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Archive for the ‘Obama Administration’ Category

Charting A Way Forward on U.S. Development Policy

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
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See below for a post by MFAN Co-Chairs George Ingram, Carolyn Miles, and Connie Veillette.

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The U.S. has an important leadership role to play when it comes to supporting development and reducing poverty around the world. Foreign assistance serves our national interests by enhancing national security, expanding global economic opportunities, and promoting American values. In 2008, MFAN was established because of the growing recognition that U.S. foreign assistance and development policy needed to be strengthened and modernized in order to confront today’s challenges and bring about a more peaceful and prosperous world.

Since MFAN’s founding we have seen the Administration and Congress take actions to improve development policy and practice and make U.S. assistance dollars work smarter. Today, with the launch of our new policy paper, The Way Forward: A Reform Agenda for 2014 and Beyond, we both reflect on past achievements and humbly recognize there is much more work to be done.

MFAN’s new agenda outlines two powerful and mutually reinforcing pillars of reform – accountability through transparency, evaluation and learning; and country ownership of the priorities and resources for, and implementation of, development. These pillars are vital to building capacity in developing countries to enable leaders and citizens to take responsibility for their own development.

We applaud the many actions that have already been taken or put in motion to advance accountability and country ownership. For the Obama Administration, these include the commitment to fully implement the International Aid Transparency Initiative, USAID’s Partnership for Growth and Local Solutions initiatives, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s commitment to transparency reflected by its top ranking on the 2013 Aid Transparency Index. In addition it is particularly encouraging to see that transparency is embedded in the recommendations of the Global Development Council that were released this week. Congress has also taken up the reform cause with the creation of the Congressional Caucus on Effective Foreign Assistance, the introduction and reintroduction of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, and recent efforts to improve the efficiency and responsiveness of international food aid.

These next two years are an important window of opportunity for U.S. aid reform. The midterm elections in 2014 are certain to shake up the membership of Congress. In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals will expire and a new global development agenda will take its place. And 2016 will bring a new administration and further changes in Congress.  We urge the Administration and Congress to work together to institutionalize the important reforms that have already been introduced and continue to push forward on strengthening country ownership and accountability. The profound changes in international aid globally make the focus on these changes even more important to ensuring US aid effectiveness.

We will be tracking progress made on the key reform actions we outline in the paper and sharing our thoughts with the community, the Administration, and Congress. We invite – and look forward to – the dialogue that these recommendations will generate.

U.S. Pace on Aid Transparency Won’t Cut it for 2015 Deadline

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
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Development leaders from around the globe will gather in Mexico City next week for the first high-level meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. The Global Partnership was established at the Fourth High Level Forum in Busan in 2011 and brings together a wide range of development actors working towards more effective, sustainable, and impactful development results. Today, 161 countries and 54 organizations have endorsed the Global Partnership Principles, including the United States.

Next week’s meeting offers up a chance to evaluate donors’ progress on their commitments to the Principles, including one focused on transparency requiring that donors publish all aid data to a common, open standard by December 2015. The U.S. endorsement of the Global Partnership Principles goes hand in hand with the commitment made by Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), also announced at Busan.

MFAN has joined with many other individuals and organizations in an effort spearheaded by Publish What You Fund to call on USAID Administrator Raj Shah and Secretary of State John Kerry to increase aid transparency efforts ahead of the GPEDC meeting. The supporting individuals and organizations have sent letters to Administrator Shah and Secretary Kerry outlining key recommendations, including:

  • Accelerate efforts to publish timely, comprehensive and forward-looking data on all development flows in accordance with IATI and improve the quality of published data;
  • Ensure information on development cooperation is compatible and aligned with partner countries’ budgets and systems;
  • Support specific actions to improve access, dissemination and use of this data by all stakeholders at country level.

With 2015 just around the corner, the U.S. needs to pick up the pace on publishing timely, comprehensive, and forward-looking data if it is to meet its important commitment to aid transparency. We hope this gathering will provide a much-needed kick-start to that process.

5 things the US government is doing to make foreign assistance more effective

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
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See below for a guest post from Jennifer Lentfer, Senior Writer on the Aid Effectiveness Team at Oxfam America. Lentfer highlights the aid effectiveness principles from Oxfam’s newly released third-edition Foreign Aid 101 report.

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#1 – AFFIRMING AID’S PURPOSE

President Barack Obama issued the US government’s first ever US Global Development Policy in September 2010. The policy clarifies that the primary purpose of US development aid is to pursue broad-based economic growth as the means to fight global poverty.

The US Global Development Policy also offers a clear mandate for country ownership—that is, leadership by citizens and responsible governments in poor countries—is how the US government will support development. The US has been moving in this direction since the George W. Bush administration.

