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Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’

President Notes Value of Foreign Aid in Major Speech

Friday, May 24th, 2013
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President Obama delivered a major speech Thursday at the National Defense University in which he outlined the future of US counterterroism efforts. In so doing, he highlighted the importance of other tools in our national security arsenal, including foreign aid. See below for an excerpt from his speech in which he talks about this new strategic framework and the value of foreign assistance.

“So the next element of our strategy involves addressing the underlying grievances and conflicts that feed extremism — from North Africa to South Asia.  As we’ve learned this past decade, this is a vast and complex undertaking.  We must be humble in our expectation that we can quickly resolve deep-rooted problems like poverty and sectarian hatred.  Moreover, no two countries are alike, and some will undergo chaotic change before things get better.  But our security and our values demand that we make the effort.

This means patiently supporting transitions to democracy in places like Egypt and Tunisia and Libya — because the peaceful realization of individual aspirations will serve as a rebuke to violent extremists.  We must strengthen the opposition in Syria, while isolating extremist elements — because the end of a tyrant must not give way to the tyranny of terrorism.  We are actively working to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians — because it is right and because such a peace could help reshape attitudes in the region.  And we must help countries modernize economies, upgrade education, and encourage entrepreneurship — because American leadership has always been elevated by our ability to connect with people’s hopes, and not simply their fears.

And success on all these fronts requires sustained engagement, but it will also require resources.  I know that foreign aid is one of the least popular expenditures that there is.  That’s true for Democrats and Republicans — I’ve seen the polling — even though it amounts to less than one percent of the federal budget.  In fact, a lot of folks think it’s 25 percent, if you ask people on the streets.  Less than one percent — still wildly unpopular.  But foreign assistance cannot be viewed as charity.  It is fundamental to our national security.  And it’s fundamental to any sensible long-term strategy to battle extremism.

Moreover, foreign assistance is a tiny fraction of what we spend fighting wars that our assistance might ultimately prevent. For what we spent in a month in Iraq at the height of the war, we could be training security forces in Libya, maintaining peace agreements between Israel and its neighbors, feeding the hungry in Yemen, building schools in Pakistan, and creating reservoirs of goodwill that marginalize extremists.  That has to be part of our strategy.”

Obama NDU speech

The Bar on Food Aid Reform has been Raised: The Senate and House Must Act.

Monday, May 13th, 2013
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Food aid reform coalition

May 10, 2013 (Washington, DC)- American Jewish World Service, Bread for the World, CARE, The Modernizing Assistance Network, Oxfam America and Save the Children released the following statement today in advance of the Senate and House committee mark-ups of the 2013 Farm Bill:

With more than 870 million people suffering from hunger worldwide and Congress looking to ensure wise use of taxpayer funds at home, the 2013 Farm Bill represents a crucial opportunity to make our international food aid programs both more efficient and more cost-effective.

Unfortunately, the current Senate draft Farm Bill, due to be marked up this week, includes the same incremental steps toward reform as last year, but fails to address the fundamental changes that are so badly needed. We urge Senate leaders to work with the Administration to achieve stronger reforms in food aid programs so that American tax dollars can go farther and American compassion can reach more people in need. On the House side, we remain disappointed that the House Agriculture Committee draft once again fails to incorporate any reforms.

In his 2014 budget request, President Obama proposed common sense reforms that would feed millions more people and save lives by delivering aid faster with no additional cost to the taxpayer. This proposal sets an important precedent in building a more modern food aid program. Proposed reforms include allowing for greater flexibility in how the U.S. delivers food to hungry people overseas and ending the inefficient method of having aid groups sell food aid overseas to fund development programs, a practice known as “monetization.” This increased flexibility is a part of a package that would allow food aid to go farther, feeding 2-4 million additional people. These reforms have been greeted with interest by members on both sides of the aisle.

While we are supporting the Administration’s request that the FY 14 Appropriations bills be the vehicle for food aid reform, we recognize that there are several potential paths forward for Congress to achieve these much needed improvements to our international food aid program, and we are fully committed to working with leaders in Congress, including members of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, to get it done this year.

Get the Facts on Food Aid Reform

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
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President Obama’s FY2014 budget request proposal to reform food aid has sparked renewed debate on whether the current system could provide food to those in need more effectively and efficiently. The President’s proposal aims to improve the Food for Peace program that distributes emergency food assistance by providing more flexibility to purchase food locally and regionally in addition to shipping commodities from the U.S. Moreover, the proposal would eliminate inefficient practices such as the “monetization” of food aid that occurs when NGOs are provided commodities to sell in local markets in order to fund development projects, rather than funding these projects directly. In the weeks and months to come, the many stakeholders in the agriculture, cargo shipping, and development communities will continue to debate how to strike an appropriate balance between reaching as many people in need as possible as quickly as possible and allowing traditional U.S. domestic interests that are proud to contribute to feeding hungry people around the world to continue to play a role in international food assistance.

As U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah explained in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “If we can bring efficiency and effectiveness to this work; if we can save more lives without asking for more money; if we can freely and flexibility harness the tools we’ve developed and the knowledge we’ve gained, then we can do just that.”

Since the proposal was released last month, Members of Congress have begun to weigh in. In a joint statement, Congressmen Ed Royce and Eliot Engel—Chair and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, respectively—responded, “U.S. international food aid programs have long embodied the compassion of the American people.  After nearly 60 years of experience, we are encouraged by the President’s proposal to fundamentally alter our food aid program to reach more people, more quickly, at less cost.  Several recent studies have highlighted the need for reform.  We look forward to working with the Administration and our colleagues in Congress to modernize US food aid programs while ensuring maximum impact and efficiency.” Representative Nita Lowey, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, commented, “In a time of tight budgets, it is critical to get the best value possible for services and investments, including relieving hunger. This is an important proposal, and I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues to move toward more efficiency in food aid.”

