Reform the right should embrace

For the U.S. to save more lives, build self-sufficiency abroad

By Mark Green | Thursday, August 20, 2009

Remarkably, a reform effort is under way in Washington that has yet to devolve into a partisan shouting match. The reform involves our foreign-aid apparatus, which is in dire need of an overhaul. It matters because amid this tough economy, every taxpayer dollar is especially precious and because of the great good foreign aid can do.

The legislation that authorizes our overseas development programs is more than 45 years old, without updates or improvements in more than 20 years. At a time when our national-security and foreign-policy priorities have become increasingly dependent on effective development, our political leaders must act swiftly and put partisan politics aside in order to enact reforms that will make our foreign-aid programs more efficient, more effective and therefore more capable of supporting and advancing our national interests around the globe.

Despite some initial positive steps by the Obama administration and Congress, a critical constituency is missing from the discussion: congressional conservatives. As a proud fiscal hawk and a true believer in the power of U.S. foreign assistance to lift lives and enhance alliances, I urge conservatives to get more engaged and embrace the opportunity this debate presents.

I served in Congress from 1999 to 2007, when an unprecedented bipartisan coalition came together and increased U.S. foreign assistance aimed at easing the suffering of people in developing countries. Without the participation and leadership of conservatives in Congress and the George W. Bush administration, none of this would have been possible.

The vital role played by conservatives was perhaps best exemplified by the transformation of the late Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, who went from being Congress' most strident anti-foreign-aid voice to a co-sponsor of a bill providing $200 million to help fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Mr. Helms and other conservatives, including President Bush and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, were key players in passing landmark programs such as African debt relief, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the President's Malaria Initiative and the Millennium Challenge Act (which created the Millennium Challenge Corp.).

Without these initiatives, millions of lives would have been lost, the conditions of despair that terrorists and dictators all too effectively exploit would have deepened, and fewer developing countries would be on paths toward self-sufficiency.

Despite this important progress, U.S. foreign assistance is not as effective and supportive of our diplomacy and security efforts as it should be. Right now, foreign-assistance programs are overseen by more than 60 government offices that frequently are competitive and uncoordinated. Foreign-aid budgeting has become a mess of earmarks because the Cold War-era Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) is decades out of date.

I saw firsthand how inefficient this system can be at times when I was U.S. ambassador to Tanzania in 2007-08. Early on, I would attend ribbon-cuttings for U.S.-funded health clinics and other programs only to see banners with countless logos and acronyms from organizations -- including different U.S. government agencies -- all taking credit for the American people's generosity. The maze of obscure names not only was unsightly, but it also confused our Tanzanian audience and diminished the diplomatic value of our work.

After sitting through a few of these events, I issued a directive creating a unified logo -- an American flag with the phrase "From the American People" in Kiswahilii -- and requiring that it be on every press statement and event banner.

Thankfully, we see some progress. The Foreign Relations committees in both the House and Senate have introduced reform bills that have gained some Republican support, but there is still a long way to go. The same leadership from conservatives that helped deliver millions of people in the developing world from poverty and disease over the last decade is needed to keep the foreign-aid reform effort focused on increasing accountability, eliminating waste and maximizing results.

I call upon my conservative former colleagues in Congress to rise to this challenge and join the debate. I urge the Democratic majority to run the reform process in an open and bipartisan way and keep it from becoming a debate over money and divisive social issues.

Given that foreign-assistance reform is fundamentally about making the United States better at saving lives, helping more countries like Tanzania get on the road to true self-sufficiency and highlighting our leadership and compassion abroad, we have to get it right -- and we have to do it quickly.

Mark Green is a former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Wisconsin and ambassador to Tanzania. He is the director of the Malaria No More Policy Center.

Overcoming Obstacles to Keep Girls in School: Sustainable, Environmental, and Economic Practices

by Anita Henderlight

August 18, 2009

Shortly after NESEI opened our first girls' boarding secondary school in South Sudan, we observed that many of the girls skipped classes routinely each month. Why? Because they did not have necessary supplies for comfort or cleanliness during menstruation. Most were using leaves or old rags to absorb their flow.

