QDDR Blog Series: MFAN Co-Chair David Beckmann on Poverty

The third installment in MFAN’s QDDR blog series comes from our Co-Chair, Rev. David Beckmann, who is president of the leading anti-poverty advocacy organization Bread for the World.  To see other posts in the series, click on the following names – George Ingram, Noam Unger.


The QDDR and Poverty Reduction

by Rev. David Beckmann

Bread for the World wants a reform of U.S. foreign assistance that will make it more effective in reducing poverty.

The Obama administration has already taken important steps towards reforming foreign assistance.  President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made development and global poverty reduction a higher priority in U.S. foreign policy.  They have achieved increased funding for development assistance and added staffing to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  They have also launched the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative (which thrills us at Bread for the World) and announced a more integrated approach to global health.

We are now looking to the QDDR and the Presidential Study Directive to chart a course toward the “elevated, streamlined, and empowered 21st century U.S. development agency” that President Obama pledged to create during his campaign.

Over the last couple decades, USAID has become weaker than it once was. We need a strong government agency that is focused mainly on development and poverty reduction. Development assistance programs have been most effective in reducing hunger, poverty, and disease when they had a single-minded focus.  The program of debt reduction for highly indebted poor countries is a good example.  So are the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).  When we have tried to achieve national security objectives and help poor people with the same dollars, the record of success has been mixed.

Development assistance will need to be coordinated with other foreign policy purposes.  But unless we have a strong development agency that can think clearly, in a focused way, about what’s good for poor people, our assistance is unlikely to be effective in reducing poverty.  Reducing poverty around the world is important to U.S. national security, but our government will not be as effective in reducing poverty if our self-interest motives are mixed into the planning at every step in the process.

Over time, some of the many foreign assistance programs that are now scattered across the U.S. government need to be better connected to – in some cases, merged into – the 21st century development agency that the President has promised.  That will allow our nation’s lead development agency to coordinate our assistance programs and better respond to local needs and priorities.  We hope the initial findings of the QDDR will address these issues clearly and concretely.

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