U.S. President Barack Obama needs to take “decisive action” to restore the nation’s leadership in development assistance, an expert says.
Obama’s endorsement of “A New Approach to Development” at June’s G-8 summit is a good start, but George Ingram, co-chairman of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, said policy must translate into action.
“Progress on actual nuts and bolts of turning policy into action has been less forthcoming. It is time to act on the broad recognition that multiple agencies carrying out similar or inconsistent programs is not good practice; that assistance programs need greater transparency and accountability; and that the legislative foundation for our foreign assistance system, a 500-page Cold War-era statute, lacks clear goals and objectives and is bursting at the seams with outdated, overlapping, and duplicative and conflicting provisions,” Ingram wrote in The Huffington Post.
To reform the U.S. foreign aid program, Ingram suggests that Obama take three immediate steps.
First, Obama should live up to the vision contained in his G-8 announcement on the U.S.’s new approach to development, particularly in the run-up to the Millennium Development Goals summit in September.
“In order to achieve success, the strategy must address the issues at the heart of the current debate. Is achieving broad-based, sustainable development a goal in itself for U.S. global engagement, or is it merely a tool for diplomatic or defensive objectives? Furthermore, will development experts, rather than diplomats or soldiers, have the authority and resources to lead our foreign aid programs?” Ingram asked.
Second, Obama must express willingness to collaborate with Congress on foreign aid reform.
“Last year, 126 Representatives and 23 Senators from both sides of the aisle supported foreign aid reform legislation, but the President’s push is needed to make larger strides,” he said.
Finally, Obama must fill key vacancies at the U.S. Agency for International Development, and empower the agency with “clear authority” and mechanisms to collaborate with the State Department.