The fifth installment in MFAN’s QDDR blog series comes from MFAN Principal Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. To see other posts in the series, click on the following names - George Ingram, Noam Unger, David Beckmann, Ritu Sharma & Nora O’Connell.
The PSD & QDDR: What’s in it for poor countries?
by Raymond C. Offenheiser
President Obama and his administration have emphasized the need for U.S. development policy and practice to support “country ownership”—the idea that poor countries and their people need to lead their own development. As Secretary Clinton has said, “In Africa and elsewhere, we seek more agile, effective, and creative partnerships. We will focus on country-driven solutions that give responsible governments more information, capacity, and control as they tailor strategies to meet their needs.” So how can the PSD and the QDDR interim report suggest ways to better transfer information, capacity and control to recipients?
Be more transparent. At minimum, the PSD and the QDDR should require that the U.S. publish comprehensive, accessible, comparable, and timely information that is useful to recipient governments, civil society, and U.S. taxpayers.
Be more predictable. To lead best practice, the PSD and the QDDR should plan to provide countries with regular and timely information on their three-to-five-year expenditure and implementation plans.
Reduce overreliance on U.S. contractors and NGOs. At minimum, the PSD and the QDDR should mandate that the U.S. more often work directly with governments and civil society organizations and turn to local or regional experts when possible.
Use local systems. Countries need to strengthen systems like public financial management (PFM), procurement, statistics, audits, and monitoring & evaluation (M&E) if they are going to effectively lead their own development. The PSD and the QDDR should mandate use of these systems wherever possible and support their improvement rather than work around them.
Do country-based planning, not Washington-based planning. At minimum, the PSD and the QDDR should free USAID missions to write thoughtful, strategic country plans consistent with the needs and priorities of recipient governments and citizens. We should then work in Washington to protect those plans from inconsistent earmarks and presidential initiatives.
Change focus to outcomes rather than outputs. Sometimes it’s less important how money gets spent than on what impact it has on the ground. The PSD and the QDDR should permit more flexibility over how aid dollars are spent, presuming recipients can achieve measurable results. In some cases, this will even mean handing over aid dollars directly to a responsible recipient government’s treasury to be spent on development projects of their choosing.
Raymond C. Offenheiser is the President of Oxfam America.
Tags: country ownership, development, economic growth, foreign assistance reform, monitoring & evaluation, partnership, Presidential Study Directive on Global Development Policy, QDDR, State Department, transparency, USAID