BUILD Act Introduced to House Committee on Foreign AffairsOn February 27, Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL) led a bipartisan effort that brought H.R. 5105, otherwise known as the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act, to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Modernizing U.S. Foreign Aid

The goal of this bill is to make foreign aid programs more efficient through consolidation. The BUILD Act specifically targets development finance programs or foreign aid programs that assist other countries financially. The bill will consolidate all these foreign aid programs into one corporation that will be called the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC).

“By streamlining our current system, we will not only spark economic growth in developing countries; we will improve America’s global competitiveness,” Rep. Yoho said in a press release.

Economic Assistance

These development finance programs are a vital part of foreign aid because they help to make a country economically stronger. Once a country’s economy is healthy, the country will no longer depend upon the U.S. for foreign aid.

The text of the BUILD Act states that the goal of the IDFC will be to primarily assist countries with low and lower-middle income level economies, as outlined by the World Bank, as opposed to providing assistance to upper-middle income economy countries.

Furthermore, the bill states that the IDFC will work primarily with the private sector in order to boost the economy of the country in need. The private sector is the part of the economy that is not controlled directly by the government, or in other words, the part of the economy that is managed by the citizens.

The IDFC will work to encourage the use of a country’s private capital to facilitate sustainable economic growth and promote poverty reduction. To achieve this goal, assistance will be provided to individuals and collectives that are part of the private sector, so that they can avoid market gaps and inefficiencies.

In addition, the IDFC will not just provide financial assistance to developing countries; it will also ensure that the civic institutions in these countries are fortified and that there is a healthy level of competition in the economy. The IDFC will also foster public transparency.

Long-Term Goals of the BUILD Act

The consolidation of the various development finance programs into one corporation will help the U.S. to more efficiently achieve its foreign aid goals.

The ultimate goal of the BUILD Act is for developing countries to eventually graduate from their need for assistance. The act will help to achieve this by making it easier for U.S. foreign aid to bolster the economies of developing countries so that over time they will depend less on traditional forms of foreign assistance.

“Taking countries from aid to trade is the end goal. We want to help countries become robust trading partners with the United States,” Congressman Yoho said in the press release.

The BUILD Act will benefit not only developing countries in need of assistance, but will also have positive effects for the U.S. in terms of business and national security.

– Jennifer Jones

Photo: Flickr

On June 23, 2015, California Representative Ed Royce introduced an updated version of his “Electrify Africa Act” in hopes that, after a year of gaining attention, the bill would have more traction in 2015.

First introduced nearly two years earlier, H.R. 2847 (2014 version, H.R. 2548), known as the Electrify Africa Act, seeks “to encourage African countries to provide first-time access to electricity and power services for at least 50,000,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Though certain language has been rearranged and some bill descriptions altered between the years, both versions address the same goal: to have the U.S. Government establish policy to “partner, consult, and coordinate” with the governments of Sub-Saharan Africa and international agencies in order to provide reliable access to electricity.

Findings reported to Congress in the 2014 act showed that an estimated 68% of Sub-Saharan Africans lacked access to electricity as of 2010; with Africa’s rapid rate of population growth, this percentage is likely even higher today. At a minimum, first-time access to electricity must be provided to 50 million people in the region, some 10% of the estimated population lacking power.

Residents of Sub-Saharan Africa living without electricity are forced to use time-consuming and inefficient heating and cooking methods, such as using wood and dung for fuel. In addition to being time-consuming, the fuels utilized in these regions can produce toxic fumes, which, according to the report, cause nearly 3 million premature deaths due to respiratory disease each year.

The Electrify Africa Act of 2015 would establish a precedent in U.S. foreign policy to aid developing nations in creating and expanding their electrical infrastructure in a sustainable and effective way. Expansion of the electrical grid would reduce the prevalence of carbon-emitting and toxic materials being used for heating and cooking purposes, as well as reduce poverty by creating jobs, expanding entrepreneurial opportunities and lowering energy prices.

