Foreign Aid Request Targets Food Security, Economic Growth

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah explains the importance of public-private partnerships to reporters during a trip to Rangoon
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah explains the importance of public-private partnerships to reporters during a trip to Rangoon

By Kathryn McConnell
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
April 25, 2013

The Obama administration’s budget request for U.S. international aid activities in fiscal year 2014 focuses on food security, maternal and child health, gender equality and poverty reduction through sustainable economic growth, say the heads of America’s two leading aid agencies.

Obama is asking Congress to approve $20.4 billion for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), 6 percent below the amount enacted for each of the last two years, and $898.2 million for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the same amount requested for 2013. Fiscal year 2014 begins October 1.

Congressional committees will weigh the requests and send their recommendations to the full Senate and the full House of Representatives. Each of those bodies will determine its recommendation. Representatives of the Senate and the House then will negotiate a final recommendation to be sent to the president for signature or veto. The process could take several months.

USAID

Testifying April 24 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a House Appropriations subcommittee, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said the president’s request for USAID would support the agency’s work with major international partnerships, including the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and the Child Survival Call to Action.

Shah testified along the same lines April 25 before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He was joined that day by MCC Chief Executive Officer Daniel Yohannes.

Shah said the budget request would provide $269 million for the president’s commitment to the New Alliance to unlock the potential of agricultural growth. The alliance aims to lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2014.

The 2014 request supports the goals of creating an AIDS‐free generation, ending preventable child and maternal death, and protecting communities from infectious diseases, Shah said. He said the requested budget would scale up high‐impact HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment methods and provide $1.65 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The proposal would bolster USAID’s work on human rights and governance, with an emphasis on marginalized groups, including women and youth, Shah said. It would allow USAID to continue to support democratic and economic transitions and provide humanitarian assistance, and allow USAID to help areas experiencing recurrent crises and natural disasters to build resilience.

The budget request includes funding to mobilize a new generation of innovators and scientists. Through its Development Innovations Venture, USAID invites innovators to contribute cost-effective and cutting-edge ideas for solutions to development challenges that could benefit millions of people, Shah said.He explained that the budget request would accelerate USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network, in which academically based innovation laboratories in the United States work with global partners to develop solutions. The network is leveraging millions of university and private-sector dollars, Shah said.

Other partnerships Shah described are the Development Credit Authority, which in fiscal 2013 leveraged $383 million from the private sector for investments in entrepreneurs around the world, and the Global Climate Change Initiative, which brings private-sector investment to help countries transition to climate-resilient, low-emission economic growth.

Shah said USAID wants to continue to close gaps between girls’ and boys’ access to quality education. It wants to help 100 million children improve their reading skills by 2015 and make access to education more equitable for children in crisis environments, he said.

The administrator said a good example of USAID’s efforts to become more efficient and effective is a proposal in the budget request to reform U.S. food aid. The proposal would make the aid more flexible by devoting up to 45 percent of aid resources to procuring food from local producers and providing food aid recipients with cash transfers and electronic vouchers to purchase food for their families.

“At a time of urgent human need and budget constraints, we can save more lives without asking for more money,” Shah said.

MCC

The budget request for MCC would support funding for the five countries that the agency in December 2012 determined qualified to submit proposals for multiyear agreements, Yohannes said.

To qualify for MCC funding, countries are required to practice sound polices and build strong institutions. Results of independent evaluations of countries’ performance are published online. Yohannes said other countries are taking notice and enacting reforms so they too can become eligible for MCC assistance.

The fiscal 2014 budget would support MCC’s active agreements, or compacts, in 15 countries, and short-term funding for two countries, Yohannes said.