A New Day is Dawning for U.S. Foreign Policy

Jun 02, 2010, 17:12 ET from InterAction

Congress, USAID and The World Bank Agree at InterAction 2010 Forum

WASHINGTON, June 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- There is a new day dawning in U.S. foreign policy. That was the overarching message coming out of InterAction's opening plenary session today, A New Direction for U.S. Foreign Assistance. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA) called for the "hollowing out" of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to be reversed. "The U.S. has to have one voice when it comes to international development," said Connolly. "That voice must be USAID." Connolly said, "We need a cogent, compelling reason to move forward with a vigorous development program, beyond the legitimate moral argument. We need to reestablish U.S. credentials in terms of cutting age development in the world. The NGO community can help us think through the rationales."

USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah agreed. "We have the unique opportunity to frame what development should be for the next 50 years," said Shah. "President Obama believes deeply in development and sees development as a cornerstone of his national security strategy. Secretary Clinton calls development a strategic, economic and moral imperative." Shah stressed the importance of evidence-based development. He cited Haiti as an important case of development at work. "Data shows more people getting clean water now than before the earthquake. There is less diarrhea and many people are healthier."

Ruth Levine, Director of Evaluation, Policy Analysis & Learning at USAID, said that to help push the process of foreign aid reform forward, the NGO community needs to "keep up the pressure." "Big institutional changes come partly in response to outside pressure," said Levine.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director of Policy Planning for the State Department, also stressed the importance of USAID and said that along with the State Department, the two offices are the nexus. "We can use our diplomatic clout to elevate issues," said Slaughter.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick, video-conferenced in from London for a conversation with Samuel A. Worthington, InterAction's President and CEO, and the audience of several hundred participants at the Forum. Like USAID, Zoellick said the World Bank is adapting to a post-Cold War world. "We are no longer in a North-South world, we need to treat developing countries as clients," said Zoellick. "Africa is totally transforming. With investments in telecommunications of more than $60 billion in sub-Saharan Africa, 55 percent of Africans now have access to cell phones."

InterAction is the largest alliance of US-based international nongovernmental organizations. Our 188 members operate in every developing country, working with local communities to overcome poverty and suffering to improve quality of life. www.interaction.org

SOURCE InterAction