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#2 – MODERNIZING USAID

USAID Forward is a flagship reform agenda designed to make USAID more transparent, effective, and accountable to US taxpayers and to people overseas.

The issue: USAID Forward addresses outdated procurement policies that perpetuate a cycle of aid dependence, rebuilding staff technical capacity, the reduction of overhead costs associated with contracting by 12–15 percent, the need for rigorous program feedback and evaluation, and finally, the role of innovation, science, and technology throughout USAID’s programs. At the heart of this reform process is acknowledging the leading role that local people and institutions have in transforming their countries.

The results: Since USAID Forward began, USAID has increased the amount of direct support to governments and to citizens and other leaders and problems solvers in host countries by almost 50 percent. In fiscal year 2010, only 9.7 percent of USAID mission funding was awarded directly to host country government agencies, private-sector firms, and local NGOs. In 2013, 14.3 percent of mission funds were awarded directly to these local institutions, which is halfway toward USAID’s goal of 30 percent by fiscal year 2015.

#3 – MAKING US FOREIGN AID MORE TRANSPARENT

The issue: Basic information about where, how much, and for what the US government provides aid has historically been difficult for people to access—both for American taxpayers and for the people in poor countries we are trying to assist. But when the US government shares high-quality, comprehensive, and timely information about our aid investments, it helps:

  • Partners plan better projects;
  • Watchdogs keep an eye on the money; and
  • Citizens both in the US and in partner countries make sure that aid delivers results.

The results: The US government is beginning to disclose basic aid data, as well as make that data more useful to citizens. In 2010, the US unveiled a public website, the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, which provides a view of US aid across agencies and countries. President Obama has mandated publishing machine-readable data on US aid via executive orders and through public, international commitments like the Open Government Partnership. There have also been bipartisan efforts in both houses of Congress to require more transparency from US aid agencies via legislation.

In 2011, the US joined the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), a global agreement by donors to share information about foreign aid in an easy-to-use manner. Since joining IATI, US rankings in the Aid Transparency Index have risen across the board, with the MCC ranking number one in 2013.

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#4 – DEVELOPING NEW MODELS OF PROVIDING AID

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a United States foreign aid agency that is applying a new philosophy towards foreign aid. Introduced by President George W. Bush and established by Congress in 2004, the MCC model requires countries to meet eligibility criteria in three areas: good governance, economic freedom, and investments in people. In return, the MCC provides large, five-year grants (“compacts”) toward development projects that are identified along with representatives from the host country government, private sector, and civil society and that are assessed on the basis of expected economic returns and other technical criteria.

From 2004-2013, the MCC signed compacts with 24 countries and committed over $9.3 billion in aid. Lesotho is an example of a country that took steps to improve economic freedom to become eligible for an MCC partnership by passing a law in 2006 that allowed married women to own property for the first time.

#5 – TACKLING GLOBAL CHALLENGES THROUGH LOCAL INSTITUTIONS

FEED THE FUTURE

The issue: About three-fourths of the world’s poorest people—1.4 billion women, children, and men—live in rural areas, where most of them depend on farming and related activities for their livelihood.

In recent years, increasing food prices around the globe have put pressure on many poor households. In response to these recurring food crises, the Obama administration in 2010 launched the Feed the Future initiative, which aims to help small farmers grow more food and grow their incomes. Feed the Future is designed to deliver aid for agricultural development and food security based on a country’s own assessment of needs and priorities. Feed the Future is also intended to focus on results and leverage US investments in local research and training on farming methods, irrigation, and nutrition for maximum outcomes.

The results: In 2012, almost 9.4 million acres—a land area nearly double that of New Jersey—came under improved cultivation and management practices due to Feed the Future investments, supporting seven million food producers. In Senegal for example, the use of conservation farming techniques resulted in at least a 20 percent increase in yields of maize, millet, and sorghum from 2011 to 2012.

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THE US PRESIDENT’S EMERGENCY PLAN FOR AIDS RELIEF (PEPFAR)

The issue: An estimated 35 million people were living with HIV around the world in 2012. The persistent burden associated with communicable diseases undermines efforts to reduce poverty, prevent hunger, and preserve human potential. Launched in 2003, PEPFAR helps expand access to prevention, care, and treatment by funding programs that are country-owned and country-driven, emphasizing a “whole of government” response to scaling-up proven interventions, which are increasingly financed by partner countries.

The results: PEPFAR has helped contributed to historic declines in AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections. Going forward, PEPFAR is addressing the continuing challenges of strengthening health systems in developing nations so countries ultimately care for and improve the health of their own people, better protecting the world from global disease outbreaks.

