MFAN Statement: Senate Bill Would Strengthen U.S. Development Leadership and Catalyze Reform

July 29, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) has introduced the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2012-13, which calls for robust resources for U.S. diplomacy and development programs that are critical components of U.S. foreign policy in a challenging world. MFAN applauds Chairman Kerry for authoring a bill that demonstrates a strong commitment to the civilian tools of U.S. global leadership and pushes forward the vital reforms to U.S. foreign assistance.

The legislation stands in stark contrast to two bills released in the last week by Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and State Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. Both called for deep cuts to U.S. diplomacy and development programs, including debilitating reductions of nearly 27% for the United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID). Although we acknowledge the difficult fiscal situation in the U.S., we believe that these cuts are detrimental to U.S national security as we face increasingly complex challenges abroad. Turning our backs on poor and struggling people in nascent democracies in the Middle East and fast-growing markets in Africa would decrease our leverage and our credibility, make it harder to drive export growth and opportunity for U.S. businesses, and send the wrong signal about our values as a nation.

The Kerry bill recognizes the importance of our diplomacy and development efforts, and calls for continued progress on reforms that are making U.S. foreign assistance more effective and accountable than ever before:

  • The legislation’s statement of global development policy reflects many principles of effective development that are highlighted in MFAN’s From Policy to Practice reform agenda.  These principles include increasing efficiencies by eliminating wasteful regulations, prioritizing accountability and transparency, incorporating local priorities into development planning, and maintaining the distinctiveness between development and diplomacy. The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed a complementary amendment, authored by Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA), that attempts to set out clear goals for U.S. foreign assistance efforts.
  • The legislation supports a strong, empowered USAID that can effectively address 21st century challenges and priorities, in stark contrast to the House bills, which would effectively end the agency’s internal reform efforts by eliminating its budget office, a key tool for increasing accountability in foreign assistance, and cutting more than a third from its operating expenses budget.
  • The legislation calls for similar support for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a landmark program started under President George W. Bush to push economic growth and capacity building in countries that are showing exemplary progress on democracy and free market reforms.
  • The legislation directs the President to develop a rigorous system to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. foreign assistance programs across all agencies, a step the House Foreign Affairs Committee also took by unanimously passing a transparency and accountability amendment authored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX).

We urge Members of Congress to support an approach that ensures continued U.S. global leadership on development, advances foreign assistance reform, and honors the commitments we have made to millions of people who are trying to build stable lives and healthier communities in the world’s most vulnerable places.

 

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