The Foreign-Aid Reform Process Begins!

May 12, 2009

You heard from us during Lent about the vital need to reform the U.S. foreign-assistance system in order to better prioritize, and gain leverage in, the fight against global poverty and deadly disease. This is particularly important at a time when the global financial crisis is pushing tens of millions of new people around the world below the deadly poverty line, and tight budgets in the United States may mean that critical global-health programs are forced to operate with fewer resources than previously planned. And remember, foreign aid is already less than one percent of the federal budget. On April 28, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), along with Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), introduced a bipartisan bill that begins the foreign-aid reform process in earnest. The Episcopal Church is proud to endorse the bill and work to gain congressional cosponsors for it.

Called the "Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act" (H.R. 2139), the bill directs President Obama to develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy to promote global-economic development and fight deadly poverty around the world. Such a strategy is a critical precursor to congressional efforts – expected to begin later this year – to redesign and update our-nation's foreign-aid system for the 21st Century, elevating economic development alongside defense and diplomacy in our nation's foreign policy, and making the system more accountable to American taxpayers and more efficient in its use of resources.

Specifically, the bill does four things:

  1. Streamline: Requires the President to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to define and streamline the roles of each department and agency engaged in U.S. global-development efforts and prioritize the fight against deadly poverty;
  2. Monitor: Requires the President to develop and implement a rigorous system to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of our nation's foreign-aid programs;
  3. Report: Requires the U.S. government to make available detailed country-by-country information on all aspects of the foreign-aid system, and to make this information easily accessible both to American taxpayers as well as recipients of U.S. foreign aid; and
  4. Repeal: Repeals a few outdated provisions of the 1961 foreign-assistance law that are technical in nature and no longer relevant.

In order to build congressional momentum around the bill and ensure that this vital issue does not get ignored in a year when policymakers' attention is focused on a host of other crucial economic issues, we need to gather as many congressional cosponsors of the legislation as possible. Please click here to send a message to your Representative asking him or her to cosponsor H.R. 2139.

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