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Cabinet-level U.S. Department for Global Development Proposed by Development NGOs, Faith Community

October 2nd, 2008

U.S. based development and humanitarian relief non-governmental organizations and the faith community are calling on the next President and Congress to create a Cabinet-level U.S. Department for Global Development (USDGD). This proposal stems from extensive field experience, and reflects the many reports and evaluations showing that America’s Foreign Assistance Program lacks coherency and fails to respond effectively to today’s global challenges.

According to a report by Oxfam America, the Foreign Assistance Act (1961) has a complex operational structure which makes it difficult for effective aid coordination. It has 33 different goals, 75 priority areas and 247 directives. It is executed by at least 12 departments, 25 different agencies and involves 60 government offices.

In most cases, U.S. aid programs lack both measurable outcomes and a coherent development strategy. Most financial resource allocations in the current system do not have fighting poverty as their priority. Ending poverty and hunger is the paramount Millennium Development Goal. The powerful voice needed to focus US foreign aid on ending global poverty and prioritizing effective development would enter the debate in Washington only with the establishment of a Cabinet-level Department for Global Development. This foreign assistance reform would overhaul current policies and bureaucratic structures enabling a clear focus on poverty elimination and maximizing the impact of U.S. aid in developing nations.

A U.S. Department of Global Development is necessary and critical in the post 9/11 era to address potential sources of conflicts. The 9/11 commission recognized and on called the United States Government to address sources of global instability – especially poverty. U.S. leadership in the fight against global poverty would change perceptions, build important relationships and win allies on many fronts. The status quo – with development assistance operating under 20 different federal agencies – reduces the effectiveness of U.S. global engagement. The increasingly important role of the U.S. military in development raises even more questions of credibility.

Since 2002, development has been one of the three pillars of U.S. national security strategy; Defense, Diplomacy and Development (3D’s). Key to strengthening the development aspect of this national security strategy would be the establishment of a USDGD with a seat at the table alongside the Departments of State and Defense. This would ensure that diplomacy (State), defense (DOD) and Development (USDGD) are equally strong – endorsed as important, yet separate U.S. international actions.

The fight against global poverty requires leadership from the U.S. President. Thus, the next President should urge the Congress to pass a new Global Development Act to establish the Department of Global Development. The Oblate JPIC Office joins other faith based organizations in supporting this proposed structural reform of foreign aid. Grounded in compassion and justice, we see it as essential to increasing access to health, education and effective economic assistance to people across the globe. This new Development Department could contribute to a more positive U.S. foreign policy and would bring greater accountability of the use of taxpayer’s money in developing countries.

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