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Mercy Corps lauds ranking member Berman's Global Partnerships Act

December 13, 2012

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Berman’s bill lays out new vision for reform that will strengthen U.S. government’s humanitarian and development policy.

Washington, D.C. – The global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps is applauding Congressman Berman’s Global Partnerships Act (GPA), which provides a solid blueprint for what modern foreign assistance would look like.

US Foreign assistance is a powerful tool for good in the world and is vital to pursuing US interests in global stability and prosperity. Unfortunately, for years the United States’ ability to pursue these goals effectively has been hampered by a legislative framework that is badly out of step with the modern world. Whereas most major pieces of authorizing legislation — such as the Farm Bill or the National Defense Authorization Act — are updated every few years, the Foreign Assistance Act has not been fundamentally updated since its original passage during the Kennedy Administration. As a result, the Act has ballooned by hundreds of pages from its original vision, accruing legislative “barnacles”, workarounds, and inefficiencies along the way. This hampers the effectiveness and accountability of US assistance, and presents a major liability to US engagement in the world.

Among the strongest elements in Berman’s Global Partnerships Act are:

  • Addressing gaps in humanitarian assistance: The GPA addresses the longstanding gaps between aid to refugees — those who have fled across an international border — and people who have fled their homes but remain displaced within their own country.
  • Enshrining humanitarian principles in law: The GPA enshrines the globally-recognized principles of the impartiality, independence, and neutrality of humanitarian assistance in US law, and specifies that humanitarian response should be primarily civilian in nature. These principles are the bedrock of international humanitarian response and are critical to ensuring that aid reaches those in need effectively and securely.
  • Improvements to transparency and accountability: The bill takes a range of measures to make U.S. assistance more accountable, update monitoring and evaluation of U.S. assistance, and make it more transparent both to U.S. taxpayers and to recipients of aid.
  • Establishing peace-building and conflict mitigation as priorities for U.S. assistance: The GPA establishes that addressing conflict should be a top priority for US assistance. This is critically important, as we have seen over the years how the incidence of conflict can threaten humanitarian and development gains and undermine stability.
  • Promotes sustainability of development efforts: The bill brings local ownership and accountability to the front and center of program design and implementation giving voice to local concerns and prioritizing a partnership approach that will ensure long-term results and ultimately an exit plan for US assistance.

These and many other elements of the bill would constitute major steps forward. It is past time for Congress and the Administration to come together and begin updating the Foreign Assistance Act, using this excellent blueprint as a foundation.

About Mercy Corps: Mercy Corps helps people turn the crises they confront into the opportunities they deserve. Driven by local needs, our programs provide communities in the world’s toughest places with the tools and support they need to transform their own lives. Our worldwide team in over 40 countries is improving the lives of 19 million people. For more information, see mercycorps.org.