May 07, 2013

New bill would prompt welcome reforms to US foreign assistance programs, including global health R&D

Policy and Advocacy Officer

Last week, Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Karen Bass (D-CA), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the Global Partnerships Act of 2013. The bill is a welcome step to reform the US government’s foreign assistance programs, including strengthening important aspects of US global health research and development (R&D) efforts.

Throughout the bill, research and innovation to improve health worldwide are highlighted as central components of US foreign assistance programs. For instance:

The bill provides a promising future for US foreign assistance programs—an effort that reflects former Rep. Howard Berman’s (D-CA) legacy in foreign aid policy (Rep. Berman introduced the same bill before he departed Congress at the end of 2012). The bill rightly places research and innovation at the crux of the global health sector, and provides guidance for needed reforms to the US foreign assistance system. As Rep. Connolly said when releasing the bill, “It is time for a complete overhaul of the way we administer foreign aid. The 21st century requires a foreign aid program that recognizes today’s priorities and streamlines the process in the post-Cold War era.”

Congress should unquestionably move this legislation forward and introduce a Senate companion bill. However, given that Congress hasn’t made much traction on most pieces of legislation in the past few years, the Partnership Act’s fate isn’t clear. It’s also possible that sections of this legislation may spin off into their own separate bills and see success. The important thing is to keep the congressional dialogue around foreign aid reform going, and not to lose momentum for urgently needed reforms and improvements.

You can read a press release from Rep. Connolly here, and a statement from the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network here.

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