Yesterday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations heard testimony from Enough’s John Prendergast, former Ambassador to Ethiopia David H. Shinn, and Suliman Baldo from the International Center for Transitional Justice. The subcommittee, chaired by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), called the hearing to discuss U.S. programs and policies in Africa — specifically in Sudan and the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions.
In her opening remarks, Chairperson Lowey discussed her expectations of the new administration:
I hope that the Obama administration will reverse the years of a one-dimensional Africa assistance policy and put forward a more comprehensive diplomatic and development strategy for the African continent.
Echoing those sentiments, Prendergast noted the opportunities the new administration and new Congress have in contributing to the resolution of crises from the Great Lakes to the Horn. Prendergast noted the need to shift U.S. policy from “squandering” Americans’ tax dollars by throwing money at Africa’s largest conflicts in such a manner that merely “manages” the symptoms. Instead of this costly yet largely ineffective approach, he said, the U.S. needs to spend more wisely by addressing the root causes of these conflicts:
Strategic investment in competent, sustained conflict resolution is among the most cost-effective decisions that we can make.
Interestingly, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), vice chair of the subcommittee, said that in his 10 years on the subcommittee, they had never had a hearing on Africa. In light of this fact, yesterday was an encouraging sign that Congress might be more motivated to think creatively about how best to use U.S. resources to aid ongoing conflict resolution efforts.
Given the current global economic environment, the subcommittee must consider a more cost-effective way of leading the international effort to foster inclusive and sustainable peace in some of the deadliest conflicts in the world. Check back here for more updates on U.S. spending in Africa.