The American public hears of very few of the bills being considered by Congress; only the huge, controversial ones seem to enter public awareness. The U.S. government is not quite as unresponsive as it may seem to public, nor is it entirely as uncooperative or unsympathetic as the media may portray it. This has been proven by the introduction of Congressman Gerry Connolly’s Global Partnerships Act, which responds to concerns over the current practices used in the United States’ foreign aid.
The bill, which was introduced and referred to committee on April 23 of this year, is a step forward in increasing the effectiveness of US Aid. Its purpose is “to establish a framework for effective, transparent, and accountable United States foreign assistance, and for other purposes.” It prompts a reform of current practices, and aims to implement greater transparency, increase on-the-ground cooperation, focus on an approach that emphasises outcomes and positions of USAID as the United States’ lead development agency.
It is an 865 page-long behemoth, which covers accelerating economic growth, the promotion of food security, the provision of healthcare, fostering gender equality, advancing peace, supporting human rights, and encouraging prosperity through trade and investment. Though exhaustive, the bill seems straightforward and practical. With the percentage of the US budget allocated to foreign aid as limited as it is, it is paramount to ensure that every dollar is being used to maximum possible effect; this will see a greater impact in the countries themselves as well as a better return on the United States’ investments, and a much-needed boost to the country’s international image.
Recent studies, new technology, and a burst of interest in the area have led to innovations in development and relief work; the implementation of metric systems to measure efficiency, for example, a streamlining of efforts, and the dispensation of systems that do not encourage local autonomy (which have continually proven to do more harm than good). Yet, as politics often lags behind science, policy has not moved as quickly as innovation. This bill is a much needed reboot to the methods in which the United States utilizes its foreign aid allowance.
Though a similar reform was attempted last year, with the Global Partnerships Act of 2012, the bill failed to be enacted. Many are hopeful about the second attempt, as an update is needed – policy towards foreign aid has remained largely unchanged for half a century, and the bill would replace the now sorely outdated Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. Yet, despite the need for it, and though it has been largely supported by non-profits, Congress has historically been slow to act on the foreign aid agenda. At this point, the future success of the bill remains uncertain. You can find a copy of the bill here.
– Farahnaz Mohammed
Source: Modernize Aid
Photo: Concil on Foreign Relations