Washington, DC –
U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, today called for innovative reforms to our nation’s foreign assistance program that match the high priority
diplomacy has in enhancing our national security. Senator Cardin is
an original co-sponsor of the bipartisan
Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009 (S. 1524) introduced today by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Dick Lugar (R-IN), and also co-sponsored by Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jim Risch (R-ID).
“Our use of ‘smart power’ though economic diplomacy and international assistance in areas such as health, education, and agriculture is a strategic way to win hearts and minds in countries that pose transnational threats. Assisting vulnerable populations through assistance efforts is also a moral imperative.
“This reform matters. The U.S. should have the best trained and most equipped development agency in the world.
Foreign aid that fosters sustainable development and enables children to go to school, mothers to feed their families and farmers to harvest crops to sell at market also has a direct link to our national security – as evidenced by the current situation in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, where poverty has fostered instability. By reforming our development assistance program to eliminate excessive bureaucracy and restore coordination that helps, rather than hampers, the effectiveness of vital programs, we are strengthening our partners around the world and America’s peace and security.
“The United States must remain a leader in the global community, and this legislation is a good step in that direction. One of our government’s greatest tools is engaging our fellow nations through promoting economic development, sustainable agriculture, democracy and human rights.
“Despite renewed focus on the importance of foreign issues and assistance, the total value of U.S. foreign assistance focused on development and poverty eradication is a mere 0.6% of the total federal budget. It is crucial to use these limited funds effectively.
“I am pleased to be working with my colleagues in Congress and the Administration on this issue as we move forward in shaping our broader international development strategy, priorities, and capacities.”