Over the weekend, The Washington Post ran an op-ed by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in which she elaborates on the partnership between Liberia and the U.S. that has helped set her country on a path to recovery, and even growth, following a decades-long civil war. She writes: “Thanks to our partnership with the American people, we are rebuilding roads, clinics, and schools, and expanding access to electricity, water, and sanitation. It is critical that this aid continues in next year’s budget.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) has introduced the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2012-13, which calls for robust resources for U.S. diplomacy and development programs that are critical components of U.S. foreign policy in a challenging world. MFAN applauds Chairman Kerry for authoring a bill that demonstrates a strong commitment to the civilian tools of U.S. global leadership and pushes forward the vital reforms to U.S. foreign assistance.
The DAC is to be commended for writing an informative report that offers constructive and concrete recommendations for advancing foreign assistance reform. The question is whether the Obama administration and the Congress will take the recommendations to heart and work together to finish the job.
In a letter obtained by The Washington Post, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that she will urge a veto if a House Foreign Affairs committee bill that outlines severe restrictions and cuts to foreign assistance programs reaches the White House.
The severe cuts to U.S. foreign assistance proposed yesterday by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations (SFOPS) would fall hardest on the world’s poorest people, millions of whom are alive and thriving today because of U.S. leadership on international development over the last decade.
During yesterday’s mark-up of the FY2012 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs unanimously passed an amendment authored by Ranking Member Howard Berman that articulates clear goals for U.S. foreign assistance. By fostering bipartisan support for the amendment’s passage, Ranking Member Berman, Congress’ most vocal champion of foreign assistance reform, and Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have created important momentum towards a larger goal: rewriting the Cold War-era Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. This is imperative in a world of complex and evolved challenges and tight budgets.
MFAN applauds the leadership of Congressman Poe in authoring these reform measures, and we also thank Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) for pushing bipartisan support for the amendments, which passed the committee unanimously.
The Fiscal Year 2012 Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R. 2583), which is under consideration by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (HCFA) today, advances some useful pieces of the foreign assistance reform agenda, including prioritizing economic growth as a central goal of U.S. engagement with developing countries, fostering greater collaboration with non-government actors on development, streamlining the foreign assistance bureaucracy, and coordinating more effectively with international partners.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Report on Afghanistan assistance released yesterday contains some signs of progress, as well as compelling evidence that the Obama Administration’s efforts to reform U.S. foreign assistance are moving in the right direction. That said, we agree with the report’s conclusion that policymakers must create a long-term development strategy for Afghanistan that is more comprehensive and accountable. We continue to need a similar strategy, which was promised in last year’s Presidential Policy Directive on Development, for broader U.S. efforts to alleviate poverty, improve public health, and spur economic growth in poor countries. In both strategies, policymakers need to make clear distinctions between assistance for security purposes and assistance for development.
We commend President Obama for launching a bold new effort to make development, particularly inclusive economic growth, a top priority for U.S. policy in the Middle East. This is critical to helping citizens of the Middle East move from poverty and protest to peace and prosperity; and another example of the strong, bipartisan commitment to elevating development as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy, alongside diplomacy and defense.