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen released a public letter to the President, saying, “While it is imperative that measures be taken to improve the program, your Administration should instead focus on greater coordination, transparency, and accountability among the agencies that administer this program.  Eliminating in-kind food assistance will be disastrous for many US jobs and the domestic sealift capacity provided by the US Merchant Marine, on which our US military depends.”

MFAN is among a group of organizations that is supportive of the reform proposal. To ensure that those following this debate fully understand the broader issue and the proposed changes, below are important links to fact sheets and other documents created by USAID.

Key Resources on Food Aid Reform

MFAN Co-Chairs on the Facts on Foreign Aid

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
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See below for an op-ed  that ran in POLITICO today from MFAN’s Co-Chairs Rev. David Beckmann, George Ingram, and Jim Kolbe.

David Beckmann1George Ingram1Jim Kolbe

POLITICO

The facts on foreign aid

Rev. Beckmann and George Ingram and Jim Kolbe

February 9, 2011

With Egypt leading the news and congressional budget discussions coming to a head, there is an energetic debate now about U.S. foreign assistance.

There are many competing arguments, but one thing is certain: This is too important to get caught up in the usual political back and forth. The American people deserve honest facts about foreign assistance before policymakers rush to judgment.

To start, we must correct a widely held misconception: U.S. foreign assistance is less than 1 percent of the federal budget. Despite repeated efforts to correct this, many Americans still believe we spend as much as 25 percent of the budget on it.

More important, we must stop using foreign assistance as a budget piñata. Development is now a key component of U.S. foreign policy — with defense and diplomacy. Our modest investment in strategic and effective foreign assistance programs pays outsize dividends in terms of our security, prosperity and global leadership.

  • On security: The United States Agency for International Development is a crucial partner of the U.S. military and the State Department in frontline states — including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Civilian development professionals support training of security forces; bolster governance and the rule of law, and improve quality of life for people in areas vulnerable to extremism. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently, “Development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”
  • On economic prosperity: Our development programs improve public health, strengthen agricultural output and promote private economic growth, all of which help stabilize communities and open export opportunities for U.S. businesses in the world’s fastest growing markets. One historical example: U.S. support for the “green revolution” in agriculture helped accelerate South Korea’s agricultural development, setting it on a path to becoming the strong U.S. ally and trading partner.
  • On our global leadership: In the last decade, the generosity of U.S. taxpayers and advocacy of policymakers, community leaders and citizens have been responsible for saving and improving millions of lives in Africa and elsewhere. One vaccination program alone has saved five million children.

Even with these facts, foreign assistance still deserves the same scrutiny as other government programs at this challenging economic time. Our foreign assistance must be effective and accountable — so people know where the money is going and what results are being achieved.

Luckily, we are not starting from square one. Over the last two years, the Obama administration has built on the efforts of the Bush administration to change our development business model through a top-to-bottom reform effort.

President Barack Obama has made economic growth, the strongest engine for social progress, the stated goal of U.S. development efforts. He has promised to be more selective about who gets assistance — particularly when it comes to countries not committed to reform. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah has announced a plan to better measure and evaluate programs; “graduate” recipients who no longer need help, and streamline bureaucracy for millions of dollars in.

Most important, a guiding vision has taken hold across the spectrum of public and private players on development. Many developing countries have been able to achieve rapid economic growth and progress against poverty, mainly through their own efforts. For assistance to be effective, it needs to be responsive to local initiative and priorities.

Though a sliver of our overall budget, U.S. foreign assistance delivers a real return-on-investment. The Obama administration and Congress need to support these programs and work together to make them more effective and accountable. And the American public deserves an honest debate about the importance of our foreign assistance.

Rev. Beckmann, a 2010 World Food Prize laureate, is the president of Bread for the World. George Ingram is co-chairman of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. Jim. Kolbe, a former Republican congressman from Arizona, is a Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and a senior advisor at McLarty Associates. They are co-chairman of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

Wilson Center’s Sewell weighs in on QDDR

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
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sewell

In a recent post on the Wilson Center’s “The New Security Beat” blog, senior scholar John Sewell offers his perspective on the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which was released in December.

Sewell applauds the QDDR’s effort to empower the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), particularly around giving leadership of President Obama’s signature initiatives on food security and global health to USAID.  He also highlights the internal reform agenda undertaken by the Agency, called “USAID Forward,” which places a premium on evaluation and results.

The key question for Sewell is how well will the QDDR be implemented.  He lists several challenges to effective implementation, including:

  • support from Congress (“New legislation undoubtedly will be needed. Without congressional support, it will be hard to effect all the reforms called for in both documents.”);
  • culture change at State and USAID;
  • defining the process for selecting which countries receive U.S. assistance (“So, will the choices be driven by focus areas and need? Or will immediate political issues continue to drive country choice?”);
  • budget authority (“But in the real world, there will be strong differences of opinion between State and USAID, and how they are reconciled is never mentioned.”); and
  • timeline (“Some can be put in place quickly and many are underway; others will take much longer, and some, presumably, will require new legislation…If everything is a priority, overload will result.”).

Sewell provides a recipe for achieving the impact the QDDR hopes to achieve: “If the QDDR is to succeed it must have strong administration support, a congressional group (preferably bipartisan) to craft needed legislation, and strong support from civil society organizations and business.”

What do you think of his analysis?

To read the entire piece, click here.