December 19, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:
We are pleased that Congress avoided making catastrophic cuts to foreign assistance in the Fiscal Year 2012 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. We appreciate the efforts of the policymakers who fought to protect these critical programs, and we commend them for using the bill to advance some key foreign assistance reform priorities that will lead to better results for U.S. taxpayers and people in developing countries.
The $42.1 billion base funding level represents a continued and troubling downward trend, which remains a major concern as Congress and the Administration turn to the Fiscal Year 2013 budget in February. However, when the core budget is taken together with increased funding for Overseas Contingency Operations, our development-focused programs weathered what could have been a disastrous and irreversibly damaging budget cycle. We hope Members of Congress will maintain their support for these critical programs in the difficult budget negotiations in coming years.
Certain elements of the bill advance key foreign assistance reform priorities, including increasing transparency and accountability, strengthening country ownership, empowering a 21st-century U.S. development agency and encouraging more strategic and effective program design in the field:
- The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Operating Expenses, which largely fund the landmark internal reform agenda underway at the Agency, only suffered a small reduction, far less than what had originally been proposed in the House Committee-passed version of the bill.
- Per the Obama Administration’s pledge to restore USAID’s standing as the premier global development agency, the bill draws explicit attention to the need to undertake a transparent process of transitioning full responsibility for the marquee Global Health Initiative (GHI) to USAID, as called for in the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).
- In an effort to make U.S. development efforts more sustainable on the ground, we applaud the bill’s support for a pilot program to reform procurement practices by increasing opportunities for indigenous organizations to compete for grants.
- We support the bill’s language promoting gender equality and the meaningful participation of women in all development efforts.
- We also commend the provision of assistance to improve fiscal transparency standards for developing country budgets and contracts, including support for civil society organizations to promote transparency.
We look forward to working with the Administration and the Congress to strengthen these and other reforms, including through specific reform legislation next year, building on leadership efforts by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) this year.