A Note on Aid Reform: A New Year Agenda as the Government Returns to Work

Happy New Year everyone,

I’m excited to write you for the first time as MFAN’s interim Executive Director. After 30+ years at the Congressional Research Service and a decade consulting for various MFAN members, I’m eager to work directly on MFAN’s aid reform issues. As you may know, MFAN has been going through some changes, including bidding a fond farewell to our former Deputy Director and Senior Policy Advisor Stephanie Cappa. As the coalition continues to shape its agenda for 2019 and beyond, I’m looking forward to recruiting a permanent Executive Director and seeing MFAN into its next phase of aid reform success.

While the coalition moves ahead on our work for the year, our colleagues at USAID, MCC, and other agencies were not able to start the year with such momentum. The longest U.S. government shutdown had wide implications throughout the federal government, and our development and diplomacy work, both on the ground and in Washington, was not spared.  MFAN has been exploring the ways in which budget uncertainty issues across government can affect our programs. But time does not stop for a shutdown, and MFAN is staying engaged with a number of aid effectiveness deadlines that are fast approaching…

January marks the administration’s deadline for all agencies administering foreign assistance to put in place monitoring and evaluation policies, as called for in the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (FATAA). Monitoring and evaluation is a powerful tool for effectiveness, allowing for mid-course corrections and informing future programming decisions, which can increase the impact of our foreign assistance dollars. MFAN joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to call on OMB for a status report on implementation of these plans. OMB missed the deadline requested by the eight Senators and Representatives, so we will continue to watch FATAA implementation closely.

Another deadline fast approaching is February 2, when the Trump administration submits its plan to Congress for the new Development Finance Corporation. MFAN believes that the new entity can become a leader in development by emphasizing development impact, establishing strong linkages with USAID, and setting a new global standard for transparency. The Trump administration and Congress can ensure that the DFC maximizes its intended impact by incorporating these elements into the new agency’s implementation plan.

In February, we also expect to see the President’s Budget Request for FY2020. The Trump administration’s previous budgets proposed deep funding cuts for foreign aid, and the upcoming request may be no different. It’s important that the development community and Congress continue to advocate for effective U.S. foreign aid that is adequately resourced and directed to countries where the need is greatest and where it can have the most impact.


Larry Nowels

MFAN Interim Executive Director

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