Last night at the Society for International Development’s annual Washington awards dinner, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Minority Member Dick Lugar (R-IN) were honored for their efforts to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective, transparent, and accountable. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah honored both Kerry and Lugar with an introductory speech, in which he also noted the importance of foreign assistance reform.
Senator Lugar gave a speech entitled “Foreign Assistance and Development in a New Era,” which touched on important aspects of MFAN’s foreign assistance reform agenda. Key excerpts are below:
“There is probably not a person in this room who would disagree that development is critical for U.S. national security and that the alleviation of poverty and hunger is a key component. This is a sentiment that is shared in most parts of our government, including the Department of Defense.”
“Although diplomacy and development often can be mutually reinforcing, at their core, they have different priorities, resource requirements, and time horizons… Most obviously, diplomacy is far more concerned with solving immediate problems, usually associated with countries of strategic interest. Although we hope that our development efforts will sometimes yield short-term strategic benefits, that is not their primary purpose. In a development context, we are willing to take a much longer view of the world and devote resources to countries of less, or even minimal, strategic significance. We are willing to allow the diplomatic and national security benefits of development work to accrue over time. And we are willing to engage in missions for purely altruistic reasons. These differences underscore why development must be an independent partner of diplomacy, not merely its servant.”
“Reforming U.S. foreign assistance – in both substance and architecture – has been a priority for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Secretary Clinton has stated: “I want USAID to be seen as the premier development agency in the world.” I share that sentiment. One of the basic questions with respect to foreign aid reform is how we can best strengthen the capacity of USAID to run effective assistance programs.”
“USAID must have a central role in development policy decisions. If we are to avoid inefficient experimentation, it must have the capacity to evaluate programs and disseminate information about best practices and methods. That requires policy makers to continue augmenting the agency’s staffing and expertise. These principals are reflected in legislation that Senator Kerry and I introduced last year, S. 1524, the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act.”
“[S.1524] has strong support in the aid community. And it is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 23 Senators, twelve of whom are members of the Foreign Relations Committee. This level of backing for a bill related to foreign assistance is extremely rare…I am hopeful that the Executive Branch will recognize that a bill co-sponsored by a majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and nearly a quarter of the full Senate should be given substantial weight in its review process. A strong development agency that serves under the foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State, as envisioned in our bill, will best empower her to advance U.S. goals.”