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The Future of Foreign Aid on the Kojo Nnamdi Show

Today, on the  Kojo Nnamdi Show, the topic of conversation was the future of foreign aid, and the guests included Jim Kolbe, Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network co-chair, and Paul O’Brien, Vice President for Policy and Campaigns at Oxfam America. This was a very timely discussion considering the current political climate over the budget; furthermore, this week marks one year since President Obama issued the first ever Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD). The directive elevated development to one of the key pillars of foreign policy, along with defense and diplomacy, and put a strong emphasis on reforming how we do aid and development.

So how are things looking one year later, and where are we headed? Those were the questions Kolbe and O'Brien discussed on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. Both believed that the PPD, as well as the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, were major policy frameworks that ensured that the foreign affairs budget is spent wisely and that American tax dollars are used most effectively to serve our interests in an increasingly interconnected world. In the year since these documents were released, Kolbe and O’Brien said that we have seen progress. O’Brien noted that the Partnership for Growth initiative is seeing major success; for example, Ghana’s growth rate, one of the PFG countries, is currently at 18 percent. O’Brien and Kolbe also referenced better cross-agency coordination since the release of the PPD and increased transparency from the State Department and USAID with the launch of the Foreign Assistance Dashboard--an easy-to-understand website that allows visitors to track U.S. government foreign assistance investments.

That said, both Kolbe and O’Brien emphasized that a rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) was a crucial part of reform. O’Brien agreed with Kojo in that the piece of legislation is now widely regarded as an obstacle and needs to be brought into the 21 century. Kolbe pointed out that the world has changed drastically since the FAA was written, and it is not useful for us to just keep tacking things onto it rather than fixing the law as a whole. Earlier this month, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) released his Global Partnerships Act as a working draft of an FAA rewrite. O’Brien and Kolbe were hopeful that Congress would start work on it, though neither saw much possibility for passage in this Congress.

+Listen to the full interview here.

Mary Deering is outreach associate for the Modernizing Foreign Aid Network.


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