MFAN’s Co-Chairs Note Progress, Look to Opportunities Ahead

To the MFAN Network:

The past year was undoubtedly a challenging one for supporters of global development and foreign assistance reform. Abroad, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the famine that continues to devastate the Horn of Africa, and democratic revolutions throughout the Middle East put new pressures on people, policymakers, and practitioners alike. On the home front, the foreign assistance budget faced the most severe budget cuts proposed since the end of the Cold War, putting in peril not just our programs but the momentum that has been created for strengthening those programs over the last few years.

Thankfully, Members of Congress made the right decision to protect the International Affairs budget and our foreign assistance programs. In the process, they have also begun to embrace some important reform concepts and initiatives. There are opportunities on the horizon for additional progress, but the landscape for budgets and reform will likely continue to be challenging.

Before offering our annual year in review on foreign assistance reform and some detail on MFAN’s priorities for 2012, we wanted to thank you, our partners, for your hard work, without which last year’s accomplishments would not have been possible. We ask for your continued and enthusiastic support in driving the foreign assistance reform agenda forward this year.

2011 in Review

Arguably the most significant progress toward reform came in the fall, as key Members of Congress – House Foreign Affairs Committee members Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) – introduced legislative language that would enshrine elements of the reform agenda in law. Rep. Poe’s bipartisan Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 3159), which currently has 47 cosponsors, calls for stronger monitoring and evaluation guidelines across all U.S. agencies that work on foreign assistance and greater transparency of those programs. Rep. Berman’s comprehensive draft bill, The Global Partnerships Act, overhauls the outdated Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and reconfigures the U.S. foreign assistance system to not only meet modern challenges but ensure that every taxpayer dollar is spent wisely and effectively to deliver maximum results.

To recognize this progress, MFAN created an infographic that helps make the case for why modern legislation is so important to more effective and accountable foreign assistance. We hope it will be a useful tool for all of MFAN’s partners’ educational and advocacy efforts this year.

Here is a list of some other notable milestones in foreign assistance reform over the past year, which we will look to continue to build upon in 2012:

  • MFAN released a refreshed agenda – From Policy to Practice (FPTP) – that focused on implementing key principles of both the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD) and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). FPTP prioritizes reform principles for which MFAN has advocated over the past several years, including: transparency and accountability, local ownership of development programs, a strong and empowered 21st century development agency, and modern legislation.
  • MFAN published a set of eight Legislative Standards for Global Development to guide policymakers.
  • The unveiling of a new framework for cross-agency engagement—the Partnership for Growth.
  • Continued implementation of the Feed the Future initiative as outlined in USAID’s new evaluation policy, including a pledge to double the number of agricultural officers. (To learn more, see Bread for the World’s 2011 Hunger Report.)
  • The formal launch of the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, which includes unprecedented data on U.S. foreign assistance programs overseen by USAID, the State Department, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), with other agencies involved in foreign assistance to come.
  • Congressmen Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and Adam Smith (D-WA) launched the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance in May, which now has 19 members, at an event alongside USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.
  • Several provisions in the FY2012 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which passed in December, signal that Members of Congress are considering the structure and leadership of U.S. foreign assistance efforts and looking for ways to make them better.
  • The establishment of the Consensus for Development Reform (CDR), which brings leading conservative and private-sector voices more formally into the reform debate.
  • MFAN’s aggressive advocacy to protest debilitating cuts to USAID’s operating budget, which would have undermined internal reforms at the agency. (Read our statement and watch our PSA, “Don’t Cut off Your Nose to Spite Your Face” to learn more.)
  • Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) became outspoken supporters of the importance of foreign assistance to U.S. national security.

Looking Ahead to 2012

In spite of the challenging and crowded landscape with the upcoming Presidential election and a somber out-year funding picture for development, we have strong opportunities to move the reform agenda forward. As the Administration continues to implement pieces of its groundbreaking global development policy, other reform-minded legislation could surface on Capitol Hill to ensure these reforms are institutionalized. Looking back on the accomplishments of the past year and keeping in mind the interests of our ever-expanding network of support, MFAN will focus on the following priorities:

  • Passage of Congressman Poe’s bill. We have generated tremendous momentum for this accountability and transparency bill and will look to introduce a Senate companion.
  • Implementation of the PPD and QDDR. Efforts to strengthen USAID by maintaining operational funding and monitoring the proposal to shift leadership of GHI to USAID will be critically important to this end.
  • Country Ownership in Practice. MFAN will work to support community consensus around country ownership and, through our partners who work in some of the most difficult conditions around the world, strive to make sure this principle is connected to work in the field.

Our partners will undoubtedly contribute to this work while focusing on priorities of their own, including:

  • The Center for American Progress will focus on how to make better foreign assistance decisions in an era of declining resources, the role of the Defense Department in foreign assistance, the future of aid reform in the next administration, and the integration of PPD-10 and the QDDR into policy priorities for FY13.
  • The Center for Global Development will aim to identify effective foreign assistance objectives and programs within the context of an austere budget, as well as offer timely analysis on the development impact of major Presidential initiatives.
  • InterAction will continue to advocate for effective foreign assistance reform in 2012. Key priorities will include procurement reform and country ownership.
  • Oxfam America will continue to promote country ownership in U.S. development investments and policies. In 2012, they will be adding an emphasis on how economic growth can best fight inequality, by being inclusive, sustainable, and resilient.
  • Save the Children will concentrate on local capacity building and civil society engagement and work with the administration to advance these goals in 2012.
  • Women Thrive Worldwide will focus on country ownership, participation of local civil society, transparency and accountability, and the integration of gender and social analysis in State and USAID’s programs and policies.

We look forward to our continued work together during this critical time and remaining steadfast in our will to make U.S. foreign assistance in support of global development even more effective.

 

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