With mounting challenges overseas– from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, to devastating famines, to tension with North Korea – this year has shown us that American global leadership is more important now than ever before. And as the year draws to a close, we’ve rounded up our top ten blogs of 2017 – the inspiring stories of U.S. foreign assistance, it’s impact around the world and here at home.
2017 brought a steady stream of challenges and changes to U.S. foreign policy and development assistance – from a new Administration taking the reins, to a budget proposal that sent shockwaves through Washington, to a steady drumbeat of support for American global leadership. We’ve gathered 12 of the top stories from the past year – one from each month – that you won’t want to miss.
At the heart of USAID Administrator Mark Green’s vision for the agency is “to end the need for its existence,” and a desire to transition countries that may no longer need development assistance to a new relationship with the United States. But against the backdrop of the proposed 32% cut to the International Affairs Budget, there have been some concerns that “transitions” could serve as a cover for cutting aid budgets and closing missions.
Last month, former presidential candidate and liberal icon Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) traveled to America’s heartland to lay out his vision of a progressive foreign policy. Speaking at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, Sanders’ hour-long speech outlining how he views America’s role in the world was the most comprehensive of his career to date.
A chorus of voices – from top military leaders, to retired generals and admirals, to business owners, and the faith community – have spoken out in support of America’s diplomatic and development programs. On Capitol Hill – where funding levels will ultimately be determined – lawmakers on both sides of the aisle made clear early on that the Administration’s budget was “dead on arrival.” And they didn’t stop there.
After sailing through his nomination hearing with strong bipartisan support, senators on the Foreign Relations Committee and other development leaders have called for a speedy confirmation for Ambassador Mark Green as the 18th Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development. While he will face a host of other challenges— including the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, and a budget proposal that seeks drastic cuts to USAID— he remains hopeful about the opportunities and improvements that have been made at the agency.
Last week, the chorus of voices in support of America’s diplomacy and development programs reverberated across Capitol Hill as Cabinet officials testified on the Administration’s proposal to cut the International Affairs Budget by a draconian and disproportionate 32%.
Last week, the Administration released its full FY18 budget request, which includes a 32 percent cut to the International Affairs Budget and signals the potential elimination of U.S. assistance to 37 nations. China, on the other hand, recently held a summit to launch a multibillion dollar global infrastructure and development initiative spanning 65 countries that account for 60 percent of the world’s population. One Belt One Road is President Xi Xinping’s ambitious effort to re-assert China’s global economic leadership. China seeks to revive the historic “Silk Road” trading route— spanning from the Netherlands to Indonesia— which helped facilitate international trade for centuries.
As former Secretary of Defense Gates has said, “You would find…extraordinary support across the entire Defense Department” for the State Department “and for their budget,” a fact that been made readily apparent over the last month. In written and oral testimony in Congress, our military’s most senior officers have made it clear that the Administration’s proposed cuts would not only make their jobs harder, but that a strong, fully resourced International Affairs Budget is vital to an effective national security strategy.
If USAID were to be integrated into State, this restructuring would not only ignore the great strides USAID has made to become more efficient and accountable over the past decade, but would also make our development assistance less effective in the long run. The U.S. government’s capacity through USAID to work among foreign populations and contain threats, to set long-term goals, and to effectively monitor and evaluate development programs are all crucial capabilities that would likely be lost.