MFAN Statement: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of USAID

November 3, 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:

Today, on the 50th anniversary of the creation of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), we celebrate the work done by thousands of committed and selfless public servants – both U.S. citizens and foreign service nationals – in helping to alleviate poverty, fight diseases, and create economic opportunity for struggling people in the world’s poorest countries. These efforts, which have resulted in tens of millions of lives saved or improved, have been as important to our security and prosperity over the last five decades as any defense or diplomatic program.

USAID has been a central player in some of the most astounding development successes in world history. Agency experts helped design and drive the Green Revolution, which brought modern agricultural practices to poor countries like South Korea in the middle of the 20th century. Today, South Korea is a stalwart U.S. ally and trading partner, as well as a foreign assistance donor itself. More recently, USAID played a key role in programs like President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which delivered unprecedented U.S. assistance to African countries that were bowing under the weight of a spreading AIDS epidemic. Today, many of the countries that received PEPFAR assistance are experiencing unprecedented economic and democratic growth, in no small part because people are simply staying alive. The agency’s development professionals have also served courageously alongside soldiers and diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they will soon bear a heavier burden for future safety and stability in the wake of troop withdrawals.

USAID’s critical role in U.S. foreign policy is clear, as is the agency’s commitment to modernizing itself for the 21st Century. In the midst of growing challenges abroad and budget pressures at home, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah has launched an unprecedented internal reform effort aimed at making sure every taxpayer dollar committed to development goes as far as possible towards helping those in need. Now more than ever, we urge policymakers to support the agency’s efforts to maintain U.S. leadership on global development. As President John F. Kennedy said at the dawn of the U.S. foreign assistance system 50 years ago, America’s development investments provide hope to people who are “under attack from widespread misery and social discontent which are exploited by our adversaries, and this permits us to speak with a much stronger and more effective voice.” The message still rings true today.

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