MFAN STATEMENT: Obama Middle East Speech Highlights Key Elements of Foreign Assistance Reform

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

We commend President Obama for launching a bold new effort to make development, particularly inclusive economic growth, a top priority for U.S. policy in the Middle East. This is critical to helping citizens of the Middle East move from poverty and protest to peace and prosperity; and another example of the strong, bipartisan commitment to elevating development as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy, alongside diplomacy and defense.

From a foreign assistance reform perspective, the most important themes of the President’s speech included strengthening local ownership of development, building stronger civil society, providing greater representation for women and children, and increasing citizens’ capacity to hold their governments accountable. These proposed reforms echo both MFAN’s recently released policy paper, “A New Approach to U.S. Assistance in a Changing Middle East,” and our updated policy agenda.

The approach the President laid out in his speech builds on last fall’s Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, which provided a roadmap for development to be more strategic, coordinated, and accountable across the U.S. government in the 21st Century. We urge President Obama and Congress to work together to advance the reforms laid out in the PPD and codify them in law. During a time when resources are scarce, reform is critical to making sure we get the most out of every dollar we spend on development in the Middle East and beyond.

 

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