With Election Day next week and the end of this Congress in sight, it seems a fitting time to take a look back at this past year and the many bipartisan accomplishments to strengthen U.S. foreign assistance. 

 At less than one percent of the federal budget, U.S. development programs improve lives around the world and are vital to our national interests.  To be effective, these programs need to be transparent and monitored and evaluated properly, and they need to be responsive to the priorities of people in partner countries.  To this end, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), a coalition of international development and foreign policy practitioners and experts, has united behind a reform agenda to make U.S. development policy and practice more effective and sustainable through greater accountability and country ownership. 

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In July, Congress passed, and President Obama signed, the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (FATAA), a law that will help to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being invested in development programs with proven results. The new law requires that detailed foreign assistance information be regularly updated and made public. It also requires that development and economic assistance, and even some aspects of security assistance, be rigorously monitored and evaluated. The requirements will help to ensure that transparency and accountability are fully integrated into U.S. foreign assistance programs. This law, long championed by Reps. Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeTexas New Members 2019 Cook shifts two House GOP seats closer to Dem column Five races to watch in the Texas runoffs MORE (R-Texas) and Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward Connolly GOP, Dems locked in fight over North Carolina fraud probe NC voter: Someone collected my absentee ballot and never turned it in Over a thousand absentee ballots possibly destroyed in controversial North Carolina House race: report MORE (D-Va.) and Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDems have new moniker for Trump: ‘Unindicted co-conspirator' John Kelly’s exit raises concerns about White House future Rubio: We don’t need direct evidence crown prince ‘ordered the code red’ on Khashoggi killing MORE (R-Fla.) and Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinGeorge H.W. Bush remembered at Kennedy Center Honors Democratic senator: US must maintain strategic relationship with Saudis and hold them accountable Trump confronts new Russia test with Ukraine crisis MORE (D-Md.), locks in reforms that will drive evidence-based decision-making.

The Global Food Security Act (GFSA) was also signed into law this summer, codifying important provisions that will ensure that the U.S. Government’s efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition are country-specific and country-led, transparent, and accountable. The law is focused on prioritizing long-term sustainability and providing people with the tools needed to lift themselves out of poverty. It demonstrates a real commitment to good development practice by requiring measurable goals and benchmarks, monitoring and evaluation plans that reflect international best practices, and the reporting of results in an open and transparent manner.

Several additional aid effectiveness and reform policies are currently pending before Congress. The Senate-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act would significantly strengthen the oversight of Department of Defense security cooperation programs.  In addition, both the House and Senate versions of the State and Foreign Operations spending bills include important language on accountability and country ownership. 

Just before Congress left town in July for their summer recess, Sens. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonGeorgia’s midterm elections reveal historic voter realignment Veterans have been deprived of their earned benefits for two decades US firm goes on lobbying blitz in fight with Angola MORE (R-Ga.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) introduced the Economic Growth and Development Act (EGDA).  This bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsFocus on Yemen, not the Saudi crown prince Overnight Defense: Washington bids farewell to George H.W. Bush | Senators offer resolution calling Saudi prince 'complicit' in Khashoggi killing | US Navy sails near Russia-claimed waters Brady amends his tax package to help nonprofits MORE (D-Del.), calls for greater engagement with the private sector by U.S. development agencies.  Specifically, the bill calls on USAID and our other development agencies to perform constraints to growth and investment analyses in partner developing countries, and to better integrate U.S. and local private sector consultation within our global development programming processes.  The bill also supports USAID’s expanding efforts to assist partner countries as they raise and spend their own revenue transparently.  A House version of the Economic Growth and Development Act is currently being readied for introduction under the leadership of Rep. Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoMcCaul set to serve as ranking member of House Committee on Foreign Affairs House GOP returns to Washington after sobering midterm losses Republicans jockey for top GOP spot on House Foreign Affairs Committee MORE (R-Fla.).

We are hopeful that Congress will continue to build upon recent progress by working with this Administration and the next to ensure proper implementation of FATAA and GFSA and by continuing to advance the positive provisions included in the defense authorization and appropriations bill by the end of this year.  These advances are the result of years of hard work and have required persistent, bipartisan leadership in Congress. We applaud the 114th Congress for its leadership on these issues and stand by to help ensure that this foundation of aid effectiveness is built upon as we transition to the next Administration and Congress. 

George Ingram is a senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution. Carolyn Miles is the president and CEO of Save the Children. Connie Veillette is a senior fellow for global food security and aid effectiveness at The Lugar Center. All three serve as co-chairs of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN). 


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.