20 Days and Counting

It has been 20 days since President Obama released a statement saying he would issue a “new policy directive” for U.S. development, and the pressure is on.  Following Al Kamen’s column last week, development advocates – including MFAN Co-Chair George Ingram – have come out in full force urging President Obama to show leadership and take action immediately.  Ingram, executive director of the Academy for Educational Development (AED), published an op-ed in The Huffington Post in which he argues for clear presidential leadership to break the logjam that has prevented significant foreign assistance reform.  He cites MFAN’s Reform Within Reach campaign and the Open Letter to ultimately recommend three steps for the President to take:

  • Create America’s first-ever development strategy
  • Signal a willingness to work with Congress on a new Foreign Assistance Act
  • Empower USAID with clear authority

A significant part of Ingram’s argument is based on weighing the policy successes against the lack of bureaucratic and systematic reform.  Ingram writes:

“At a policy level, the administration should be commended for its approach to development…Progress on actual nuts and bolts of turning policy into action has been less forthcoming. It is time to act on the broad recognition that multiple agencies carrying out similar or inconsistent programs is not good practice; that assistance programs need greater transparency and accountability; and that the legislative foundation for our foreign assistance system, a 500-page Cold War-era statute, lacks clear goals and objectives and is bursting at the seams with outdated, overlapping, and duplicative and conflicting provisions.”

HopscotchNancy Birdsall, president of MFAN Partner the Center for Global Development, put this argument in more stark terms – grading the Obama administration on its development efforts thus far:  “When it comes to global development, I’d give President Obama and his top advisors an A for strategic vision and a big fat F for failure to get on with it.”  Birdsall’s blog post, which takes the form of a letter addressed to Secretary Clinton, National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones, and National Economic Council director Larry Summers, offers a five-step process that focuses on empowering USAID.

Media outside of MFAN’s network is also abuzz with updates on the debate.  Foreign Policy blogger Josh Rogin reported yesterday on the stalled development reviews, including a quote from MFAN Co-Chair and World Food Prize Laureate Rev. David Beckmann:  “The Obama administration is doing smart and creative things to help hungry and poor people around the world. But they are hung up by organizational confusion, and the president needs to make it clear that USAID, not the State Department, has the lead responsibility for development.”

With the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit in September – where last year President Obama promised to return with a plan – serving as a deadline, we need action now.  Learn about the ways you can contribute to this strong push for reform and join the 70 organizations who have already signed our Open Letter by clicking here.

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