Foreign Aid Reform a Top Priority, Says Foreign Policy

A new piece by Joshua Keating and Michael Wilkerson at Foreign Policy rated foreign assistance reform as one of the top five priorities for the Obama Administration and Congress.  A quote by MFAN’s Co-Chair David Beckmann appears in the article.  See an excerpt below:


Pending: The Initiating Foreign Assistance Act of 2009 in the House of Representatives and Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009 in the Senate are still being debated in committee

What’s the problem: For too long, foreign aid from the United States has been crippled by ineffective management, congressional earmarks, and short-term planning more focused on superficial “success stories” to bring to Congress than real results. With reform bills underway in both houses, genuine progress could be on the way.

Neither bill is particularly shocking or revolutionary, but each puts a premium on transparency and long-term planning. The Senate bill, for instance, requires all aid agencies to provide “comprehensive, timely, comparable and accessible information” about all aid programs online, on a program-by-program and country-by-country basis.

Passing these reform bills is an important first step, but Congress can do much more. After the recess, it should help the Obama administration fill vacancies as quickly as possible, and start by confirming an administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has been without an officially appointed leader for almost seven months.

Additionally, Congress ought to focus foreign assistance more on the recipients and less on their constituents. As the Rev. David Beckmann, president of the NGO Bread for the World, sarcastically told the Washington Post, “In the USAID budget, every dollar has three purposes: help build an Air Force base, support the University of Mississippi, get some country to vote our way.” This is not an acceptable situation.

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