In remarks today at the first event of the 2010-11 program year for the Society for International Development’s (SID) Washington, DC Chapter, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) reaffirmed his plans to introduce a comprehensive foreign aid reform bill that would replace the existing outdated Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.
Amid uncertainty around potential shifts in Congress with the upcoming mid-term elections in November, Berman said there is “nothing partisan” about foreign aid reform, and that he will continue to work with both sides of the aisle and both houses in developing new legislation and moving it forward next year. He also reminded the broader development community of the need to “keep our eye on the ball” with respect to the importance of the overall reform agenda, “even if it doesn’t have all the parts people had hoped for.”
Berman also said he continues to work with the Obama Administration, and that we should expect to hear details about the President’s new development policy tomorrow during his speech at the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit.
On the issue of why foreign aid is important, he said that in addition to being the right thing to do, it is also in our economic and national security interests, and that it is ultimately a “sound investment in a better, safer world.” Equally important, however, is ensuring we receive “maximum effectiveness and efficiency” for our aid dollars.
Berman went on to point out how the current Foreign Assistance Act is bogged down by 140 goals and 400 objectives, and that foreign aid is fragmented across 12 federal departments, 25 agencies, and 60 government offices “without a coherent strategy.” “Funding,” he explained, “is earmarked down to the last penny.”
He emphasized the importance of more rigorous monitoring and evaluation for foreign aid programs, and how partner countries in the developing world must budget more predictably in order to plan more responsibly.
Lastly, he talked about the need to restore technical expertise and capacity at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and complimented USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah for his commitment and ongoing efforts to reform the agency. In particular, Berman said he hopes his new legislation will provide more flexibility for the Administration and missions in the field.