New MCC-PEPFAR Partnership Aims to Boost Ownership

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
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See below for a guest post from Sylvain Browa, Director of Aid Effectiveness at Save the Children. Browa writes about a new partnership between MCC and PEPFAR to promote country ownership.

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The 2010 QDDR called for the U.S. Government to change the way it does business, particularly, “work smarter to deliver results.” A new memorandum of agreement (MOA) between PEPFAR and MCC announced last week could do just that. Over the next three years, MCC will help PEPFAR increase host-country responsibility and ownership of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB) programming in select countries.

This agreement is an important demonstration of PEPFAR’s commitment to doing business differently, and demonstrates how an already successful multi-billion dollar initiative can recognize the need to improve and act on it.

Putting host countries in the driver’s seat in the fight against HIV/AIDS and TB is not just the right thing to do, but has the potential to effectively help sustain the massive gains achieved by PEPFAR over the years. In this new approach, countries will own and (where necessary, learn to) implement PEPFAR priorities. As drivers, these countries will also bring something for the trip – if not the car, at least gas money and a deep knowledge of the road ahead. Greater host country responsibility and ownership of PEPFAR activities puts countries in the position to coordinate investments from other donors to strengthen their national fight against HIV/AIDS and TB.

This new agreement tells us that, in order to reap the full benefit of this mid-course correction, PEPFAR understands the need to get the partnership with host countries right. And they have reached out to a sister agency (MCC) with the comparative advantage and experience to help frame, structure, and set up these partnerships. MCC remains the guru among U.S. aid agencies on how to structure trustworthy partnerships where partner countries are accountable (and rewarded) for formulating their own priorities, implementing them, and delivering results for their people.

From my perspective, this agreement with MCC will work if PEPFAR can objectively commit to:

  • Amending its country operational plan (COP) process to allow partner countries to bring their own priorities forward for meaningful negotiation.
  • Aligning PEPFAR’s often uncoordinated multi-agency interventions in country behind a single entry point of engagement with partner countries like in MCC’s partner government-led MCA teams.
  • Being transparent with partner countries about all PEPFAR programs related information, including budgets, and even policy constraints at home.

In addition to being paid for its services, MCC could learn from PEPFAR’s increasing efforts to value and integrate domestic resources with U.S. funding at the country level and position our financial support (direct support to the public and private sector) as a fundamental element of the country’s available domestic and external resources to fight HIV/AIDS and TB.

This is an interagency collaboration worth following closely. And we will.

PEPFAR and MCC Partner to Promote Country Ownership

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014
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See below for a guest post from Jenny Ottenhoff, Policy Outreach Associate at the Center for Global Development. Ottenhoff writes about a new agreement between MCC and PEPFAR to promote country ownership. The original post can be found on CGD’s blog.

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Last week, PEPFAR signed a three-year agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to support efforts to promote greater host-country responsibility and ownership in the US global AIDS program.  Country ownership has been at the core of MCC’s mission (and structure and governance) since its creation, so it’s exciting to see a formalized agreement that will help facilitate lesson sharing and technical support between the two US development efforts.

Transitioning to a sustainable response is an ongoing challenge facing PEPFAR, and no easy feat considering the program was originally designed as an emergency response.  But as we highlighted in arecent report, the MCC model includes three features that could be extremely useful in moving PEPFAR toward a more country-owned approach:

1. First, MCC creates incentives for government commitment as expressed through policy and programmatic performance, where only countries that pass a threshold are eligible for assistance.  Similar indicators and thresholds related to HIV/AIDS and TB performance could be established under PEPFAR to incentivize greater country investment and reward progress towards greater coverage.

2. Second, MCC sets up a compact and account in-country, usually with a government-owned project implementation unit that can compete, contract, and supervise programs directly.  Such a facility could serve as PEPFAR’s country counterpart, channel Global Fund and other donor funding, and evolve toward a single payer or fund as modeled in countries like Rwanda and Liberia.

3.  Finally, MCC is one of the most transparent aid agencies in the world.  The agency posts its planning, obligation and spending data as well as procurement activity and reporting online in aggregated and country-based sites that are easy to access and understand.  These tools help facilitates better understanding, oversight and collaboration among all stakeholders — including partner governments — and would go a long way in helping manage expectations for country-ownership as PEPFAR moves forward.

While specific details of the agreement are not yet public, we do know that PEPFAR funds will be made available to facilitate technical assistance from MCC to help advance country ownership in a yet-to-be-decided set of countries.  But we’ll be watching to see if any of these “MCC features” are reflected in PEPFAR’s program in the coming years.