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Help bring U.S. development assistance up to date

December 2, 2009

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    White House  </span>
    Photo: White House

This holiday season, Mercy Corps and the millions of people that we serve around the world need your help. Simply put, the U.S. Government's aid efforts overseas are lagging far behind the times.

The law that governs U.S. development assistance has not been rewritten since 1961 – the time of President Kennedy — and this Cold War relic just doesn’t cut it in the 21st century. Over the past few decades the law has been gradually tweaked, expanded, and loaded with so many directives, objectives, and pet priorities that it no longer provides coherent goals or an effective structure for US foreign aid. The result is that our government's development efforts now resemble a jury-rigged, 48-year old car about to embark on a long road trip – without a map. The destination is unclear, and there’s no guarantee that the car can go the distance.

The U.S. is a very generous country — and the U.S. Government is a great partner of ours — but our government’s international aid system is becoming more outdated with each passing year. President Obama and the Congress have been working to increase funding for foreign aid, and we strongly support those efforts. But without corresponding reforms to our aid structures, these funding increases are like putting premium gas in that 48-year old car — it may help, but you still won’t get the most bang for your buck.

It's time for that to change. Candidate Obama recognized this challenge, arguing during the campaign that “too little of our taxpayers’ resources [are] getting to the problem and no single person…[is] responsible for directing and managing what should be one of our most powerful foreign policy tools.” He vowed that, as President, he would build an “elevated, streamlined, and empowered 21st century U.S. development agency.”

With President Obama now approaching a full year in office, he needs to hear from you that a renewed and refocused U.S. development strategy must remain a top priority. The President has ordered a review of U.S. development policy, but needs to know that voters expect him to follow through and finally fix our outdated system. We have seen too many government studies that go sit on a shelf instead of driving real changes — that must not happen this time. Too much is at stake in the world's poorest and most challenging places.

That is why this holiday season, Mercy Corps is teaming up with many of our colleague organizations to support a petition that will be delivered to the White House. Taking a few moments of your time to sign this petition will help people all over the developing world by improving the effectiveness of U.S. investments in development aid. You can find the petition here.

Let's work together to bring U.S. development assistance up to date and give those we serve around the world the help they need. Thank you for your ongoing support.