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USAID Reform Should Be ‘Priority’ For U.S. Government

“The amount of good our nation has done for poor and hungry people around the world over the last 10 years is astounding,” Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; George Ingram, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; and former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and a senior adviser at McLarty Associates, write in a Politico opinion piece. The authors, co-chairs of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, continue, “We have saved and improved millions of lives through programs like [PEPFAR], which was launched by former President George W. Bush to battle the disease in Africa, and the Feed the Future initiative, which President Obama started to support small farmers and the growth of local economies in developing countries.” They note the 2010 Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD), meant to reform USAID, as well as the recent release of the USAID Forward Progress Report, and write, “Completing this transformation must be a foreign policy priority for Obama and his successors because effective and robust development efforts will have to play a larger role in U.S. foreign policy if we are to maintain a strong global presence as our major military engagements end.”

The authors outline several key areas on which USAID reform has focused, including evaluation and selectivity, country ownership, economic growth and innovation, partnership, and transparency. “In addition to increased diligence and resolve by the Obama administration and USAID, congressional engagement is needed to solidify these reforms,” they write, adding, “The president’s budget includes strong reform elements, including a proposal to reshape the inefficient U.S. food aid system to reach more people and save more taxpayer dollars, and we urge Congress to support this and other proposals.” The authors continue, “Completing the transformation of U.S. foreign assistance will reposition the U.S. as not just the most generous, but also the most strategic, innovative, and effective player in global development. … The opportunity at hand for the next 10 years is to turn progress into lasting change by helping those people take control of their own lives” (4/15).