December 2008: Asking representatives to talk to Chairman Berman about foreign aid reform

I’m concerned that globally, nearly 1 billion people live on less than $1 a day, yet U.S. foreign assistance efforts don’t often address the needs of the poorest. Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, recently said, “America’s foreign assistance program is not in need of some minor changes, but, rather, it needs to be reinvented and retooled. . . .” He would like to rewrite the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the body of law governing foreign aid programs.

Representative Berman is right. Recent evaluations of foreign assistance programs in education, child survival, and emergency food aid by the Government Accountability Office highlight a need to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective.

We can make our foreign assistance system more effective by assuring that stated purpose of foreign assistance is to alleviate poverty, most notably by fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals, and by assuring that foreign assistance programs are accountable for specific outcome measures like the number of children receiving a quality education, the number of people treated for diseases, and the number of children’s lives saved.

Would you personally write to Chairman Berman and ranking member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and urge them to make poverty reduction the clear focus of foreign aid reform efforts? I can provide a sample letter.