Continuing our series highlighting the work of MFAN’s partners in promoting foreign assistance reform, we will look at the campaign of our partner organization InterAction. InterAction is a coalition of U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) advocating greater coherence of U.S. foreign aid and development programs. InterAction has called for development to be elevated as a national priority, emphasizing its significance if our nation seeks greater engagement with the rest of the world.
Recently, the effort to improve our global development policy has become an increasingly important topic of discussion between Congress, the Obama administration and the aid community. At the recent InterAction Forum 2010, held from June 2-4, USAID administrator Rajiv Shah spoke during the opening plenary session, and commented on the agency’s commitment to working closely with Congress on foreign assistance reform. He said, “We have the unique opportunity to frame what development should be for the next 50 years. President Obama… sees development as a cornerstone of his national security strategy.” Shah cited Haiti as an example of the successes of evidence-based development, mentioning the great strides in improving access to clean water since the start of the post-quake recovery process. You can read more about Rajiv Shah’s opening remarks from InterAction and from our blog earlier this month.
At the closing session, Cheryl Mills, Chief of Staff for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, emphasized the importance of a Haitian-led recovery effort stating, “NGOs must allow themselves to be coordinated so that capacity-building activities lead to a real transfer of skills.” In the panel following the session, former President Bill Clinton, UN Special Envoy to Haiti echoed this sentiment. “We know we have succeeded in Haiti when we have worked ourselves out of the job,” Clinton said.
In May, a draft of the Presidential Study Directive, A New Way Forward for Development was leaked, demonstrating the president’s intention to reform the U.S. foreign assistance system in a meaningful way. InterAction applauds the paper’s recommendations to:
- include the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator on the National Security Council;
- enhance partnership with non-state actors, both donor and recipient, in order to increase the impact of U.S. programs;
- and restore important policy and planning functions to USAID.
In the end, InterAction believes that the reduction of poverty and disease in the developing world is essential to U.S. national interests and reforming our aid structure is the smart thing to do.