The Urgent Need to Support Our Foreign Affairs Budget

As part of the agreement to re-open the government, the House and Senate have finally agreed to form a budget conference committee and pass actual appropriations bills for the next fiscal year. While the top-line funding numbers are important, the details of how the foreign affairs budget is reconciled are also critical. The foreign operations bill provides funding for nearly all of the non-defense functions of U.S. foreign engagement. The need for American leadership is as urgent as ever, but the version that came out of the House Committee earlier this year made deep and dangerous cuts to our diplomatic toolkit while sequestration is systematically starving key programs. Legislators who understand the vital role of American leadership need to fight hard for robust and funding in the coming weeks and months as critical accounts like the Middle East Partnership Initiative and the MENA Incentive Fund hang in the balance.

via usaspending.gov

via usaspending.gov

Programs like these need to be protected and grown because they represent the best and most effective approaches to international support. We need to be doubling down on region-wide and flexible mechanisms that leverage partnerships with NGOs and the private sector in order to help our policy become less reactionary, invest in long-term U.S. interests, and help build up the capacity of populations through health, education, economic growth, and active civil society.

This type of assistance is not simply foreign charity; it is a vital component of American leadership and economic growth. Then- Secretary Clinton laid out the basic ingredients earlier this year, encouraging governments to “ view civil society not as a threat but as an asset. A genuine democracy is like a three-legged stool. One leg is responsive, accountable government; the second leg a dynamic, job-creating private sector; and the third leg is a robust and vibrant civil society.”[1]  The U.S. has the tools and expertise to help developing countries construct this three-legged stool, but our diplomats and partners can’t do that work while being forced into robbing Peter to pay Paul. The importance of maintaining a strong defense is without questions, but the country is weaker if we allow our military to be our primary actor on the global stage. If we wish to see a world comprised of more modern, inclusive, and open countries – we need to invest in strategy designed to do just  that.

Too many politicians believe their constituents are too shortsighted or un-engaged to see the value of these investments, but that is simply not the case. After hearing that foreign assistance makes up merely 1% of the Federal budget, only 24% of Americans believe we spend too much while 36% believe that we don’t spend enough. With another 30% saying that 1% is about right, the last thing we should be doing is cutting back.[2] The Better World Campaign recently commissioned a nationwide survey finding that over 85% of Americans support funding programs which help women and girls in foreign countries achieve better health, education, and economic opportunity as well as being overwhelmingly supportive of efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger around the world.[3]  When it comes to fully funding the foreign operations budget, politicians have a much easier case to make than many of them think.


[1] Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State (Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society 2012 Summit, Washington DC: US Department of State)

[2] Kaiser Family Foundation Survey. May 2012

[3] Polling done in October 2013 for the Better World Campaign by Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research http://www.betterworldcampaign.org/assets/pdf/bwc-fall-2013-poll-interview-schedule.pdf

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Quoted in The Hill — President Obama takes flak over Egypt

The Hill

“Where we missed an opportunity over the past year and a half in dealing with Egypt is not that we supported the wrong people, but that we missed an opportunity to support institutions and to really apply pressure where we had it,” said Bradley Bosserman, director of the Middle East and North Africa initiative at the New Policy Institute.

“We need be much more outspoken going forward to make sure that there’s actual, legitimate processes and institutions for people to voice their opinion. We can do all of that while recognizing that the Egyptian people are going to vote for who they want,” he said.

Bosserman said Congress is part of the problem. He said Obama laid out a path forward for the Middle East in his 2009 Cairo speech but failed to follow through with specific incentives, in part because Congress has blocked efforts to approve his $770 million incentive fund designed to advance democratic and economic reforms in Arab Spring countries.

Read the full article here

Sec. Kerry Ramps Up Economic Statecraft in Egypt

Kerry EgyptMany foreign policy strategists have, for years now, been propagating the notion that the Middle East is yesterday’s problem and that much more of our time and energy should be spent focusing on Europe and Asia. While a confluence of circumstances will surely shift American priorities in the medium to long term, the import of Secretary Kerry’s trip to the Middle East and North Africa highlights the fact that there remain many U.S. strategic interests to protect in that region and that the challenges and opportunities there will continue to command a very large share of the attention from national security policymakers in the years to come.

If there was a single theme that Secretary Kerry carried with him to Egypt over the weekend it was that inclusive economic growth is a top priority. The new Secretary of State announced a handful of new U.S. initiatives — $190 million in direct aid, expansion of the QIZ program, and $60 million in capital for Egyptian Enterprise Funds. In the run up to the trip, he was widely expected to push the Morsi government toward the reforms needed to secure a $4.8 billion loan under negotiation from the IMF, but these additional measures are positive indications that the State Department does genuinely believe that the “United States can and wants to do more.”

