A New Agenda for Aid Reform

April 28, 2011 By Joel Paque

Today, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) released an updated policy agenda focused on new reforms to bring additional transparency and accountability to America’s investment in international development. These recommendations are designed to build on progress that has already been made and make U.S. programs more effective at alleviating poverty, eradicating disease, and driving sustainable economic growth in developing countries. In the midst of debates about the federal budget, these proposed reforms demonstrate a serious approach to ensuring U.S. assistance is as cost effective and efficient as possible.

In today’s interconnected world, our investment in International Affairs programs is critical to our national security and economic prosperity, yet major cuts have been proposed by some on Capitol Hill. As a result, MFAN’s policy prescription for a sleeker, more efficient international affairs investment arrives at an important time. In a broad campaign across social media and other platforms, today MFAN will unveil the guiding document  of this new strategy, titled From Policy to Practice: Maximizing the Impact and Accountability of U.S. Global Development Efforts.

In a news release, MFAN Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram, and Jim Kolbe said: “Policymakers must prioritize reform so that we can get the most out of the resources we have for development in the short-term and create a system that will deliver better results over the long-term. In From Policy to Practice we argue that policymakers can take a series of practical and cost-effective steps to reach these goals and build on the historic progress that has already been made on reform.”

Among the policy recommendations in MFAN’s new guide are:

  • Maximize efficiencies in the foreign assistance system by eliminating wasteful regulations, coordinating efforts with partners, and demanding clear results.
  • Prioritize accountability with clear objectives, better coordination with other donors and stakeholders, greater transparency, and more effective monitoring and evaluation.

  • Enact modern foreign assistance legislation that codifies a shared Executive-Legislative vision for U.S. development efforts and provides the flexibility to spend resources according to needs and opportunities on the ground.

  • Ensure policies and investments are driven by local priorities, as established through participatory, transparent consultations.

  • Institutionalize the distinction between diplomacy and development, including by formalizing a role for the USAID Administrator to participate in meetings of the National Security Council.

  • Create a strong, empowered 21st century U.S. development agency, including by giving USAID full authority over its policies and budget.

MFAN and its members are urging policymakers to act quickly on these priorities, as taking these steps can help strengthen America’s hand in dealing with fiscal and geopolitical challenges around the world.