U.S. NGOs welcome Rep. Berman's foreign assistance reform bill

Dec 12, 2012, 11:42 ET from InterAction

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NGO alliance InterAction welcomes provisions included in legislation introduced  today by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) that will help modernize the delivery and effectiveness of foreign assistance.

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Called the "Global Partnerships Act," the bill is the most significant Congressional effort to modernize assistance since the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.  The aim of the new legislation is to establish a long overdue framework to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of assistance, and ensure the United States gets the best value for its investment in international development.

"Rep. Berman's efforts to streamline and modernize foreign assistance make fiscal sense and include many of the reform elements that InterAction members have championed for years.  At a time when some in Congress want to disproportionately cut budgets, Rep. Berman's approach, by contrast, would help improve our aid programs and ensure we spend money where it will have the most impact," said Samuel A. Worthington, president and CEO of InterAction.

Among its key provisions – many of which have been advocated for by InterAction member organizations – the  new bill would:

  • Improve interagency coordination by officially putting into statute the Interagency Policy Committee on Global Development, which oversees and coordinates all U.S. budgets, policies, strategies and programs affecting international development.
  • Require the development of a comprehensive U.S. Strategy for Global Development every four years that includes clear, specific goals for U.S. policies and programs to advance global development.
  • Require a comprehensive plan to strengthen and rebuild USAID capacity.
  • Stipulate that humanitarian action should be primarily civilian in nature, with the Department of Defense providing overseas humanitarian assistance only when there is no comparable civilian alternative, and the use of military assets can uniquely meet a critical humanitarian need.
  • Call for U.S. humanitarian action to meet international standards and ensure equal treatment of refugees, internationally displaced persons, and others affected by conflict.
  • Emphasize country ownership as a key principle of U.S. development policy.
  • Articulate—for the first time in U.S. law—that the goal of humanitarian assistance is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and protect the rights of extremely vulnerable people.
  • Highlight that those affected by conflict are at greater risk for sex- and gender-based violence.
  • Stress the importance of building capacity in local partner countries.

"This legislation is long overdue and we urge others in Congress to follow Rep. Berman's example and support the key reforms in this bill," said Worthington. "InterAction thanks Rep. Berman for his leadership throughout his time in Congress.  Although he will be leaving the House of Representatives at the end of this year, the bill provides a good vehicle for important aid reforms.  InterAction looks forward to working with members of both parties to advance the bill's key development goals in the 113th Congress," added Worthington.

InterAction is the largest alliance of U.S.-based nongovernmental international organizations, with more than 190 members. Our members operate in every developing country, working with local communities to overcome poverty and suffering by helping to improve their quality of life. Visit www.interaction.org. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

SOURCE InterAction