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Live Blog: The Future of U.S. Foreign Assistance

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11:45 a.m. The third panel this morning at the Humphrey Institute's America's Future: Conversations about Politics and Policy during the 2008 Republican National Convention is entitled, "The Future of U.S. Foreign Assistancde: Effective Development and National Security. The panel is moderated by Matthew McLean, Vice President, Millennium Challenge Corporation. Panelists for this event are:

* U.S. Representative John Boozman (R-AR), Member U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs
* Richard Fontaine, Foreign Policy Advisor, McCain '08
* Jim Kolbe, Senior Transatlantic Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States (former U.S. Representative from Arizona)
* Ambassador Andrew S. Natsios, Distinguished Professor in Practice of Diplomacy, Georgetown University
* Raymond Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America
* Vin Weber, Chariman, National Endowment for Democracy and Partner, Clark and Weinstock
* Honourable Michael Wilson, Canadian Ambassador to the United States

11:55 a.m.The United States sends nearly 200 billion dollars in developmental foreign assistance each year, only approximately 25 million of which comes directly from the federal government. The United States contributes more in absolute dollars than any other government, although it ranks among the lowest in terms of GDP percentage (though this does not factor in non-governmental contributions).

11:58 a.m. Offenheiser believes the current system of foreign aid needs critical reforms, as it is not serving its intended purpose or filling the needs of those it is intending to help. The U.S. has no national development strategy, unlike defense and diplomacy strategies, according to Offenheiser. He adds our laws our 'out of place and out of time' and is undermining U.S. leadership in foreign policy (the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act was written in 1961).

12:01 p.m. The American public, however, is a hard sell when it comes to sending more governmental dollars overseas on developmental aid. A poll conducted a few years ago by the Washingotn Post (June 2002) found only 8 percent of Americans believe we were spending 'too little' on foreign aid, with 22 percent stating the U.S. spent about the right amount, and 56 percent stating we spend 'too much.'

12:01 p.m. Former Congressman Kolbe believes we need more transparency in our aid giving, as well as "pruning the tree" of U.S. foreign assistance - less earmarks and more streamlined aid.

12:13 p.m. Ambassador Natsios agrees that the organizational structure of U.S. foreign aid is 'a mess.' Natsios says one of the reasons is the decrease in the number of AID foreign service officers. Foreign aid functions need to be recentralized in Washington, D.C. as well as in the field, the Ambassador concludes.

12:16 p.m. Congressman Boorman says the biggest hurdle to foreign aid in D.C. is that there is no constituency for it. Boorman says our aid can go a long way in improving our foreign relations -- in Africa, for example, President Bush was treated 'like a rock star' and America has positive ratings around 70 percent.

12:22 p.m. Former Congressman Vin Weber believes democracy (workers' rights, women's rights etc.) must be central to our foreign affairs strategy, but it must go hand-in-hand with foreign assistance.

12:31 p.m. Canadian Ambassador the U.S. Wilson comments on Canada's policy in Afghanistan and how it gives developmental assistance. Canada has six priorities there including building the security forces, helping government to provide basic services, providing humanitarian services, building Afghan institutions (e.g. elections), and assisting Afghan-led political solutions. Canada has increased its aid to Afghanistan by 50 percent to 1.9 billion. The Ambassador says there can be no developmental aid without security - two Canadian schools have been burnt down by the Taliban.

12:36 p.m. McCain foreign policy advisor Fontaine outlines McCain's record for U.S. aid while in the Senate in recent years. If elected president, McCain would eradicate malaria in Africa, calling for the private sector to match governmental aid. McCain would also be committed to fight world AIDS.

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