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Berman Introduces Bipartisan Legislation Requiring U.S. Foreign Assistance Strategy

Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today introduced bipartisan legislation requiring a comprehensive strategy for U.S. efforts to reduce global poverty and promote broad-based economic growth in developing countries. Below is Berman’s statement of introduction for the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act (H.R. 2139), which was co-sponsored by Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL). A copy of the legislation is attached.

“Madam Speaker, today I introduced the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009. This legislation is an important first step to reforming and improving the U.S. foreign assistance program, particularly with respect to developing countries. I call it a first step because I intend to work with my House and Senate colleagues later this year on a broader reform effort that will include a comprehensive rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

“There is broad consensus that the U.S. foreign assistance program is in need of a significant overhaul. Currently, foreign assistance programs are fragmented across 12 departments, 25 different agencies, and nearly 60 government offices. The current foreign assistance structure is characterized by duplication, fragmentation, and conflicting purposes and objectives. As a result, the U.S. lacks a clear and consistent strategy towards developing countries. Last week, the Government Accountability Office issued a report detailing the urgent need for developing such a strategy.

“Over the years, there have also been criticisms about the accountability, effectiveness, and transparency of U.S. foreign assistance. While some of these criticisms have merit, in the vast majority of cases our assistance is being used to help lift people out of poverty, combat food insecurity, and promote stability and good governance all over the world. Yet without an effective and transparent system that tracks our assistance, it is difficult to document our successes.

“In order to begin addressing these issues, this bill requires the President to develop and implement a comprehensive National Strategy for Global Development, which will define and streamline the roles of each department and agency engaged in development policies, programs and activities overseas. In addition, the strategy will establish a process to review and improve coordination among the various departments and agencies involved. The strategy will also establish objectives for our development programs, with the goal of reducing poverty and contributing to broad-based economic growth in developing countries. Most importantly, it will spell out the connection between reducing poverty in the developing world and advancing U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.

“To improve the accountability and transparency of foreign aid, the legislation requires each U.S. department and agency carrying out foreign assistance to develop a system to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of assistance programs. It also requires the President to publish and make publicly available comprehensive information on U.S. foreign assistance on a program-by-program and country-by-country basis. Upon enactment of this legislation, every American and all recipients of U.S. foreign aid will be able to see where and how U.S. foreign assistance is being used.

“Madam Speaker, overhauling our foreign assistance apparatus is critical to safeguarding America’s long-term national security, confronting transnational threats, stimulating global economic growth and ensuring that U.S. foreign assistance reflects the values and priorities of the American people. This legislation is a critical first step in achieving these objectives, and I look forward to working with my House and Senate colleagues and the Obama Administration on the broader U.S. foreign assistance reform effort.”

Click here to read the legislation.

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