Report shows US foreign agricultural assistance generates major benefits for US economy, diplomacy, national security

The Board for International Food and Agriculture Development (BIFAD), an advisory board appointed by the President to the US Agency for International Development, issued a report showing that the US broadly benefits from the agricultural assistance it provides partner countries. The report was prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute.  

BIFAD's report, issued at the same time as the World Food Prize, found specifically that US agricultural assistance has broad economic, national security, and diplomatic benefits. Annually, the US exports a total of US$90 billion in agricultural goods to partner countries which generates US$259 billion in US economic activity. The report found that by increasing agriculture capacity and production in partner countries, agriculture assistance increases incomes and fuels demand for goods and services abroad.  

News article - The Fence Post

United States Agriculture

US to reinstate some assistance funding to Central America

The US State Department announced that it will restart some 'targeted' foreign assistance to the Northern Triangle of Central America. In March, President Trump froze hundreds of millions of dollars in development and security assistance to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador in retaliation for migration into the US from those nations, a move which provoked heavy bipartisan congressional criticism.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a written statement saying that "great progress" was being made to address the migration concerns and that to "enable further progress in these countries’ efforts, some targeted State Department and USAID funding will resume at this time.” No amount was specified by the State Department, but the unconfirmed figure is said to be approximately $150 million.

News article - Politico

United States

Global Fund releases table showing total pledges by country

At its sixth replenishment conference in Lyon, France, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria raised a record-breaking US$14 billion in commitments from public and private donors, the largest amount of funding ever raised for a multilateral health organization. The Global Fund has since released a table showing the amounts pledged by each attendant.

Pledges at Global Fund Sixth Replenishment Conference - The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

US and Venezuela sign US$98 million bilateral agreement

Mark Green, administrator for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and Carlos Vecchio, ambassador to the US from the interim Venezuelan government of Juan Guaido, signed a development objective agreement worth US$98 million in assistance. Some of the funding (US$52 million) was announced during the UN General Assembly last month. The new money amounts to US$64 million and there will be an additional US$18 million provided by the US which is not covered by this new agreement. The funding for Venezuela is being drawn from funds previously intended for Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, which President Trump froze in the spring of 2019 due to his concerns about immigration.

During the signing ceremony, Green said that US resources will "build upon our existing support for local human rights defenders, civil society organizations, independent media, and electoral oversight... When circumstances allow, the funding will also support the efforts led by interim President Guaido’s administration to repair a health care system that has been utterly destroyed by [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro’s mismanagement and corruption, and it will help us begin critical work in food security so that we can rapidly deploy much needed agricultural resources when democracy returns.”

News report - Devex

Millions in human rights funding quietly cut by Trump administration

Tens of millions of dollars originally intended for human rights programs run by the US Department of State have not been allocated before the end of the fiscal year. In its quest to continue to cut US foreign assistance, including funding already approved by Congress, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had originally tried to rescind US$4 billion in US foreign assistance but was forced to back down because of strong bipartisan congressional opposition. Instead, OMB has since restricted how much funding could be programmed each day, creating a bureaucratic backlog that resulted in about US$70 million in funds not being delivered to implementing partners on time. Funds to support human rights in China (US$10 million), civil society in Iraq (US$12 million), and other programs now face the potential of closure.

News article - Foreign Policy

United States

USAID updates its Journey to Self-Reliance Roadmap metrics

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has released its annual 'Journey to Self-Reliance Country Roadmap' metrics, including revisions to four metrics related to education quality, efficiency of tax administration, use of information and communications technology, and export diversification.

The roadmaps are a high-level strategic planning tool used by US missions. It is anticipated that they will be followed by consultations with country partners. In addition to the four changed metrics, the roadmap will now also include, for many low-income countries, a graphic that visualizes a country's risk of external debt distress.

Press release - USAID

United States Education

US assistance cuts to Central American countries are hurting "the poorest of the poor"

The cuts to US foreign assistance in the Northern Triangle ordered by President Trump in June of 2019 are hurting the "poorest of the poor" according to NGOs working in these countries. Cuts in funding to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador were slashed by Trump, purportedly in an effort to stop migration into the US.

The cuts, which mainly hit projects already in progress, have affected both development and humanitarian assistance. Mercy Corps, for example, has had to cut activity in women's shelters, urban violence prevention, LGBTQ+ support, and substance abuse programs. Programs in Guatemala aimed at curbing child hunger have been closed, as have water and nutrition programs intended to counter five years of droughts. According to a regional director at Mercy Corps, the funding cuts are "short-sighted and counterproductive and by ending foreign assistance that's intended to address insecurity, corruption, poor governance, and economic devastation, the administration is undercutting its own goals of reducing migration."

News article - Thomson Reuters Foundation News

UK development minister defends development assistance at Conservative Party conference

The UK Secretary of State for International Development, Alok Sharma, used the Conservative Party conference in Manchester (September 29 - October 2, 2019) to make the moral and economic case to Conservative party members for UK development assistance. Sharma's speech focused strongly on the Conservatives' approach to supporting economic growth in developing countries as the best means of alleviating poverty.

UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab also highlighted the Conservative Party’s drive to enhance the UK’s foreign policy agenda in supporting human rights defenders, by its introduction of the Magnitsky Law in the UK, which would enable the UK to freeze the assets and impose travel bans on human rights abusers. An amendment has already been agreed in the UK Parliament on this. 

News Article – Bond

Conference Information – Conservative Party

United States

New head of US DFC is confirmed but organization doesn't open as planned

The opening of the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC), planned for October 1, 2019, was forestalled due to the failure of Congress to pass a Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriation bill which would detail its funding. The DFC, which essentially combines the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Development Credit Authority (part of the US Agency for International Development, or USAID), will continue business as normal, but the new tools and finances provided to the DFC will be on hold. Adam Boehler, however, was confirmed by the Senate as the new CEO and he is expected to begin work even as the DFC remains on hold.

In a meeting with his future staff, CEO Boehler discussed the need for the DFC to be "more proactive, forward-leaning, and strategic".  He stressed the need for DFC to work closely with other US agencies and to double down on its development focus. Boehler, speaking to his new employees, said that the delayed appropriations bill provides an opportunity for the new agency  "to prepare even more and really hit the ground running."

News report - Devex

United States

South Korea and US sign memorandum of understanding on development cooperation

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of South Korea and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance development cooperation. The memorandum was an outcome of the third Korea-US senior economic dialogue which took place in December of 2018.

Based on this understanding, the two parties will seek cooperation on the new southern policy of South Korea and the Indo-Pacific strategy of the US, a well as on topics such as women’s empowerment, digital economy, and health and education.

Press release - MOFA (in Korean)

South Korea United States