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U.S. Foreign Assistance for the 21st Century

On June 10, Brookings participated in a briefing as a member of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, which was formed to shape a consensus among a group of leading global development experts on how best to improve America’s weak aid infrastructure. The “New Day, New Way: U.S. Foreign Assistance for the 21st Century” proposal contains recommendations on how to reform the U.S. foreign aid system. This proposal adopts key recommendations made by the 2006 Task Force on Transforming Foreign Assistance in the 21st Century, led by Lael Brainard, including core principles for effective foreign assistance reform such as elevating the development mission, aligning policy, operations and budgets, rebuilding capacity and core competences, rationalizing agencies, clarifying the missions of our assistance, and creating an independent cabinet-level Department of Global Development. The report echoes calls by Lael Brainard, in her testimonies before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, for a national strategy that elevates the stature of development alongside defense and diplomacy. The report also reflects her arguments against proposals to merge development responsibilities into a Super State Department, as she noted at a January hearing before Congress:

“Although this would be a logical progression and would rationalize actors, clarify missions, and reduce confusion about who speaks for the United States, it would undoubtedly subordinate development to diplomacy. Moreover, proponents tend to greatly underestimate the massive transformation of the culture, mission, and staffing of the State Department that would be required. While the alignment of development and diplomacy is important, so too is the alignment of defense and diplomacy, yet no one would advocate submerging the State Department into the Defense Department.”

The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network briefing on Capitol Hill was an opportunity for this group of experts to engage key Congressional members and staff and to outline their main consensus principles. Reps. Berman and Lowey and Senator Hagel participated and made remarks underscoring the critical importance of foreign aid reform. Brainard discussed specific ideas and recommendations as part of the panel.

View the full proposal: “New Day, New Way: U.S. Foreign Assistance for the 21st Century”

Related Materials


Opening Remarks

Co-Chairs and Moderators

Steve Radelet

Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Development - Georgetown University


Lael Brainard

Member - Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

More Information

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