MFAN Statement: Five Things to Watch For on Aid Reform at MDG Summit

September 20, 2010 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

The Obama Administration’s ambitious development commitments will be under the spotlight this week at the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit, where USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said the U.S. will urge the world to “rethink” the fight against poverty.  It is equally important for the U.S. to show the world that it is rethinking and reforming its approach to global poverty reduction and economic growth, in order to ensure that U.S. foreign assistance is making a difference in the lives of poor people around the world and, as Shah said, “every dollar is used for the maximum value.”

Building on the President’s original campaign commitment to elevate development as a key pillar of U.S. foreign policy, the Administration last week released an updated Strategy for Reaching the MDGs.  The document gives great detail about the Administration’s interest in focusing on economic growth, accountability and governance, principles that will be manifest in the President’s signature programs, Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative.  The Administration also promises in the strategy to “modernize and strengthen our capacity to support countries to achieve sustainable development outcomes,” but virtually no detail is given about how this will be accomplished.

The foreign aid reform community will be watching this week – and in subsequent weeks when the Administration releases a promised new development policy – to see how the Administration plans to meet the modernization pledge.  Reformers will be looking for concrete, action-oriented answers to a few key questions:

  • What is the Administration’s business plan for operationalizing the MDG Strategy and new development policy, and will this plan lay out clear lines of responsibility for U.S. development efforts, which are currently undertaken by dozens of offices and agencies across the government?
  • Will the Administration work with Congress to build a more coherent, accountable legislative foundation for development, particularly by overhauling the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 for the first time?
  • How will the Administration build more local ownership into assistance programs and hold itself and recipients more accountable for results?
  • Building on the important internally-led reform efforts already underway in the agency, how will the Administration revitalize USAID into, in the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “the world’s premier development agency?”
  • How will the modernization pledge be carried through in implementation of Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative?

Please contact Sam Hiersteiner at or 202-295-0171 if you need additional information.

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