MFAN Statement: Berman Lays Strong Legislative Foundation for Future of U.S. Foreign Assistance

September 9, 2011 (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 House Committee on Foreign Affairs (HCFA) Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) for introducing a discussion draft of the Global Partnerships Act of 2011. The draft legislation lays the foundations for a serious dialogue between the Congress, the Executive Branch, and civil society to reach consensus on legislation to replace America’s outdated and ineffective jumble of foreign assistance statutes.  The reforms proposed by Rep. Berman build on the work the last two Presidents – and Republicans and Democrats currently serving on HCFA – have done to make our efforts to alleviate poverty, improve health, and drive economic growth in poor countries more effective and accountable.

Development assistance programs are a key pillar of U.S. foreign policy in a complex world, working along with defense and diplomacy efforts to give the U.S. another all-important tool for responding to fast-moving events like the Arab Spring. This draft bill presents Members of Congress with a rare opportunity to work together to strengthen these programs and build a stronger foundation for U.S. foreign assistance. MFAN’s reform agenda is based on the following six policy pillars, and below each we have listed what we believe are the priority areas for action in the Global Partnerships Act of 2011.

Enact Modern Legislation

  • Articulates clear goals for U.S. foreign assistance. The draft legislation articulates seven distinct goals for advancing U.S. security, humanitarian, and economic interests, including addressing global poverty and human suffering and promoting sustainable economic growth through trade and investment. The original Foreign Assistance Act spelled out four clear priorities; 50 years later, that number has mushroomed to more than 140 goals, mandates, and overlapping directives—far too many to deliver foreign assistance in a focused and strategic way.
  • Requires the President to issue a comprehensive U.S. strategy for global development every four years. The first-ever global development policy launched by President Obama last September called for such a strategy, and in this time of tight budgets and scarce resources, we need a coherent strategy across the U.S. government to guide our investments.

Maximize Efficiencies

  • Ensures USG development policy coordination by mandating an interagency committee to oversee and coordinate all U.S. budgets, policies, strategies, and programs affecting developing countries.
  • Creates a Global Development Council to allow for meaningful engagement with private development stakeholders.

Prioritize Accountability

  • Establishes rigorous procedures for evaluating both the effectiveness and impact of development policies and programs, including a focus on gender equality.
  • Requires an online, publicly accessible database of information on U.S. foreign assistance, that would broaden and deepen the recently created Foreign Assistance Dashboard.

Increase Local Ownership

  • Seeks greater flexibilities, including a reduction in earmarks to better respond to local situations.
  • Establishes 3-5 year country strategies to guide how assistance is allocated.

Clarify Diplomacy and Development

  • Strengthens development authority and coordination in the field by making USAID Mission Directors the primary development advisors to the U.S. Chiefs of Mission.

Empower a 21st-Century Development Agency

  • Builds on key reforms at USAID, including improved capacity in the areas of policy and planning, budgeting, science, procurement, and personnel.
  • Elevates attention to development in interagency policy making by including the Administrator of USAID in relevant meetings of the National Security Council.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 this week, we urge the Administration and Members of Congress to use Representative Berman’s bill, and the work done by other members of HCFA, as a platform for building bipartisan consensus on foreign assistance reform. Modernizing the statutory basis for our foreign assistance programs will strengthen the ability of the United States to more effectively address global challenges.

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