“Instead of arbitrarily slashing effective development assistance programs, lawmakers should work together across the aisle to maintain the positive reform trend of the past decade. At a time of huge global challenges that defy short-sighted solutions, we must make sure we are using our foreign assistance programs to drive the best results possible for the people we are trying to help and the taxpayers who support these efforts.”
In the aftermath of significant cuts to the international affairs budget, and as policymakers work to reorient U.S. foreign policy in a tumultuous Middle East and North Africa, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) has released a new paper arguing for dramatic changes in the way the U.S. develops and implements foreign assistance programs in the region.
The significant cuts to U.S. foreign assistance announced as part of the FY11 budget agreement make it imperative that foreign assistance reform become a priority, so that we can get the most out of fewer resources for alleviating poverty, eradicating disease, and forging sustainable economic growth in developing countries.
As Congress begins debate this week on funding the government for the remainder of 2011, we support current spending levels in the international affairs budget. Foreign assistance is not a nice-to-have perk in a world where complex challenges defy narrow solutions; it is a must-have pillar of our foreign policy alongside diplomacy and defense. In addition, now more than ever, foreign assistance reform must move forward, in order to make sure we can get the most out of every dollar we spend on development.
Though a sliver of our overall budget, U.S. foreign assistance delivers a real return-on-investment. The Obama administration and Congress need to support these programs and work together to make them more effective and accountable. And the American public deserves an honest debate about the importance of our foreign assistance.
“If that 1 percent was gone, the only face America would be putting to the world is one of helmets and boots on the ground,” said Sam Worthington, who heads InterAction, a coalition of U.S.-based relief groups that includes CARE and the International Rescue Committee. “It would deeply impact our image in the world and our ability to relate to other peoples.”
State’s spokesman P.J. Crowley told POLITICO, “If we have to take a significant cut in foreign assistance, in some fashion, that is going to affect Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Those are countries where we have vital interests and vital security concerns.”
As a new Congress gets into gear, both Republicans and Democrats have a solemn duty to do the people’s work and to make sure their taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely. U.S. foreign assistance is already under the microscope, as it should be, but we believe policymakers should focus on making it better instead of slashing budgets. Foreign assistance accounts for less than 1% of our federal budget, and our investments in it can pay real dividends for the cost.
We strongly oppose last week’s Republican Study Committee budget proposal, which would cut all operating expenses at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The cuts would derail the comprehensive reform agenda underway inside the agency, at a time when its ability to perform effectively is crucial to our national security, our economic interests, and the lives and well-being of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people.
“David Beckmann, co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, called Shah’s speech “extraordinary and hard-hitting” and ongoing USAID reforms “essential and timely,” urging the Obama administration to work with policymakers from both parties to draft legislation that will “enshrine this new development business model in law in order to drive long-term results.”