As part of the Presidential Study Directive on Foreign Assistance, initiated by President Obama at the end of August, the National Security Council has socilcited input from the NGO community on what U.S. development should look like. AFJN and several partner organizations signed the following statement expressing our position on how foreign aid does and needs to relate to the continent of Africa.
Read the full statement below.
As one of the largest collections of U.S. organizations working on U.S. foreign policy towards Africa, promoting human rights and justice, we submit to you this paper on foreign aid reform and urge that future U.S. foreign assistance be based on the following principles:
1) be guided by the goal of reducing global poverty, and that this effort be coordinated with all relevant U.S. civilian agencies, as well as with similar efforts from other partners from the international community. working to reduce global poverty.
2) include strategies and resources for both effective immediate humanitarian assistance and long-term development that reaches all people,
3) ..allows greater the participation of poor people in the development, implementation and oversight of development strategies through programs that will help meet the country’s poverty-reduction goals in ways that respect local conditions and cultures and involves and strengthens local government and civil society
4) …ensures that U.S. long-term development goals are not subordinated to short-term security and political concerns without serious debate or justification
5) …is connected to specific bold targets and measurable improvements in the lives of poor people, such as the Millennium Development Goals and other globally endorsed targets
Specific Recommendations:
As with all countries heavily invested in African resources, the role of U.S. foreign assistance is going to be an extension of its economic and security interests. We believe that the leading threat to U.S. security is global poverty, as , it provides a rational and an incentive for recruiting individuals to fight against U.S. interests and often contributes to political instability, conflict and human rights abuses that in turn create humanitarian crises.
An economy must be able to produce an adequate supply of fair-paying jobs or poverty will limit the market for U.S. goods and overwhelm governments attempting to break their dependence on foreign assistance to public institutions and civilian capacity. When foreign assistance is delivered and directed towards poverty reduction and human security, the result is a more stable and secure world for U.S. national interests.

  1. S. foreign aid should be guided by the overall goal of reducing poverty, with all relevant U.S. civilian agencies, along with the other members of the international community, working together towards achieving this objective. Foreign aid strategies should be developed based on an analysis of the underlying factors that contribute to poverty in each country that receives U.S. Government assistance. These strategies should incorporate balanced interventions including agriculture, trade, health, education, the environment and the economic empowerment of women. The U.S. should coordinate with other international donors and multilateral agencies to reduce program duplication and the burdens on recipient nations. Furthermore, the U.S. should also identify opportunities to work with multilateral donors and global actors to confront global challenges such as soaring food and commodity prices.

In order to reduce poverty, the U.S. must develop a strategy both for immediate humanitarian assistance and for long-term development that reaches all people. While the need for humanitarian assistance is self-evident, successful long-term development means the aid the U.S. provides will succeed in reducing the dependence of poor communities on aid in the future. Too often, development assistance never reaches the people who need it most because of inefficiency, high overhead costs and a lack of meaningful civil society participation. At the same time in our focus to respond to emergencies, the United States often fails to devote the necessary time and resources to addressing the factors that combined to cause that emergency, thus leaving the recipient country at risk of future emergencies.
The most recent evidence suggests that at least 60% of aid never leaves the country but is instead spent on overhead, travel, procurement of American-made cars, computers, and equipment, as well as the salaries and benefit packages for U.S. consultants. We must relax provisions on aid that require the use of U.S. goods and services, so called “tied aid,” which prevents countries from procuring the best quality services at the lowest price. Tied aid is not only a missed opportunity to build sustainable capacity within beneficiary countries and civil society, but also erodes the value of every foreign aid dollar. U.S. aid should seek to make best use of local capacity, knowledge and expertise.
Allowing greater participation of poor people in development strategies will help countries meet their poverty-reduction goals in ways that respect local conditions and cultures, and involve and strengthen local governments and civil society. The U.S. should mandate the role of civil society as part of the consultation process and as links to a generous and involved U.S. constituency. They should be especially utilized where governments are weak, corrupt or illegitimate. Supporting a strong and vibrant civil society is essential to promote the welfare of the whole society.
The best way for foreign assistance money to be lost and misemployed is when it is used to buy loyalty from corrupt and brutal leadership. Foreign assistance reform must include clear, effective, and enforceable prohibitions on funding for all U.S. security assistance provided to governments, as well as specific units that have committed gross violations of human rights.
We are worried that a new Foreign Assistance Act will guarantee to protect strategic accounts in U.S. aid practices without guidelines on how best to protect those strategic accounts. The commitment to retaining the status quo, and not altering the amounts or the way aid is provided to key friends and allies, seriously undermines all efforts to create a successful and effective foreign assistance program.
The U.S. must also ensure that our long-term development goals are not subordinated to short-term security and political concerns without serious debate or justification. The design, planning and budgeting of long-term development goals and poverty-focused development assistance should operate independently and with integrity alongside but apart from the interests of diplomatic relations and defense. The U.S. must revitalize U.S. civilian capacity and authority to manage foreign assistance while reversing the trend toward greater Department of Defense funding, authority, and involvement related to development. In that regard we urge that the position of USAID Administrator be filled as quickly as possible as part of rebuilding a strong, effective and independent. USAID.
Civilian agencies and implementing partners must have the skills and expertise to plan and implement the most effective and appropriate responses to likely end poverty.USAID contractors should not, for example, be “advising” countries on the reform of their economies, intellectual property laws, etc, in ways that clearly benefit U.S. corporations more than they do the countries themselves. Planning should then be flexible to incorporate on-the-ground realities to meet long-term development goals.
Foreign assistance must be connected to bold targets and measurable improvements in the lives of poor people. Development assistance should link to specific measurable outcomes, have regular and required tracking and evaluation, operate with transparency on the specific use of funds, and track the specific performance of each program against detailed indicators, including indicators to capture the impact U.S. foreign assistance is having on poverty. Goals should be measured by outcomes for the people, households, and communities served. A strong emphasis should be placed on building the capacity of local communities to ensure sustainability.
The U.S. and other rich nations agreed that by January 01, 2002 they would cut the strings and disentangle aid to the least developed countries, yet little progress has been made. We urge that any foreign aid reform integrate these vital recommendations into a comprehensive foreign aid strategy that will promote human security in Africa and the U.S.