What We're Reading: Rep. Berman Calls For Reforms, Not Cuts, To Foreign Assistance
September 16, 2011
As debate continues on Capitol Hill over potential funding cuts to foreign assistance programs, we are reading about a member of Congress who is advocating for reforming the system – instead of defunding it.
Last week, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, released “The Global Partnership Act of 2011,”
draft legislation that would change how the U.S. delivers foreign assistance around the world.
The bill is intended to replace the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the current legislation that dictates all forms of U.S. foreign assistance delivery.
“A bill that was passed at the height of the Cold War has in many places lost its focus and in many ways lost its relevance,” he told The Cable. “Everybody knows that the foreign assistance act is in desperate need of reform. ”
On The Hill’s Congress Blog
, a representative of Oxfam America discussed how foreign aid has been able to achieve huge successes, despite working under a legislative framework that turned 50 years old this year:
U.S. Capitol Building
“Fortunately, aid workers have soldiered through the legislative mess. Foreign aid has reduced the number of children who die before their fifth birthday by four million since 1990, put 33 million more children in the classroom, and increased ten-fold the number of people receiving HIV/AIDS medication.”
The main goal of the new legislation would be to modernize the U.S. foreign assistance system so that it learns from our experiences over the past fifty years, and meets the needs of the 21st Century.
According to Rep. Berman, his proposal would introduce a number of innovations and improvements:
• Partnering with local governments and communities
• Increasing interagency coordination
• Eliminating duplicative programs and increasing efficiencies
• Simplifying procurement regulations and reporting requirements
• Improving transparency
• Strengthening accountability and oversight
• Leveraging private investments
The proposal also seeks to transform the donor-recipient relationship into a true partnership. This is an approach similar to that used by the much-lauded President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)
, which has seen great success in turning the tide against the global spread of HIV/AIDS.
Before the draft legislation is introduced in Congress, Rep. Berman has asked stakeholders to comment and weigh in on potential changes. We look forward to watching this proposal develop in the months to come.
Kati Moore is the Foundation’s Public Policy and Advocacy Associate in Washington, D.C.