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Trump administration renews attempts to rescind billions in US foreign assistance

Reviving last year's effort to retract already-approved funding for US foreign assistance, the Trump administration ordered the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to freeze more than a dozen US foreign assistance accounts. A letter from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ordered the agencies to hold spending until an audit is completed to determine which funds have not already been allocated.  Between US$2 billion and US$4 billion will expire at the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2019, if not committed.  OMB's letter to State and USAID was sent after Congress had left for its August recess.

The White House tried this same tactic and timing last year but ultimately backed down in the face of serious congressional opposition. In 2018, the Government Accountability Office issued a finding that the White House effort was "an abuse of this limited authority."

In March, 2019, President Trump said the US would cease all funds to the Northern Triangle of Central America due to migration issues. The White House has also blocked large amounts of assistance through a strict interpretation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which has left many USAID missions unable to spend funds. Development stakeholders were quick to condemn the action as dangerous to the most vulnerable populations, against US interests, and an intentional action to stop US foreign assistance work.

News article - Devex

United States

Opposition grows to Trump's attempts to rescind US foreign assistance

Efforts by US President Trump to rescind already-appropriated funds for US foreign assistance has generated opposition both in the US Congress and among a broad array of development stakeholders. Bipartisan leaders of both the House and Senate foreign assistance authorizing committees sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) condemning the idea and threatening a response if the administration moves ahead with a formal rescission request.  Their letter pointed to the constitutional role of Congress to appropriate funds, adding that these funds are "essential" to US global leadership and security.  A group of more than 90 NGOs issued a joint statement in strong opposition to any cutting of funds, saying that rescinding these programs "leads to instability" and "puts lives at risk at a time of global crisis."

OMB then announced that it would end the freeze but would instead impose a spending limit on 2% of unobligated funds per day.  Additionally, the White House has now clarified that programs promoted by Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and advisor, and Vice President Pence would be exempt from any rescission package. These programs include global health and women's empowerment funds as well as funding to protect religious minorities abroad from persecution.

News article - InterAction

News article - Roll Call

United States Global health

US Congress receives report outlining plans for collaboration between USAID and new DFC

The United States Development Finance Corporation (DFC), established by the 2017 BUILD Act, will absorb the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Development Credit Authority (DCA) at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). OPIC and USAID have submitted a mandatory report to congress, outlining how the two agencies -- USAID and the DFC -- will function together. 

One of the most important changes from OPIC to the DFC is the addition of a chief development officer, who will report directly to the DFC Board, and an office of development policy. There are also plans to ensure that the DFC will be able to leverage existing staff at US embassies and USAID missions. The DFC will open its doors on October 1, 2019.

News article - Devex

United States

USAID assessment shows progress on nutrition

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has issued a follow-up assessment of its Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy, initially launched in 2014. The self-assessment, which followed a 2018 Bread for the World Institute review, found some encouraging results. USAID looked at eleven of the twenty-seven countries where the strategy is in operation and found that the agency had extended nutrition services to more than 14 million children and 4.6 million pregnant women.  

In eight of the countries, faster progress is being made on reducing waste, ten countries have increased rates of breastfeeding more quickly and five countries are more rapidly reducing anemia. The review also identified organizational benefits to multi-sectoralism and limitations to the strategy implementation.

Blog post - Bread for the World Institute

United States Nutrition

Kelly Craft confirmed by senate as new US ambassador to the UN

Kelly Craft, President Trump's nominee to be the next US ambassador to the United Nations, was approved by the Senate. Nikki Haley served in the role until she resigned in December 2018; the post has been empty since that time. Craft's confirmation, which was supported by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, was largely opposed by Democrats, who criticized Craft's short diplomatic resume and her family's ties to the coal industry. Unlike Haley, Craft will not have cabinet-level standing.  She was formerly the US ambassador to Canada.

News article - Vox

United States

Japan provides financial support for women’s empowerment in developing countries

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in collaboration with US and German government-affiliated financial institutions, will establish a fund to invest in financial services supporting women's social advancement in developing countries. This fund will comprise about US$100 million in total, and 40% of this budget will be allocated to the sub-Saharan region.

News article - Nikkei (in Japanese)

Germany Japan United States

US Senate committee endorses nomination of US ambassador for UN

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to endorse the nomination of Kelly Craft to be the next US ambassador to the United Nations. Craft, who was previously the US ambassador to Canada, faced questions about the amount of travel outside of Canada during her tenure, but ultimately prevailed in the committee vote. The full US Senate is expected to vote this week on her nomination. The post has been vacant since December 2018.

New report - Politico

United States

USAID announces additional US$38 million for Ebola response

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it would provide US$38 million more in assistance for the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The World Health Organization is receiving US$15 million of this new tranche of funding, bringing the total USAID assistance for the Ebola response to US$136 million since August 2018.

The funding includes assistance for prevention, control, surveillance, training, and community engagement. USAID is also working with the surrounding countries of Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda on preparedness efforts. The same day that USAID announced this funding, a US Senate foreign relations subcommittee held a hearing to discuss what other efforts were needed to assist in the Ebola response.

Press release - USAID

News article - Devex

USAID alters procurement rules to allow collaboration with religious groups

USAID, the US development agency, has announced a 'New Partnership Initiative' that will allow more organizations, including religious groups, to receive USAID funding. 

The announcement was made by the agency's deputy administrator, Bonnie Glick, speaking before the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, DC. The agency's new strategy applies to both the development and humanitarian contexts. Glick said that the strategy will expand agency cooperation with “new and underutilized partners.” This includes giving direct awards to local organizations, non-local organizations with a “strong history” in a given country, and those partners which can leverage private funding. 

News article - Devex

United States

Trump administration diverts humanitarian assistance from Central America to Venezuela

The Trump administration announced a plan to divert US$42 million in humanitarian assistance originally intended for Guatemala and Honduras to the US-backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and his faction. The plan was presented in a notification to Congress from the US development agency USAID. The funds are earmarked for "salaries, airfare, 'good governance' training, propaganda, technical assistance for holding elections and other 'democracy-building' projects."

The repurposing of funds is part of President Trump's plan to cut funding to Central American countries to curb immigration into the US. The House of Representatives may place a hold on the money, but it is unclear whether Trump would abide by it.  

News article - Los Angeles Times

United States