The bill further calls for a focus on expanding and promoting energy development strategies, including the use of renewable and cleaner energy sources as a way to build the overall economy by increasing investment across the region.

Electrify Africa 2014 (first introduced in June 2013) passed the U.S. House of Representatives with significant bipartisan support and a vote of 297 to 117. However, the bill stalled out once it hit the U.S. Senate floor, where it was read twice before being referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, as documented on

The Electrify Africa Act 2015 has since been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where it awaits further action. Though the bill has garnered significant support in 2014, the 2015 version will need to raise the bar in order to make it all the way to the President in this legislative session.

– Gina Lehner

Sources: EAA 2014, EAA 2015
Photo: Huffington Post

house committee on foreign affairs
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs traces its origins back to November of 1775. The sole purpose of the it was to, “correspond with our friends of Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world.” Here are some facts about it:

·      Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Johnson Jr., John Dickinson and John Jay all made up the very first committee.

·      It had many different names throughout its history, some include: originally the Committee of Correspondence, then Committee of Secret Correspondence, and even more recently, the Committee on International Relations.

·      There are six subcommittees currently set up within the full committee.

·      There are a total of 44 members; 25 Republicans and 19 Democrats.

·      Edward Royce (R) has been the chairman of the committee since 2013, and also the chairman of two subcommittees: Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade in Asia and the Pacific.

·      It has legislative influence over some very important organizations such as the Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, the United Nations among others.

·      There have been two American Presidents that have been apart of the committee: James K. Polk and John Quincy Adams.

·      The most recent Oversight Plan of the Committee (January 2015) can be found on their website, it outlines most of the focuses of the committee for this year specifically; some of the focuses include ISIS, North Korea, Foreign Assistance and Human Rights.

·      You can watch/listen to any of their hearings on their website in order to understand what happens in their decision making processes (

Erik Shane

Sources: Ed Royce, House Committee on Foreign Affairs 1, House Committee on Foreign Affairs 2, House Committee on Foreign Affairs 3, House Committee on Foreign Affairs 4
Photo: Flickr

fight against global poverty
How many members of Congress are there, you ask? Fair question. The short answer is 535. That is, 100 Senators, two from each state, and 435 Representatives, which makes about one representative for every 700,000 people. But there’s more to it than that. All members contribute, positively or otherwise, to the fight against global poverty. Below is a quick guide to the most important groups and their key members for foreign policy decisions.

The most influential committees for major foreign policy decisions are the aptly named House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The House committee has 45 members and is chaired by Rep. Ed Royce. The committee’s recent efforts to fight against global poverty have included a hearing on the Boko Haram kidnapping victims and, more recently, legislation to combat international human trafficking, introduced by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. Meanwhile in the Senate, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez heads the Foreign Relations Committee. The committee’s recent efforts include a resolution urging a political solution to the ongoing humanitarian and refugee crisis in Syria.

Of course, among the most influential forces behind Congress are the parties themselves. In the House, Republicans outnumber Democrats by 33 members, while in the Senate there are 45 Republicans to 53 Democrats, along with two Independents. What does that mean for foreign aid? It is a popular belief that the left in America have a more vested interest in reducing global poverty than the right. Therefore, the Democrats would be more likely to favor measures to reduce global poverty.

Republican leadership under the Bush administration, in part as a response to 9/11, but also as part of Bush’s bid for a more “compassionate conservatism,” dramatically increased foreign aid. Republicans in the early 2000s renewed efforts to fight AIDS and malaria, and also tripled foreign aid to Africa. Under the Obama administration, aid increased further, now totaling about $30 billion.

It is The Borgen Project’s stance that the U.S. needs a far stronger commitment to foreign aid in order to address global poverty. But the good news is that under the control of both parties in recent years, the budget has moved in the right direction.

The key parties, key committees and key players of Congress all help shape American politics and the fight against global poverty. In Congress, reducing global poverty crosses party lines, which can lead to a better bipartisan consensus.

– Julian Mostachetti

Sources: Senate Foreign Relations Committee, House Committee on Foreign Affairs 1, House Committee on Foreign Affairs 2