More Than 100 Endorsers Agree: Effectiveness Principles Should Guide Foreign Aid Reform

June 9, 2017 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Tessie San Martin, and Connie Veillette.

With over 100 organizations and prominent individuals having signed on to MFAN’s Guiding Principles for Effective Foreign Assistance, this widely-endorsed statement reinforces the need for a principled approach to any reorganization or reform of the State Department, USAID, and other aid agencies undertaken by this administration.

This diverse group of signatories consists of large international non-profits, private companies, large coalition organizations, and faith-based groups, as well as foreign policy experts, including four former USAID Administrators and three former Members of Congress.  The broad bipartisan support of these principles asserts that any reorganization or reform of development programs should be conducted jointly with Congress and our community.

Foreign aid is in our nation’s interest: providing security, increasing economic opportunity, and promoting American values.  Building on two decades of bipartisan reform efforts, this critical tool of foreign policy can still be improved; however, the budget cuts proposed by this administration will not increase the effectiveness nor the efficiency of our development institutions.  Instead, it is imperative that the United States maintain an independent, accountable, and well-resourced lead development agency with strong policy, planning, and budget capacity and a focused mission.

In addition to ensuring an elevated development agency and voice, the Trump Administration and Congress should adhere to the following principles in proposing smart reforms rather than drastic cuts.

U.S. foreign assistance should:

  1. Uphold diplomacy and development as distinct but equal disciplines within American foreign policy;
  2. Help create the conditions under which it is no longer needed;
  3. Be focused on countries where the need is greatest or where it can have the most impact;
  4. Be transparent and accountable to American taxpayers and local stakeholders; and
  5. Tap the best practices in development across the U.S. Government and international partners.

“The immediate and broad endorsement of these principles is a testament to the widespread support for sound development policy based on best practices for maximizing accountability and impact,” said George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution.

“The administration and Congress should use these sound principles to guide their strategy around global development,” said Connie Veillette, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Lugar Center.  “The extensive endorsements should demonstrate to policymakers the momentum behind a principled approach to foreign assistance.”

“With emerging famines and ongoing crises around the world, now is not the time to slash foreign aid.  It’s a time to think more pragmatically and boldly about reform,” said Tessie San Martin, MFAN Co-Chair and President and CEO of Plan International USA.  “These principles provide a framework to have a thoughtful and constructive conversation around how to further increase U.S. aid effectiveness.”

MFAN will submit the endorsed principles to the White House as part of the public comment period on the reorganization of the federal government, as well as to Congress as they consider the President’s FY18 budget proposal and the nomination of Ambassador Mark Green as USAID administrator.   MFAN was encouraged by language in the FY17 spending bill requiring a report to Congress on reorganization and urges Congress to take this principled approach to reform.

The principles will remain open for sign-on until September.  The most up-to-date list of signatories can be found here.

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