50 Years of USAID

November 3, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Today marks the 50th anniversary of USAID. To mark the occasion, a bipartisan group of former USAID Administrators and current USGLC advisors wrote an opinion editorial in today’s Politico. Together, Brian Atwood, Henrietta Fore, Peter McPherson and Andrew Natsios wrote “Over this half-century, USAID has had an extraordinary record of accomplishment.” and “as former administrators, from both parties, we call on Congress to resist the shortsighted urge to decimate USAID accounts. The stakes are too high for us to pull back from the global challenges the United States is facing around the world today.”

Must Reads

USGLC in the News

USAID is foreign policy’s best value (J. Brian Atwood, Henrietta Holsman Fore, M. Peter McPherson and Andrew Natsios, Politico)

Over this half-century, USAID has had an extraordinary record of accomplishment. Using less than 1 percent of the U.S. budget annually, the American people have demonstrated their deepest values through USAID programs, saving tens of millions of lives worldwide with immunization programs, oral rehydration therapy, treatment for HIV/AIDS and work on other diseases. Because of the efforts of the American people, more than 1 billion people now have safe drinking water, smallpox has been eradicated and tens of millions have been saved though USAID’s famine relief efforts.  In just the past 20 years, USAID’s agriculture and economic efforts helped reduce the number of the world’s chronically undernourished by 50 percent. USAID also helped orchestrate the agricultural green revolution in Asia that saved millions of lives, dramatically increased food production and lifted generations out of poverty.

Who’s in the News

Don’t strangle foreign aid, Gates to tell 20 (Les Whittington, The Toronto Star)

Bill Gates will tell G20 leaders Thursday that tightening foreign aid budgets — as Canada has done — is counterproductive and pointless.  In a unique opportunity to address world leaders, the Microsoft co-founder will say many people believe, given the current economic crisis, countries cannot be expected to increase their development assistance.  “But the fact is aid accounts for about 1 per cent of public spending in most donor countries,” Gates will say in a closed-door session. “That amount of money isn’t causing the world’s fiscal problems, and cutting back on overseas development aid isn’t going to solve them.  “Aid is a small investment that generates a huge return.”

Shah: USAID Taking ‘Long View’ in Partnership With Arab Spring Countries (Sara Sorcher, National Journal)

President John F. Kennedy created USAID in 1961, making it the first U.S. foreign assistance organization primarily focused on long-range economic and social development assistance efforts. After mass protests ousted longtime leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya this past year, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah told National Journal the U.S. will continue taking the “long view” when determining how to help these countries build institutions during their transitions. Edited excerpts follow.

Smart Power

Senators: US losing sway in Africa as China rises (Matthew Pennington, Associate Press)

Senators voiced concern Tuesday that the United States has lost influence with African governments as China has emerged as the continent’s main trading partner and a major source of investment for infrastructure development.  Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations African affairs subcommittee, said the U.S. goal of promoting open societies in Africa was being challenged by China offering no-strings-attached investment for repressive regimes.

Somalia’s Agony Tests Limits of Aid (Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times)

One reason the situation has gotten this grim is that most of the big Western aid agencies and charities, the ones with the technical expertise and so-called surge capacity to rapidly distribute aid, have been blocked from working in the famine zones…That said, it is not as if American or European aid agencies are simply giving up on Somalia. It’s the opposite. They’re stepping up operations and scrambling to find ways to get around the Shabab restrictions, turning to new technologies like sending electronic money by cellphone so people in famine zones can buy food themselves from local markets.  Western charities are also teaming up with the new players on the aid scene, like Turkish groups and other Muslim organizations that are allowed into Shabab areas.

Which wealthy governments are helping poor countries most? How helpful is the U.S.? (Allen McDuffee, Washington Post)

The Center for Global Development (CGD) just released its 2011 Commitment to Development Index, which evaluates how 22 wealthy governments help poor countries on seven factors–aid, trade, investment, migration, environment, security and technology.  Overall, the U.S. ranks fifth behind Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands–an improvement from seventh last year and 17th two years ago.

Foreign Assistance Funding (Ashley Portero, International Business Times)

Leaders of several Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious denominations and faith-based organizations will meet with a group of U.S. Senators on Capitol Hill on Monday as part of an effort to preserve foreign assistance funding prior to the Senate’s consideration of the FY 2012 Appropriations Act for the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.  The clergy aims to discuss the relationship between ethical values and the U.S. foreign assistance policy — particularly the moral obligations wealthier nation’s have to look out for struggling countries — and convince Senators to preserve all funding for those programs.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Evangelical opposites to hold discussion on 2012 presidential race (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post)

In evangelical America, the Revs. Richard Land and Jim Wallis are odd bedfellows.  Land is a leader of the huge, traditional Southern Baptist Convention who advises conservative talk show host Glenn Beck. Wallis is a staple on lists of the country’s most influential religious progressives.  But the men will convene an unusual public “discussion” on Wednesday night in Washington to talk about something upon which they agree: that the 2012 presidential candidates have not focused on core moral issues that for years have broadly defined evangelical voters. They say they are worried about candidates from both parties seeking to pull back from engagement overseas, whether that means programs that promote democracy or those that fight AIDS and malaria.

McCaskill: The Afghan oversight office is rudderless (Josh Rogin, The Cable)

It’s been almost one year since the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has had a permanent leader …  and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is not happy about it. SIGAR Arnie Fields resigned in January following over a year of bipartisan congressional criticism of his stewardship of the oversight office, which is responsible for finding waste, fraud, and abuse in the tens of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars being spent to build Afghanistan. On Aug. 4, acting Special Inspector General Herbert Richardson, Fields’s replacement, stepped down after only six months on the job, leaving that troubled office without a leader for the second time this year.