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US Senate’s commitment to aid reform critical to success for Shah and USAID

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Washington, DC — International development and relief organization Oxfam America today welcomed committee consideration of a bipartisan development aid reform bill introduced by Senators Kerry (D-MA), Lugar (R-IN), Menendez (D-NJ), Corker (R-TN), Cardin (D-MD), and Risch (R-ID).

The legislation, the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009 (S.1524), would enact key reforms to US programs that fight global poverty. These include greater transparency in how US development aid is used and rebuilding the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), both critical components of the aid reform agenda Oxfam America hopes will quickly pass Congress and become law.

“Rajiv Shah’s nomination as USAID administrator last week makes the timing of this bill consideration even more significant,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.  “A strong leader for USAID is important, but success for US development policy and programs also requires commitment from Congress to rebuild and refocus the agency.”

The bill not only addresses increasing USAID’s capacity to strategize and create comprehensive development plans, it also focuses on establishing greater transparency on how US development aid is being used.  According to Oxfam, transparency benefits not only the US taxpayer, but also recipient countries that will be better able to plan for and implement development initiatives.

“Good information allows recipient governments to plan, it helps poor people hold their governments accountable, and allows US taxpayers to see results,” said Offenheiser.  “Transparency leads to greater accountability, which leads to success.  Success means poor people have more control over their own lives, and have a greater opportunity to escape poverty.”

Key themes addressed by the new legislation include rebuilding USAID's capacity to think and implement strategically; giving the agency new tools to measure, evaluate and innovate to achieve smart development; promoting transparency and flexibility; and investing in human capital.

This legislation coincides with major reviews of US development policy at both the White House and the State Department. Earlier this year, President Obama signed a Presidential Study Directive – initiating a whole-of-government examination of global development policy to be completed by January 2010, and Secretary of State Clinton launched the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), in order to streamline the aid system and to put development on par with national security and diplomacy in foreign policy debates and decisions. Momentum around aid reform continues to build on Capitol Hill as well, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman’s (D-CA) Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009 (HR 2139), currently has 120 bipartisan co-sponsors.

For more information on Oxfam America’s ownership and aid reform agenda visit www.oxfamamerica.org/reformaid.  Oxfam’s recent paper, Ownership in Practice: The Key to Smart Development, is available here: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/files/oa-aeownership-092109.pdf.

For media inquiries contact Helen DaSilva, [email protected] or +617-331-2984.

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