MFAN in the News: President Obama’s MDG Speech

Media hits

In what MFAN and the development community have been working toward, yesterday President Obama announced the new visionary U.S. Global Development Policy – the first of its kind by an Administration.  As MFAN’s Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram noted in their statement yesterday, “With his speech laying out a new U.S. approach to development at the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit, President Obama has outlined a future where development endures as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy, delivering greater results for people in poverty around the world and U.S. taxpayers.”

The Global Development Policy incorporates key MFAN principles like elevating development as a core pillar of U.S. national security, strengthening USAID, and engaging with civil society and the private sector to help find innovative solutions to our toughest development challenges.  This is a well deserved victory.  And MFAN Principals and members were out in force illuminating the nuance of this new policy and underscoring its significance to the media.  Below is a collection of excerpts from news stories and opinion pieces featuring MFAN experts from across the network:

  • In Politics Daily, MFAN Co-Chair George Ingram discusses the time it will take to strengthen USAID.  Still, Ingram notes how the Global Development Policy fits into the bigger picture saying, “In the early months of his campaign [then Candidate Obama] issued an eight-page statement on development. It was something no candidate had done before. He talked in there about the need to elevate USAID and development — he talked about results and initiatives in the health area. What that tells me is that the statement Obama is making today is not something that has evolved over last months. It is something Obama brought into office with him.”

Also quoted in this article is MFAN member Greg Adams, director of the aid effectiveness team at Oxfam America.  Adams refers to the speech as “Kennedy-esque” adding,  “I think the major departure is the emphasis on helping effective governments and active citizens take charge of their own efforts to end poverty.”

  • Josh Rogin’s The Cable blog also features quotes from George Ingram and Greg Adams.  Ingram praises the new policy, but highlights the difficulty in implementation saying, “Now the tough task of implementation begins, and we are ready to work with the Administration to ensure that key reform principles are applied and codified in law, because that is the real way to make this policy one of the President’s great legacies.”  Adams comments on the National Security Council’s decision to not release the Presidential Policy Directive (which informed the Global Development Policy) to the public: “The Administration should make sure that enough gets out to not only provide the American people with a clear rationale for the new approach, but also make sure that our partners around the world understand how we plan to change the way we work with them.”
  • Ingram is also quoted in The Christian Science Monitor, commenting generally on the announcement that “This is a huge step towards delivering truly effective and accountable foreign assistance and making development an integral and strategic part of our foreign and national security policy.”
  • The Washington Post quotes Noam Unger, MFAN Principal and policy director of the Foreign Assistance Reform project at the Brookings Institution, in its write-up of the President’s speech.  Unger argues that the new policy addresses the “frustration” felt across the community and, like Ingram, highlights the complications of implementation saying, “The U.S. government has, for quite a long time, had such a fragmented approach to aid and a fragmented approach to development as a whole, that this is starting to shift that boat.  But it’s like turning an aircraft carrier. So it will take a lot of work to implement the president’s vision.”
  • Oxfam America President and MFAN Principal Ray Offenheiser first previewed Obama’s speech by drafting his own version in an op-ed for The Hill, a draft speech that features a Global Development Strategy.   Offenheiser then praised Obama’s address in Agence France Presse: “We commend his determination to hold the US accountable for keeping its development promises,” he said speaking on behalf of Oxfam America.
  • An analysis of the speech in IPS News surveys several MFAN members for reactions to the policy announcement; MFAN Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram, as well as MFAN Principals Noam Unger and Ray Offenheiser are quoted.

Anticipating a momentous speech, MFAN Principals were out in the days ahead canvassing the media to turn its attention towards Turtle Bay.

  • Jim Kolbe, MFAN Principal and Senior Resident Fellow of the German Marshall Fund, wrote an op-ed in POLITICO in which he argued for clear action on development reform.   Kolbe referred to the MDG Summit speech as an opportunity for the President writing, “Reforming U.S. foreign aid would make certain taxpayer dollars are used efficiently to drive sustainable growth and development.”
  • Two MFAN Principals were quoted in a preview of the speech from Mary Beth Sheridan of The Washington Post, which ran on Tuesday. J. Brian Atwood, former USAID administrator and current dean of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota said, “There used to be a debate that economic growth didn’t affect the poorest of the poor.”  Carol Lancaster, dean of the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University continued, “Being selective is a great idea, but it’s hard for a great power like the United States, with the political system we have.”
  • Last, but not least, CQ ran a story on House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, who spoke Tuesday at SID-Washington.  A champion of foreign assistance reform who earlier this summer released a working draft of a new Foreign Assistance Act, Berman pressed that he needed more buy-in from the administration for reform.  George Ingram was quoted saying, “We’re moving . . . to action now. The administration will no longer have the excuse to Berman that we’ve got to get our act together.”  Lucky for us, no excuse was needed.

Also be sure to read this New York Times editorial about the MDGs and the speech.  If you missed the President’s speech (or want to watch it again) click here.

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