Washington, DC – International humanitarian organization Oxfam America brought together Kenyan anti-corruption campaigner and social catalyst John Githongo with ForeignPolicy.com blogger Josh Rogin and other prominent voices to assess the steps needed to improve the effectiveness of US aid dollars while supporting local communities’ efforts to take control of their own development.
“Just as the institutions of religion should not be confused with the faith of people, aid industry institutions have developed in ways that put distance between them and the values that informed their establishment – ending poverty and inequality and promoting prosperity that emerges from people’s labor, thus affirming and dignifying them as owners of their own destiny. These values are as relevant today as they ever were,” said Githongo. “Africa is approaching an economic, political, and social tipping point, and smart donor support that leads to the empowerment of ordinary people is needed at this moment of risk and opportunity.”
Two weeks after a leaked draft of the National Security Council document entitled “A New Way Forward for Global Development” signaled the Obama Administration stepping up efforts to reform US efforts to fight global poverty, today’s discussion focused on the importance of letting recipient countries lead development programs and plans. The United States has an opportunity to unravel the confusion and dysfunction of US development programs and set clear goals and priorities, making way for a donor strategy that empowers local communities to fight corruption and hold their governments accountable
“Aid, used in smart ways, can save lives and help people pull themselves out of poverty. But 60 years of foreign assistance have shown that donor countries cannot fix the problems of poor people by themselves, no matter how well donors understand development,” said panelist Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “For US foreign assistance to empower citizens and ensure equitable growth, we need a clear US strategy for fighting global poverty. The President must issue his US Strategy for Global Development, so our aid will be driven by the needs and priorities of poor people, and will put recipient countries in the lead.”
The discussion was moderated by Josh Rogin, blogger for Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” and included Esther Tallah, Manager of Cameroon Coalition Against Malaria and board member of UNITAID as well as the Honorable Minister Amara M. Konneh, Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs of Liberia.
The event was the fourth in a series hosted by Oxfam America to discuss how the United States can improve aid to the developing world. The three prior events brought African leaders, former Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, and the Haitian Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Raymond Joseph, together to share experiences and offer their assessment of ongoing discussions in Congress and at all levels in the Obama Administration on foreign assistance reform.
In addition to the public panel, Oxfam America organized a workshop with Obama Administration officials, Congressional staffers, development experts, and private sector leaders to discuss how US development policy can better provide for recipient country ownership by engaging civil society to determine country-specific priorities and needs.