Foreign Assistance Reforms: Successes, Failures, and Next Steps - Testimony for the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Development, Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection

December 23, 2009

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From Dr. Radelet's testimony:

Today the United States and its partners face many complex global challenges, including new security threats, the spread of virulent diseases, the opportunities and potential pitfalls of globalization, climate change, and fallout from the war in Iraq. Meeting these challenges requires a bold new vision of American leadership. America must lead with the strength of its core values, ideas and ingenuity. Today’s challenges require an integrated foreign policy that promotes our values, enhances our security, helps create economic and political opportunities for people around the world, and restores America's faltering image abroad. To achieve these goals the United States must make greater use of "smart power" by integrating all the tools of statecraft, including diplomacy, defense, trade, investment, intelligence, and -- the subject of our discussion today -- a strong and effective foreign assistance strategy.

I wish to make three key points in my testimony today. First, the process of reform of our foreign assistance programs is long overdue. While many of our programs are effective in achieving development outcomes, there is little doubt they can be improved. The administration deserves credit for initiating this process, however belatedly.

Second, unfortunately, as designed the reforms are only partial and do not go far enough to substantially strengthen our foreign assistance programs and to meet today's most important foreign policy challenges. Deeper reforms are necessary that incorporate a larger share of assistance programs, involve Congress in changing existing legislation, more deeply change executive branch administrative structures, and guard against the possibility of the politicization of foreign assistance programs.

Third, while the reform process so far includes some important positive elements, the process has not been implemented as well as it could have been. A relatively closed deliberations process and poor communication has led to misunderstandings within the agencies involved, with other agencies, with Capitol Hill, and with key actors outside the government. A reinvigorated approach with greater consultations and some changes in strategy is needed to move the process forward in the coming months. Key next steps include strengthening communication and building constituencies for reform, bringing in a more experienced team as part of the effort, strengthening the process for developing country plans, further refining the budget process, and developing a stronger approach for monitoring and evaluation.

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