Shortly after the US election, I blogged about the promising discussions on US aid reform in Washington. Those are now starting to bear fruit. In late April, Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced a bill (The Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009–HR 2139). Here are some of his covering remarks:
‘This legislation is an important first step to reforming and improving the U.S. foreign assistance program, particularly with respect to developing countries. I call it a first step because I intend to work with my House and Senate colleagues later this year on a broader reform effort that will include a comprehensive rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.
There is broad consensus that the U.S. foreign assistance program is in need of a significant overhaul. Currently, foreign assistance programs are fragmented across 12 departments, 25 different agencies, and nearly 60 government offices. The current foreign assistance structure is characterized by duplication, fragmentation, and conflicting purposes and objectives.
In order to begin addressing these issues, this bill requires the President to develop and implement a comprehensive National Strategy for Global Development, which will define and streamline the roles of each department and agency engaged in development policies, programs and activities overseas. In addition, the strategy will establish a process to review and improve coordination among the various departments and agencies involved. The strategy will also establish objectives for our development programs, with the goal of reducing poverty and contributing to broad-based economic growth in developing countries. Most importantly, it will spell out the connection between reducing poverty in the developing world and advancing U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.’
If you’re a US citizen and want to email your representative to voice your support for the bill, click here.
If the bill becomes law, the next step will be to ensure decent content gets into any national strategy for global development. Oxfam and the Center for American Progress brought together a bunch of the development great and good to flesh out what this might mean. See their recommendations for a national strategy here.
And if you’re still hungry, click here to find out more about Oxfam America’s advocacy work on the US aid system.