To a group of organizations and individuals pushing for reforms in the U.S. foreign aid system, the 2012 international affairs spending bill Congress passed over the weekend is both welcome and troubling — a sentiment that is perhaps shared by most members of the U.S. development community.
>> US Congress cuts $8B in foreign aid
The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network is pleased Congress avoided deep cuts into the U.S. State and foreign operations budget for 2012, David Beckmann and George Ingram, the group’s co-chairs, said in a statement.
MFAN also noted the bill has features and provisions that advance foreign aid reform priorities such as transparency, accountability and stronger country ownership. For one, USAID’s budget suffered a significantly smaller reduction than what was originally proposed by House Republicans, Beckmann and Ingram note.
Other promising features MFAN identified are:
There was explicit attention given to the need for a transparent transition of the leadership of the Global Health Initiative to USAID.
It supports a pilot program that targets reforms in USAID procurement practices.
There is support for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in U.S. development programs.
It provides funding for the improvement of fiscal transparency standards in developing country governments.
But MFAN stressed the $42.1 billion base funding allocated for the U.S. State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and related programs represents a “continued and troubling downward trend.”
The approved budget is $8.69 billion below U.S. President Barack Obama’s request of $50.79 billion and $6 billion less than the enacted budget for fiscal 2011. It is also lower than what U.S. aid and development groups have hoped for. They were pressing Congress to adopt a Senate proposal that provides $44.64 billion for U.S. international affairs spending.
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