International relief and development organization Oxfam America urged members of Congress today to support key lifesaving programs and push forward important reforms contained in the Obama Administration’s 2014 budget requests for international affairs. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee will hold appropriations hearings today.
Oxfam is calling for level funding for key anti-poverty programs, such as Feed the Future and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and support of reforms to America’s food aid programs that would help reach millions more people with life-saving aid at no additional costs to the American taxpayer.
“In his proposed budget, President Obama has not only supported global anti-poverty programs that literally save lives, he has also proposed long overdue reforms to bring our food aid system into the 21st century,” said Paul O’Brien, vice president of policy and campaigns at Oxfam America. “The proposed reforms have already received positive reviews from Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. Congress must fund these life-saving programs and move forward on common sense reforms to the food aid program.”
The United States is the world’s most generous donor of food aid, but numerous studies by the Government Accountability Office among others have shown that the system for delivering that aid is plagued by inefficiencies and waste. President Obama’s proposal would cut red tape, strip away needless regulations and allow humanitarian responders greater flexibly in emergencies, such as purchasing food from local or regional sources. Although a number of aid agencies, including Oxfam, are supporting this reform, special interests in Washington who profit from the current system are already trying to block President Obama’s proposal.
“Members of Congress who want to pursue fiscal responsibility should be the first to back the President’s efforts to modernize our aid programs, especially food aid,” said O’Brien. “The President’s proposal will get food to more hungry people faster, cheaper and more efficiently.”
The reform of US-funded food assistance programs is part of a wider effort on the part of President Obama’s Administration to modernize development assistance so that it’s more efficient and truly delivers in the fight against poverty. Other reforms, such as Implementation and Procurement Reform, are rooted in the recognition that there’s tremendous value in the power of local people to decide how aid is spent, and how to execute and lead their own development efforts in partnership with the US.
Despite coming under fire from vested interests in Washington, reforms already put in place by the Obama Administration are making waves on the ground in developing countries. Findings from a survey conducted by Oxfam America with citizens, civil society representatives, businesspeople and public officials in seven US aid recipient countries reveal that such reforms are making a difference and are getting noticed. Over 83% of respondents surveyed by Oxfam call US a better development partner than five years ago.
“New policies that are pushing the US government to invest more in locally defined development priorities have already demonstrated to achieve more sustainable results in the fight against poverty,” said O’Brien. "Congress must now deepen and accelerate reforms, while continuing to support the small but critically important parts of our country’s budget to save lives, help people lift themselves out of poverty, spur economic growth, and make the world a better and safer place.”
Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. Together with individuals and local groups in over 90 countries, Oxfam saves lives, helps people overcome poverty, and fights for social justice. Oxfam America is an affiliate of Oxfam. To join our efforts or learn more, go to www.oxfamamerica.org