Stabilizing and restructuring the embattled Egyptian economy is incredibly important, but it is impossible to escape the fact that the political and the economic are inseparably intertwined. The economic reforms needed to secure the IMF loan — namely increasing tax revenue and cutting fuel subsidies — are incredibly unpopular, and can only be successfully implemented by a government that actually commands legitimacy from a majority of the population. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood’s crackdowns on alcohol and scantily clad women, to say nothing of mounting street violence, will continue to shut out billions of dollars in foreign currency that used to flow in from the tourism industry. As the FJP’s ongoing economic mismanagement pushes the unemployment rate of 15 to 30-year-olds over 70 percent, it is hard to ignore the relationship between lack of opportunity, poverty, frustration and the outbreaks of violence in places like Mansoura and Port Said. Incidents which, in turn, further drive away tourism, diminish credibility in the eyes of international financial institutions, and tear at the social fabric of Egyptian society.

Secretary Kerry correctly identifies the need for more capital, entrepreneurialism, and a vibrant civil society. It is wise for America to be more, rather than less, engaged in this process — but the United States is in a strong position to encourage the Morsi government to take the steps needed to develop an open and accountable political system and society. The specifics of private conversations between Kerry and Morsi are obviously unclear, but there was initially no announcement that the new aid package was tied to meeting meaningful democratic benchmarks. The European Union, in 2011, promoted a model of “more for more,” a plan that would provide additional assistance and investment to those countries making concrete progress toward democracy, human rights, social justice, good governance and the rule of law. Incentivizing real commitments in these areas is important not only for their own sake, but also because sustained growth must be supported by an ecosystem of policies and institutions.

The United States should continue to keep its eye on the longer, strategic view of transition in Egypt and throughout the region. As these nascent governments develop, the path will be rocky and setbacks should be expected. But America is wise to re-commit itself to helping shepherd these countries into the 21st century. In doing so, the Obama administration should not shy away from making it clear that genuine reform is needed and expected. Economic statecraft is one of the most potent tools to accomplish this goal and it is encouraging that Secretary Kerry appears to be comfortable promoting that strategy.

Event Recap – Investing For Innovation

On January 15th the MENA Initiative hosted a panel discussion focused on the new investment opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa. MENA Initiative Director Bradley Bosserman moderated the wide ranging conversation.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Naz Ash highlighted some of the exciting work that the State Department is doing to support entrepreneurship in the region, while articulating the critical role that economic statecraft plays in supporting US interests abroad.

Leslie Jump presented a robust vision of the exciting and fast-growing start-up culture that her venture capital fund is supporting. She discussed the opportunities and challenges presented by investing in early stage companies in the region and touched on her firm’s innovative new entrepreneurship accelerator in Cairo.

Phillip Blumberg explained how his company is overcoming hurdles in order to bring their proprietary new agriculture technology to market in North Africa and the Middle East. He shared his unique experience of doing business in the region and argued that many more opportunities can be made available by effectively aligning US policy with the needs of private sector firms interested in long-term regional investments.

You can follow this link to download full audio of the event.

INVITE: January 15th, “Investing for Innovation in the Middle East and North Africa”

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On Tuesday January 15th, NDN’s MENA Initiative will host a luncheon event on “Investing for Innovation in the Middle East and North Africa.” This panel will bring together senior policy officials, private sector investors, and global innovators to discuss some exciting current projects as well as future opportunities for building economic growth in the region by harnessing local entrepreneurship. Space will be limited so please RSVP TODAY.

The panel is still being finalized, but currently confirmed panelists include:

  •  Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Nazanin Ash –  Bureau of  Near Eastern Affairs, responsible for assistance and partnership initiatives where she overseas MEPI
  • Leslie Jump – a global investment pioneer and Partner at Sawari Ventures
  • Philip Blumberg, CEO of Blumberg Capital Partners

Location: NDN Event space at 729 15th St. NW
Time: 12:00 – 1:30 PM
Contact: Bradley Bosserman

Lunch and refreshments will be served.

***RSVP***

INVITE: Sept. 13 – A New Model for 21st Century Diplomacy

Please Join NDN for a luncheon event hosting Dr. Tomicah Tillemann, Secretary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies, as he discusses the State Department’s efforts to implement a new model for 21st century diplomacy.

Recognizing that our globalized world requires active engagement with diverse stakeholders both domestically and abroad, Secretary Clinton last year launched the Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society. This innovative strategy has been executed by a federally chartered Advisory Committee Chaired by Dr. Tomicah Tillemann. Please join Dr. Tillemann as he discusses the vision, impact, and process by which these partnerships are transforming 21st century foreign policy. Space is limited so please RSVP today to bbosserman@ndn.org

Lunch will be served at 12noon and the program will begin at 12:15. Space is limited, so please RSVP today.

Date: Thursday, September 13, 2012

Time: 12Noon-1:30pm Location: 729 15th St. NW. Washington DC 20005

RSVP: bbosserman@ndn.org