On Tuesday, Tessie and I (Les was in far-off places) had the pleasure of joining leaders from the aid community, MCC, USAID, and OPIC to honor ten dedicated members of Congress on Capitol Hill. It was a pleasure to be joined by former MFAN Co-Chair and current Honorary Co-Chair, former Representative Jim Kolbe, and Honorary Co-Chair, former Senator Richard Lugar, who have left an indelible mark on the foreign assistance community. It also was a pleasure to see former Co-Chair David Beckman. This year marks MFAN’s 10-year anniversary, so it was fitting that we honored ten congressional champions of aid reform:
The Honorable Christopher A. Coons
The Honorable Bob Corker
The Honorable Johnny Isakson
The Honorable Nita Lowey
The Honorable Ted Poe
The Honorable Ed Royce
The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen
The Honorable Adam Smith
The Honorable Ted Yoho
The Honorable Todd Young
As we at MFAN reflect on the successes of the past year – and the past decade – we are thankful for these leaders and advocates of strong U.S. foreign assistance.
Defending the Foreign Affairs Budget
Congress was tested yet again this year as the Trump administration proposed deep cuts to the FY19 foreign affairs budget. For the second year of the Trump administration, Congress is poised to roundly reject these unreasonable cuts and maintain funding for development and diplomacy, reflecting a strong appreciation for how U.S. foreign assistance promotes American values and advancing our economic and security interests.
In August, the community was alerted once again to rumored attempts by the Trump administration to rescind money allocated by Congress for development. The development community impressively mobilized, and Congress stood up for its constitutional “power of the purse” by defending the budget it passed into law. As we prepare for future threats to foreign aid, we look forward to continuing to partner with Congress to defend and strengthen our international affairs budget.
One of the most encouraging steps in aid reform this year is USAID’s proposed transformation. USAID – following the direction of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget – submitted a plan to Congress this summer to reorganize and redesign the agency. Among other changes, the redesign would strengthen USAID’s budget and planning capacity and maintain its role as the lead U.S. development agency. The MFAN Co-Chairs support the proposal as the plan appears to meet four of the five structural requirements included in MFAN’s widely endorsed recommendations for an effective redesign of the agency.
We look to Congress to review, and are encouraging it to approve, the CNs that detail the restructuring of America’s lead development agency for greater efficiency and accountability.
Landmark Development Finance Modernization
Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE), and Representatives Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Adam Smith (D-WA), achieved a major victory for development effectiveness with the passage of the BUILD Act in October of this year. Not only does this legislation modernize U.S. development finance tools, but thanks to the leadership of congressional development advocates, the final bill included important provisions for accountability and transparency, safeguards for labor and the environment, and strong development leadership requirements.
A Year of Increased Transparency
Thanks to congressional champions for accountability and transparency, the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2016 continues to push the administration and aid agencies to make foreign aid more transparent and accountable for results. In implementing the act, MFAN is advocating for more transparency of aid data, establishment of agency evaluation policies and cultures, and consolidation of the aid data dashboards by the FY20 president’s budget request.
A Decade of Aid Reform Success
This December, as MFAN celebrates our 10-year anniversary, we are not only reflecting on this past year, but on a decade of aid reform success. Thanks to our committed coalition partners, congressional allies, and administration partners, U.S. foreign aid is more data-driven, accountable, and efficient than ever before.
- Data from agencies providing 98% of U.S. foreign assistance is made publicly available.[i]
- All eight of the major foreign assistance bills enacted since 2014 have included accountability and transparency provisions[ii].
This translates to real success helping vulnerable people and their communities around the world.
- PEPFAR is saving 14 million people worldwide[iii];
- Feed the Future helps producers boost their incomes by hundreds of millions of dollars each year; and
- Power Africa projects have created 12.5 million new electrical connections to date[iv].
Lastly, the end of the year is also a time to reflect on the successes of MFAN as a coalition and on the contribution of our team. MFAN thanked Connie Veillette for her thoughtful leadership and determined engagement during her five years as Co-Chair and welcomed Lester Munson as the coalition’s newest Co-Chair. MFAN also offers its sincerest thanks to Stephanie Cappa, Deputy Director and Senior Policy Advisor, for four outstanding years elevating the coalition’s policy voice and advancing MFAN priorities. In January, she will be joining the Government Relations team at the World Wildlife Fund. MFAN will sincerely miss her contribution as we continue to advance country-owned, transparent, and accountable U.S. foreign assistance, but are pleased she plans to stay engaged with us.
We look optimistically to 2019 as an opportunity to continue this momentum and success alongside Congress, development leaders, and our community to advance foreign assistance that delivers the strongest results for Americans and our global neighbors.
My best wishes to everyone for a joyous and relaxed holiday that renews our energy for an engaging 2019,
MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution
[ii] BUILD Act (PL 115-254), END Wildlife Trafficking Act (PL 114-231), FATAA (PL 114-191), GFSA (PL 114-195), PEPFAR (PL 108-25), Electrify Africa Act (PL 114-121), READ Act (PL 115-56), Water for the World (PL 113-289).
[iii] PEPFAR Now Reaches Over 14 Million People Globally with Lifesaving HIV Treatment” https://www.pepfar.gov/press/releases/282136.htm