We began to supply the students with "comfort kits" - disposable sanitary products imported from more industrialized countries. They met our primary goal - keeping our girls in school.
Loni and I have continued our work on the Munsieville Survey and rapid needs assessment data collection. We can now officially say that our Munsieville Survey is fine-tuned and ready for implementation. Each survey takes about 45 minutes to an hour. I mentioned in an earlier update that Project HOPE had planned to get 1000 surveys. Well, thanks to some mathematical wizardry on my and Loni's part, we discovered that we would only need about 400 surveys to get the same statistical power (something that SIGNIFICANTLY cut on costs for this project). So, with 10 hired surveyors it would take a little less than 2 weeks to complete data collection.
Senator Frist said "I fast to send a message to fellow leaders, fasters and activists that we must definitively address the cause of the ongoing violence and persecution in Darfur. It is an affront to our compassion, our decency and our very humanity that the government of Sudan has put racism, political and financial interests ahead of its people. I want the refugees in Darfur to know they are not forgotten and that we will not give up until we see peace come to our Sudanese brothers, sisters and children."

Dr.Frist published an op-ed in the Boston Globe titled "Global Healthcare Takes More Than A Pill."  In the op-ed, Dr. Frist talks about the work of the Millenium Challenge Corporation. He writes "The US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation takes an innovative approach to strengthening the policy environment for global health. From the outset, the corporation evaluates a country’s immunization rates, total public expenditure on health, and commitment to combating corruption to determine where to invest its development grants. This smart approach ensures that US dollars are spent wisely in countries already taking steps to do their part to strengthen the health of their citizens."

Read the complete op-ed here.

I haven't had the chance to go on anymore exciting field visits yet, but I have become more familiar with how NGOs work. My supervisor has been out of the country for the last two weeks and consequently I've been given a lot more responsibility. For example, I lead this month's meeting of the Quality Improvement Task Force. The Q.I. Task Force meets monthly to discuss issues pertaining to the quality and guidelines of the care and support of orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) in Tanzania. My supervisor is a co-chair on the task force and she usually hosts the meeting but I led the meeting in her absence. The task force is in the process of developing national guidelines for quality improvement of OVC care as well as a household status tool to be used in assessing the household conditions of OVC. The discussion about the process of creating and revising the documents gave me insight into how national guidelines for development work are established and the relationship between governmental ministries and non-governmental organizations.
Senator Frist's first trip in Medical Missions was with Dr. Dick Furman and World Medical Missions, an affililate of Samaritan's Purse.

Samaritan's Purse has been doing good work in Sudan for some time. I thought it appropriate to highlight their work, in support of their continued efforts, here as we focus on Sudan this month.

Secretary Clinton's Africa Trip

Aug 4, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Africa trip, August 3 to 14, features a tough and demanding agenda: she will be visiting dangerously conflicted Kenya, Congo, and Nigeria; holding a brief exchange with a Somali transition government close to succumbing to a radical Islamist movement affiliated with al Qaeda; reassuring unsteady postwar Liberia; and opening a dialogue with a newly formed government in South Africa, which confronts worsening internal economic strains and remains visibly befuddled by the continuing crisis in neighboring Zimbabwe. The secretary’s agenda bears little resemblance to President Bill Clinton’s spring 1998 Africa renaissance tour or the similarly optimistic tones of President George W. Bush’s summer 2003 and spring 2008 trips.

For full article-- CLICK HERE.

Senator Frist has a forthcoming book that will release October 5: A Heart to Serve: A Passion to Bring Health, Hope, and Healing

In Chapter one, A Mission of Mercy, Frist shares his experience of flying into Lui, Sudan, under the radar, to perform surgery in a conflict zone. This experience was a foundational one which shaped his understanding and philosophy of health diplomacy and how offering health care can be a currency for peace around the world.



Don't forget to order your copy of the book on!



Dr. Frist has an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle titled "Improve World Health Care by Increasing Prosperity." 

July 31, 2009

..."As the health care reform debate unfolds domestically, we face an opportune moment to recalculate for the better how we maximize the success of our efforts abroad to strengthen global health. By looking holistically at global health systems — the capacity, the policies, the health and non-health infrastructure — we can pursue integrated action on all the components that go into making and keeping the world's poor healthy. For their sake and ours, let us seize this moment to do so."

Read the complete op-ed here.

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