As we reflect on the first 100 days of the Biden Administration, InterAction is taking stock of the commitments and early progress made by the Administration to elevate development and humanitarian priorities that are important to our 220+ Members and partners.
InterAction appreciates the productive dialogues that we have had thus far with the new Administration and welcomes the heightened level of consultation with civil society by various agencies within the Administration; we urge these conversations to continue and deepen over time. Of the dozens of recommendations that the InterAction community put forward to the Biden-Harris transition team, we have already seen demonstrable progress in the major areas put forward in our transition papers, and we anticipate further action given the ambitious commitments made by the Biden Administration.
On elevating principled foreign assistance within U.S. foreign policy, we welcome the timely appointment and recent confirmation of Ambassador Samantha Power to be the Administrator of USAID and the Administration’s elevation of that position as a full member of the National Security Council. We also welcome President Biden’s request for increased international assistance funding in his discretionary budget. These steps serve as important signals for the rebalancing of U.S. foreign policy priorities.
InterAction was pleased to see the inclusion in the budget request of key international priorities like addressing climate change and global health security. However, we note that the President’s request is still insufficient to meet the growing need for international development, global health, and humanitarian assistance. InterAction has identified a minimum increase of at least $8 billion for FY 2022, and we urge the Administration to consider increases to international assistance programs commensurate with increases to domestic programs. The increases are especially salient during and while recovering from a pandemic—when no one is safe until everyone is safe. InterAction also appreciates that the Biden Administration worked quickly with Congress to pass the most recent COVID-19 supplemental funding bill that included $11.55 billion in foreign assistance funding, which is critically needed to address the worst effects of the pandemic. We are watching the implementation of this bill and the allocation of funding closely to ensure that it reaches the intended beneficiaries efficiently and expeditiously.
Additionally, while much work remains to be done, the Administration has taken an early step in removing transactional aid conditionalities by reinstating foreign assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, committing immediate funds to Central America, and initiating a critical review of U.S. sanctions policy, which poses significant challenges to timely and effective humanitarian response. We are hopeful that this review will be expanded with the broader goal of ensuring all U.S. national security and counter-terror policies do not impede humanitarian action.
Finally, significant action must be taken immediately to restore the refugee resettlement number to the 125,000 level that President Biden verbally committed to but has not yet implemented. Meeting—and exceeding—this commitment is not only critical in offering a future to refugees but essential to rebuilding the credibility of the U.S. to encourage other countries to keep their borders open to those fleeing violence and conflict.
On advancing key issues for better development and humanitarian outcomes, InterAction has welcomed the Biden Administration’s initial steps on interconnected issues, including COVID-19 response and recovery, gender equality, democracy and human rights, and climate. The Biden Administration quickly elevated these issues on a domestic and international stage – demonstrated by Vice President Kamala Harris’ historic delegation and address at the Commission on the Status of Women where she eloquently noted that “the status of women is the status of democracy.”
InterAction was also pleased to see the Administration’s commitment to review and reverse concerning Trump Administration policies such as the 2020 Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy. Despite the initial progress made on gender equity, we would like to see a larger emphasis on other marginalized populations, such as adolescent girls, children with disabilities, LBGTQ individuals, and children in conflict settings. Finally, it is excellent to see the Administration prioritize addressing democratic backsliding as a key priority within Administration policy and beyond, including the announcement of a Summit of Democracies and strong rhetoric around the elevation of democracy, both at home and abroad.
On supporting inclusive and responsive foreign assistance, we have already witnessed small steps towards improving cross-sectoral integration in USAID’s development work, a new focus on climate across all agencies, and a resetting of Administration policies and priorities related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We applaud appointments like the new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the Department of State, Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley. The elevation of democracy, development, and climate within the National Security Council and the creation of the Gender Policy Council are also welcome steps that signal the importance of these issues to U.S. foreign policy. Yet, top positions at MCC and DFC remain unfilled. There is still much progress to be made to appoint, hire, and retain diverse candidates, further develop and implement inclusive policies throughout USAID and State, and ensure agency transparency accountability.
On restoring and advancing U.S. leadership in the multilateral system, InterAction applauds the reinvigoration of U.S. multilateral re-engagement across the board. This includes critical steps towards global pandemic recovery, such as joining COVAX and rejoining the WHO. We applaud the rejoining of the Paris Agreement and committing to doubling climate finance to $5.7 billion by the end of the first term, increasing America’s pledge in IFAD12 and committing to paying back UN arrears, and reengaging with the UN Human Rights Council, NATO, and G7 allies.
The InterAction community was pleased to see the Biden Administration’s recent Leaders’ Climate Summit, commitments by USAID, MCC, and DFC to accelerate their climate work, and the announcement of the U.S. Nationally Determined Contribution to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. On the road to COP26 and beyond, there is much more work to do. We urge the Biden Administration to prioritize climate adaptation and mitigation, nature-based approaches, and a green recovery from COVID-19. Now begins the hard work to back these commitments with measurable domestic and global actions.
This positive momentum must continue and build over the Administration’s next 100 days and beyond. While discussions and executive orders are vital to the process of elevating development and humanitarian priorities, we next need to see strong policy proposals and collective action from the Biden Administration in continued close consultation with civil society. InterAction looks forward to partnering with the Administration as it moves beyond these early conversations and implements concrete plans through bold actions.