We are pleased to announce the launch of MFAN’s ModernizeAid blog – a place for lively discussion on elevating global development, modernizing foreign assistance, and strengthening U.S. efforts to alleviate poverty, promote economic growth, fight disease, and create opportunity in developing nations.
In an era of wide-ranging global challenges, elevating development as a principle tenet of U.S. foreign policy, alongside diplomacy and defense, is essential to our safety and prosperity—a sentiment broadly shared by President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates, and many other public and private leaders.
Development has been used to great effect. After WWII, the Marshall Plan rebuilt war-torn Europe and solidified lasting U.S. alliances. In the 1960s and 1970s, the “green revolution” in agriculture helped set countries like India on the path to meeting the food and nutrition needs of their countries and economic growth. More recently, President George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has helped bring life-saving prevention and treatment to millions of Africans. These programs show America’s best and most generous face to the world, while helping to meet our foreign policy objectives.
To make sure our development efforts have as much impact as they can in a world of diverse challenges and tight budgets, we must reform the outdated U.S. foreign assistance system. Nearly 60 government offices oversee development and foreign assistance programs, and the legislation governing foreign assistance has not been updated in nearly half a century. From both strategic and budgetary standpoints, we cannot afford the resulting inefficiencies.
MFAN has been advocating for changes in the system to Congress, the Administration, and across the country, and we are closer than we have ever been to real, comprehensive foreign assistance reform:
- Secretary Clinton recently announced the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which would provide a blueprint for our diplomatic and development efforts;
- One hundred bipartisan Members of the House are supporting Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman’s Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009, which has similar provisions on prioritizing development policy and transparency to the Senate bill;
- Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), Ranking Minority Member Dick Lugar (R-IN), and SFRC members Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Corker (R-TN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Jim Risch (R-ID) have introduced the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009 (S.1524), which would strengthen the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), increase transparency, and make U.S. foreign assistance more effective at promoting global development and good governance, as well as reducing poverty and hunger;
- There are indications that the White House is considering a Presidential Study Directive on global development policy, which would launch a whole-of-government effort to ensure overall U.S. development policy—whether related to trade, agriculture, climate change or finance — is strategic and coordinated;
- Chairman Berman has just released and invited comment on a draft outline of what a new Foreign Assistance Act might contain, a clear sign that he and his colleagues are moving ahead to draft a replaced for the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.
MFAN members are keeping the pressure on to make sure these critical efforts move forward. We are also pushing for key action to put real teeth behind them:
- 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 issues;
- The White House, the State Department, and USAID should work closely with Chairman Berman and Chairman Kerry to create legislation to provide for the legal and institutional elevation and modernization of foreign assistance policies and programs.
We need our MFAN partners, our readers, and our friends to continue speaking out in support of foreign assistance reform. Sign up to receive ModernizeAid blog updates and please leave comments to help push the debate forward. You can also follow us at ModernizeAid on Twitter.
David Beckmann and George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chairs