Though the Fiscal Year 2012 budget negotiations are behind us and the foreign operations budget fared far better than many anticipated, critical parts of our international development efforts took some rather large hits, including foreign assistance spending not related to wars which saw $2.2 billion in cuts. These cuts limit our ability to use development as a stabilizing force in the world, and will force the State Department into another year of pay freezes for US foreign service officers.

As Congress prepares for the Fiscal Year 2013 budgeting process, the Make US Strong campaign will be redoubling its efforts to make sure policymakers understand that international development keeps America safe and strong. And America’s economic situation will no doubt remain at the forefront of both the political and policy debates of 2012; this fact makes the debate surrounding aid effectiveness more relevant than ever.

Gregory Adams, Truman Fellow and Director of Aid Effectiveness at Oxfam America, recently reflected on USAID’s new efforts to improve aid distribution to developing countries, including Administrator Rajiv Shah’s work to broaden the Agency’s partnerships with local peoples.

“It’s based in the reality of good development, which is that development isn’t something done by USAID—development is done by poor people and poor countries themselves. In order to be a better partner, USAID needs to get closer to poor people to know better what they actually need and want. That means having more USAID people talking and working directly with people in poor countries.”

There is no question that an open discussion about the models we use for international development is an integral part of the effectiveness debate. Adams reminds us that working more directly with local communities and their leaders has enormous benefit and will translate into better value for taxpayers here at home, increased empowerment of local leaders, and greater opportunities to win the hearts and minds of people in these developing countries.

“These are exactly the kind of people that the United States wants on our side: not because of charity or because they necessarily like us, but because they want the same things we do.”

American interests can only be met if we take care of the needs of those in unstable places – or else, our foes will fill that void. These efforts to revamp the vehicles that deliver international development can help ensure that international threats don’t make their way across our borders.