also “for the American people” in part because U.S. assistance helps develop the “markets of the future.”

NOTE: Dr. Shah also recently spoke about HIV vaccine R&D and IAVI’s efforts to find an AIDS Vaccine. Excerpts of his comments can be seen on IAVI’s YouTube channel:

MFAN Statement: USAID Administrator’s Tough Speech Heralds New Development Business Model

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
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Raj Shah

MFAN Statement: USAID Administrator’s Tough Speech Heralds New Development Business Model

January 19, 2010 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chair David Beckmann:

In an extraordinary and hard-hitting speech today, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Raj Shah laid out the clear progress that is being made in changing the U.S. approach to development and reforming his agency, which has been a target of strong criticism in recent years.  The reform agenda is essential and timely, because helping struggling people build livelihoods and escape poverty has never been more critical to our success in battling extremism, opening new markets for U.S. products, and strengthening America’s allies around the world.

Administrator Shah’s message was unmistakable: America needs to take a more business-like approach to development, and everyone involved in the enterprise must be more focused on results and hold themselves to a higher standard of accountability.  While emphasizing that development “is as critical to our economic prospects and our national security as diplomacy and defense,” he explained that these reforms “are not trying to build an updated version of a traditional aid agency… we are seeking to build something greater: a modern development enterprise.”

He hammered home this message and echoed President Obama’s vision for development with perhaps the most important idea in the speech: that over time, our foreign assistance will create “efficient local governments, thriving civil societies and vibrant private sectors,” thereby making countries more accountable to their citizens while helping them “graduate” from U.S. assistance.  Administrator Shah also helped put the issue in context for the American people, noting that our long-term competiveness and global leadership is contingent on how well we reach and sell products to the world’s fastest growing economies in places like Africa.  Development is a key ingredient to helping these markets stabilize and grow, when used effectively in tandem with diplomacy and trade, among other things.

We were pleased that Administrator Shah did more than simply reiterate a vision in his speech; he actually detailed the steps that USAID will take by:

  • Making sustainable economic growth and empowered local citizens core goals across all USAID development efforts;
  • Moving to save hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years by consolidating staffing, administrative, and program management activities globally;
  • Accelerating negotiations to graduate as many as seven countries from U.S. assistance by 2015;
  • Creating a new evaluation framework that will help USAID make decisions on what programs to continue, while also communicating results to the American people through the new USAID Dashboard;
  • Unveiling a new procurement system that will increase competitiveness; and
  • Establishing a new taskforce to prevent waste, fraud and corruption.

Taken together, these reforms will bring U.S. development efforts firmly into the 21st-century and help strengthen USAID as the effective leader of those efforts.  We urge Administrator Shah to remain laser-focused on this reform agenda, including by reaching out to bipartisan Members of Congress to develop legislation that will enshrine this new development business model in law in order to drive long-term results.

For additional information, please contact Sam Hiersteiner at 202-295-0171 or

From Paper to Product: Key Benchmarks for Effectively Implementing the President’s Development Policy

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
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obama-signs-billWith his speech laying out a new U.S. approach to development at September’s UN Millennium Development Goals Summit, President Obama has outlined a future in which development serves as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy, delivering greater results for people in poverty around the world and for U.S. taxpayers.  The President’s policy provides a long-overdue roadmap for more strategic, effective, accountable U.S. foreign assistance, and puts forward a mechanism for regularly refreshing our development approach through the establishment of a U.S. Global Development Strategy.

As with most ambitious policy pronouncements, the true test will come with implementation.  We are pleased to see explicit mention of the President’s commitment to “working closely with Congress to establish a shared vision of the way forward on global development,” including a desire to be given more flexibility for funding allocations in exchange for greater accountability to Congress.  It is now time to delineate a clear mechanism for doing so.  MFAN continues to believe that the only durable vehicle for this “grand bargain” is new legislation to replace the outmoded Foreign Assistance Act, now 50 years old and trapped in the Cold-War era.  This bargain should reflect a shared vision of the management of U.S. foreign assistance and a balance between granting the Executive Branch authorities that it needs to respond to a rapidly changing world and securing the rightful role of the Congress as a partner in setting national priorities and ensuring accountability to American taxpayers, with special emphasis on poverty reduction and economic growth, greater transparency and effectiveness, a strengthened development agency, and greater participation by civil society in developing countries.  Done purposefully, inclusively, and transparently, a modern, up-to-date legislative framework that reflects current global realities and challenges would reestablish confidence in foreign assistance as an indispensible aspect of the U.S. approach to global development and foreign policy at a time of constrained budgets.


Chairman Berman Says It’s Time to Finish Foreign Aid Reform

Thursday, December 9th, 2010
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In a new piece in The Washington Times, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) calls for Congress and the Administration to complete and institutionalize their work to make foreign aid programs “more effective, more efficient and more accountable.”

HCFA_April 222009_042209 Hillary and BermanBerman applauds the initiative of the Obama Administration in pursuing two separate reviews of foreign assistance – the Presidential Study Directive that produced America’s first-ever government-wide global development policy, and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) led by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development that is due out next week.  He cautions, however, that the “real challenge…will be to use the results of this review to implement meaningful reforms with lasting impact.” He goes on to say, “That’s where Congress comes in.”

The authorizing committee chairman points to his own efforts this Congress to rewrite the outdated, now 50-year old Foreign Assistance Act, and urges the both the Executive and Legislative branches of government to come together to enact “common-sense reforms.”

Here are the excerpted principles Berman lays out to ensure durable reform:

“Foreign assistance programs not only reflect American values and principles but serve as essential means for protecting U.S. economic, foreign-policy and security interests,” Berman concludes. “Only by mandating the new structures and processes in law can we establish the level of bipartisan support and executive-legislative consensus that will guard against backsliding and retrogression.”

To read the full article, click here.

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.