Senate Hearing Highlights Bipartisan Support for Modernizing Foreign Aid

July 22, 2009 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) hearing today entitled The Case for Reform: Foreign Aid and Development in a New Era, MFAN Co- Chair David Beckmann voiced his strong support for Chairman John Kerry and Ranking Minority Member Richard Lugar’s efforts to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective at alleviating poverty and hunger, fighting disease, and creating opportunity in developing countries.

Beckmann commended Kerry (D-MA), Lugar (R-IN), and Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) for drafting bipartisan legislation that would reach these goals by reforming and revitalizing the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has long been the main executor of U.S. foreign aid programs, but which has seen its policy planning, budget, and innovation abilities severely eroded in recent years. During testimony, Beckmann said, “I am grateful for this hearing and for the draft legislation…Now is the time for foreign aid reform…If this administration and Congress manage to improve the effectiveness of U.S. assistance, our dollars will do more good for decades to come.” He went on to urge the Senators to immediately introduce the legislation.

Kerry reinforced his commitment to foreign aid reform, saying “Congress will be a strong partner in those efforts—providing the resources, legislation, and authorities to ensure that our development programs are funded and designed to meet our priorities.”

Beckmann highlighted other important steps being taken on aid reform, particularly Secretary of State Clinton’s recent launch of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which would, as Beckmann said, “provide a…blueprint for our country’s diplomatic and development efforts,” and help create a more coherent and coordinated whole-of-government approach to achieving U.S. development objectives. He also raised concerns about whether the QDDR would blur the important distinction between diplomacy and development, saying, “When we try to achieve [development] and diplomatic goals with the same dollars, aid is usually much less effective in reducing poverty.” Beckmann went on to call for additional actions:

  • An experienced development professional should be appointed immediately as USAID Administrator. This person, who will co-chair the QDDR process, should be given a seat on the National Security Council from which to offer the development perspective on key foreign policy and national security debates and help align the findings of the QDDR with U.S. foreign policy;
  • The White House should, as has been rumored, launch a Presidential Study Directive on global development policy, and take the lead role in making sure the findings of the QDDR feed into a comprehensive inter-agency effort on this issue; and,
  • The White House, the State Department, and USAID should work closely with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) and Chairman Kerry on their aid reform efforts.

Contact: Sam Hiersteiner at 202-337-0808 or shiersteiner@gpgdc.com

For more information, please visit www.moderizeaid.net.

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