Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Modernizing Foreign Assistance

Representatives from a cross-section of NGO’s, including the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (M-FAN), InterAction, and the International Center for Research on Women, convened at Women Thrive Worldwide July 21 to discuss foreign assistance reform. Participants at this month’s ‘Gender, Poverty and Foreign Working Group Meeting’ agreed that a new Foreign Assistance Act must be enacted to ensure that men and women receive equal benefits from US development assistance and that the US policy is firmly committed to UNDP’s Millennium Development Goal of women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Participants harmonized that today’s foreign assistance program is too outdated to effectively address current challenges. They collectively insisted that US principles for foreign assistance must be restructured and clearly redefined before any steps can be taken to modernization. To ensure that reform efforts are both dynamic and lasting, it is also necessary to distinguish them from national security interests (as it is commonly misconceived that they are one in the same). Only after giving these principles a long overdue facelift can US foreign assistance programs evolve to meet today’s global challenges. M-FAN describes four priority actions for modernizing U.S. foreign assistance:

1. Develop ONE national strategy for global development.
2. Reach a “grand bargain” between the President and Congress to enact an all-encompassing Foreign Assistance Act.
3.Create a Cabinet-level Department for Global Development to improve organizational capacity and to strengthen monitoring and evaluation
4. Increase funding for foreign assistance and heighten its accountability.

To elevate global development issues to a higher level of national priority, the organizational structures of US foreign assistance must become stronger and more collaborative. Additionally, the US government must invest in this heightened priority interest with sufficient and flexible resources.

Although members of the Gender, Poverty and Foreign Assistance Working Group represent a wide array of interests, their unified support of these principles and priorities allows them to leave their personal agendas at the door and to unite in hopes of broadening this campaign. August’s group meeting to discuss the particulars of the proposed Foreign Assistance Act seems promising, given the camaraderie among members and their commitment to making the Millennium Development Goal of women’s empowerment reality and to furthering development efforts in Washington.

Sponsor: Women Thrive Worldwide
Date: 21 July 2008
Time: 3-4 PM
Representative Attending: Elizabeth Caniano

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