Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his Republican colleague Richard Lugar today introduced a bill to overhaul the US government's system for providing global development aid.
The bill would make numerous changes in the way American aid is handled, and would strengthen the US Agency for International Development, the key foreign assistance agency that has withered in recent years as aid programs were shifted to other departments, including the Pentagon.
It is widely expected that Dr. Paul Farmer of Harvard Medical School, founder of Boston-based Partners in Health and a leading global health activist, will be appointed to head USAID. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained publicly this month that the onerous vetting process of candidates for presidential nominations has delayed filling the USAID post and other senior positions.
The legislation co-sponsored by Kerry, Lugar and other senators from both parties would require increased coordination and transparency in US aid programs. It would reestablish a bureau for strategic planning within USAID, and give more authority to USAID staffers in the field. It would also create an executive-branch council that would evaluate US assistance programs.
Oxfam America, the Boston-based non-profit relief and development group, welcomed the bipartisan Senate bill.
Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, said in a statement, “Over the last two decades, USAID has had its legs cut out from under it – its resources and staff have been slashed while more development capacity has been shifted to the Department of Defense. Along with rebuilding USAID, the US must shift its focus from development projects that meet short-term political and security goals back to long term development goals that not only help more people escape poverty, but in the long run, create greater stability and good will for the US. Rebuilding USAID gives the US and its development policy a start down the right path.”
Many development groups have pushed the new Obama Administration to push fast to address the fragmented foreign aid process. Clinton said recently she would work to elevate foreign development to the level of defense and diplomacy in US foreign policy strategy. Legislation has also been introduced in the House to require a more strategic approach to development assistance.
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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