Failing the Cardozo test

Why US foreign assistance legislation needs a fresh start

If the US wants to modernize its efforts to foster a more stable, prosperous, and democratic world, it needs new foreign assistance legislation designed to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

This brief looks at how current laws undermine US foreign aid as a strategic tool for fighting poverty today. Drawing from original legal analysis, it argues that foreign aid legislation:

  1. Is too large to be used effectively;
  2. Is broken into too many laws;
  3. Has no clear priorities to guide decision-making;
  4. Is often out of date;
  5. Authorizes different actors to fulfill the same purposes;
  6. Puts the budget process in charge of setting strategic priorities, rather than setting strategic priorities to drive resource decisions.

Oxfam America is calling for ambitious reforms to US foreign assistance—from aid's legislation, strategy, organizational structure, and implementation, to a substantive rethink of development in the field. Our foreign aid should lead global development efforts, it should put developing states and their citizens in the driver’s seat, and it should strive to get as much value as possible for poor people out of every aid dollar.

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