News Clips 5.5.2011
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Today’s Headline: Representatives Ander Crenshaw (R-FL-04) and Adam Smith (D-WA-09), who circulated a Dear Colleague letter on Capitol Hill today, have announced that they will launch the Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance at an event featuring an address by USAID Administrator Raj Shah and a roundtable of leading voices on development. For more details, click here.
- MFAN-related: Kolbe, Beckmann and Ingram: U.S. Foreign Assistance Needs Further Reform (Roll Call-Jim Kolbe, David Beckmann, and George Ingram, May 5) Recent budget battles in Congress have made it seem as though we have to choose between continuing or abandoning this leadership because of America’s real and pressing deficit issues. But the facts tell a somewhat different story. We spend a little over 1 percent of the federal budget on foreign assistance and far less than that on programs that are focused on promoting sustainable development and reducing global poverty. Drastically reducing or even eliminating this money would have little effect on our deficit, but it would undermine the significant political and economic progress that has been made in the developing world — progress that reduces our vulnerability to threats that know no borders.
- MFAN-related: Rethinking U.S. aid to Middle East (Politico-Sarah Margon, May 5) As Washington reconsiders our Middle East policy at that time of tight budgets, a recent white paper by The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network – a coalition of non-profit groups seeking to reform U.S. foreign assistance – proposes some crucial steps. By meeting the needs of local people, backing the private sector and civil society, and highlighting accountability, the U.S. can help advance peace and stability more effectively. Maintaining a sustained dialogue with a broad range of actors is a common-sense approach that will ensure U.S. foreign assistance is grounded in the needs of those we intend to support – and doesn’t just reflect our own assumptions. Engaging beyond embassies and government officials can help bolster genuine efforts at political reform.
- The OECD doesn’t control aid agenda (The Guardian-Brian Atwood, May 5) This brings me to where I must disagree with Glennie: the OECD’s development assistance committee (DAC) does not control the aid agenda, no more than it controls these ways of working. If this were the case – if there were one centralised aid mechanism – then it would be easier to change. But official development assistance (ODA) – which accounts for the vast majority of what we refer to as “aid” today – is not centrally managed. It is the sum of numerous countries’ and organisations’ efforts to promote the development process. These mechanisms have not always worked to the best advantage – and this is where the OECD-DAC comes in. The DAC was created to make them work better – not for the donors, but for the countries trying to work their way out of poverty and all it entails. And while much has been achieved – in particular since the Paris Declaration was put in place – there is still much unfinished business.
- Pentagon: No firm evidence of Pakistani complicity (AP, May 5) In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, called for suspending direct government-to-government assistance to Pakistan. “My opposition to the program has only been heightened by the discovery of the most notorious terrorist in the world living hundreds of yards from a Pakistani military installation for more than five years. This reinforces my greater concern that the government may be incapable of distributing U.S. funds in a transparent manner that allows proper oversight of taxpayer dollars,” Granger wrote. The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Howard Berman of California, sent a letter to Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlining his “deep and ongoing concerns regarding the impact of U.S. security assistance to Pakistan — concerns that have been exacerbated by the discovery of Osama bin Laden’s lair in Abbottabad.”
- Boehner Firm in Support of Aid to Pakistan (CQ, May 5) House Speaker John A. Boehner is resisting calls from within his caucus for termination of aid to Pakistan, saying that maintaining relations helps U.S. interests in the region and the ongoing effort to prevent terrorism. Reading from a prepared statement, Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday that a continuing terrorist threat requires the United States to “strengthen our ties between our country and Pakistan.” The Speaker said Pakistan is also a terrorist target and that “it’s time for more engagement with them, not less.”
- Five Steps to Make Our Aid More Effective and Save More Than $2 Billion (John Norris and Connie Veillette, May 5) This brief details how the new Congress could save more than $500 million annually by eliminating unnecessary regulations currently in place that are incredibly wasteful, anti- competitive, and make it harder to carry out effective development programs abroad. Additional savings and efficiencies can also come through the reform of earmarks related to the foreign assistance accounts. Lawmakers can save at least $1.5 billion more by cutting domestic agricultural subsidies. Besides wasting a great deal of money, the regulations discussed in this paper have one other key aspect in common: They have survived largely because of intense lobbying by special interest groups that directly benefit from their perpetuation. If the new Congress is serious about both cost savings and reform it should take five steps to eliminate outdated laws and regulations that hit the American taxpayer the hardest when it comes to foreign aid programs.