Oxfam welcomes Berman's action to increase development and diplomatic capacity

By Oxfam

Washington, DC — Oxfam America applauds the State Department authorization bill (H.R. 2410) authored by Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The bill would begin the process of rebuilding the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) capacity to lead America's global agenda to fight poverty and respond to humanitarian needs.

"This bill is yet another important step in Chairman Berman's effort to fundamentally reform the way the US fights global poverty," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "Much important work still remains to be done to reform US policies and programs for global development. However, this bill moves us forward along the path to. reform."

H.R. 2410 would expand the number of Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) at both the Department of State and USAID, providing the US government with increased human capital to meet global challenges. The bill specifically includes authority for the Secretary of State to hire 1,500 FSOs and for the Administrator of USAID to hire 700 new FSOs over the next two years. Additionally, the bill includes authorities to make it easier to attract and retain personnel with the specialized skills required for supporting long-term poverty fighting efforts.

Oxfam America is also very pleased that the investment to modernize the Foreign Service includes a focus on using diplomacy to actively prevent, mitigate, and respond to international crises in a timely manner.

"An additional 1,500 State Department recruits, equipped with adequate training and a focused mandate, could go a long way in improving US diplomacy to address humanitarian crises," said Offenheiser.

To this end, the bill also requires the US government to outline a specific plan for the development of a government-wide strategy and the strengthening of United States civilian capacities for preventing genocide and mass atrocities.

"For too long the United States has responded to situations of mass atrocities in ad hoc and uncoordinated ways. Unless the US civilian agencies plan for contingencies and build capacity, our moral outrage will never be translated into effective action," said Offenheiser.

Oxfam America welcomes Chairman Berman's efforts, and calls upon Members of Congress to actively support broader reform to rebuild America's efforts to effectively combat global poverty and put poor people and governments in charge of their own development.

In April, Chairman Berman and Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced H.R. 2139, the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009. H.R. 2139 focuses on three critical areas of foreign assistance reform: creating a US national strategy for global development, refocusing its monitoring and evaluation approach, and increasing transparency on where assistance dollars are going. Oxfam America supports H.R. 2139, and hopes to see the United States design and implement a National Strategy for Global Development.

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