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Community Supports Introduction of the Global Partnerships Act of 2012

Thursday, December 13th, 2012
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The Global Partnerships Act of 2012 (GPA), H.R. 6644, was introduced yesterday by Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) with widespread support from the international development community. In working with Congressman Berman and his staff, development leaders were able to contribute their knowledge and expertise to help shape the much-needed rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. The bill enables government agencies who deliver foreign assistance to better address the challenges facing U.S. development programs in today’s world.

Moreover, the GPA is essential to codifying the foreign assistance reforms already underway within the U.S. government and seeks to ensure a continued effort in making foreign assistance more effective. The bill mandates: transparency and evaluation to learn from mistakes and inform future programs; better coordination within our own government, with the private sector, and with other donors to make programs more efficient; and long term-strategic planning to focus resources where they are most needed. It also puts partners in the driver’s seat by requiring consultation throughout the program planning process—emphasizing capacity building, and making it easier to work more directly with local organizations. These important and necessary reforms will allow the U.S. government to maximize its development impact and U.S. taxpayers’ dollars.

Don’t just take our word for it. Our partners spoke up about the bill as well:

“The Global Partnerships Act will bring U.S. assistance into the 21st century by establishing a coherent framework for streamlining cooperation between Congress, the executive branch, and civil society. By requiring a comprehensive U.S. Strategy for Global Development every four years, it will guarantee a foreign assistance strategy that is clear, specific and current.” Save the Children

“WWF is particularly pleased with the legislation’s recognition of the environment as a critical cross-cutting priority. America’s foreign assistance must clearly address the reality that environmental pressures and resource scarcities around the world increasingly affect American prosperity.” World Wildlife Fund

“This holistic approach recognizes the necessity of working closely with partner countries to build health systems that effectively tackle priority health needs. Skilled health workers are the backbone of any health system, so we welcome the legislation’s explicit support for the recruitment, training, retention, effectiveness ,and equitable distribution of skilled health workers,” Management Systems for Health

You can read more supportive statements below:

Bread for the World

Caucasus for Effective Foreign Assistance

Freedom House

Habitat for Humanity

InterAction

International Housing Coalition

Mercy Corps

Professional Services Council

Publish What You Fund

USGLC

Women Thrive Worldwide

 

MFAN Statement: MFAN Applauds Congressman Howard Berman’s Introduction of Global Partnerships Act to Modernize U.S. Foreign Assistance

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
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December 12, 2012 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram, and Jim Kolbe:

We commend Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA), a leading advocate for U.S. global development programs and foreign assistance reform, for introducing the Global Partnerships Act of 2012 (H.R. 6644).

The goal of H.R. 6644 is to replace the outdated Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 with a modern, responsive legislative foundation to guide U.S. development programs. As Congressman Berman has long said, it is critically important to have this kind of clear roadmap for development in a world that has changed so dramatically over the last 50 years. The legislation embraces the principles of effective, sustainable development that are now considered best practice in the international community and referenced in President Obama’s landmark Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD). MFAN is particularly pleased with the priority placed on the following reforms:

  • Promoting country ownership and partnering with local governments and citizens to set priorities;
  • Strengthening accountability and transparency through rigorous monitoring and evaluation;
  • Ensuring program decisions are evidence-based; and
  • Adopting a more integrated, coordinated, outcome-based approach to development that is flexible within and across sectors and agencies.

Congressman Berman and his staff deserve special credit for their consensus-building efforts around the bill, achieved through a series of consultations—many of which MFAN convened—with organizations and individuals in the development community. This bill reflects a shared vision from the community, including about the importance of reforms that are already being implemented, such as USAID’s five-year Country Development Cooperation Strategies, the MCC’s recently released independent impact evaluations, and the Foreign Assistance Dashboard.

The introduction of the Global Partnerships Act provides an opportunity for Members of Congress, including new Members, to work together in a bipartisan fashion to strengthen accountability and effectiveness in U.S. development programs. As the 113th Congress approaches, we encourage policymakers to consider this comprehensive, long-overdue proposal that would bring our foreign assistance into the 21st century and allow us to more effectively address new and pending global challenges.

 

UNDP takes another step to enhance transparency

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
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See below for a guest post from Will Davis, Director of the UNDP Washington Representation Office, in which he describes the UNDP’s new online portal. This new site is a great example of how a leading organization is implementing the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standards and taking important steps to be more transparent and accountable for results.

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The ongoing efforts of the UN Development Program (UNDP) to enhance the transparency of its global operations took a major step forward last week with the launch of a new online portal—www.open.undp.org. The portal enables the public to track comprehensive data on more than 6,000 projects budgeted through 2011 in 177 countries and territories worldwide, along with more than 8,000 outputs or results.

From Washington to Tokyo, donor governments and their citizens understand that transparency in the flow of aid is critical to effective, efficient delivery. It means greater accountability at every level, limiting waste and ensuring aid gets to those who need it most. MFAN and its members have long championed the essential need for aid transparency, and UNDP and its Administrator, Helen Clark, share this view, to the point that UNDP has been widely recognized as a leader in the UN system for its sustained open-data efforts and graded as a top-10 organization by Publish What You Fund.

Ms. Clark has called transparency “a top priority for UNDP and a vital element in maintaining the trust vested in us by the public and our partners.”

The portal’s landing page lists donors, followed by a breakdown of where UNDP funding goes. Multiple filters on the right allow sorting by country, donor, focus area, and region. Users can sort projects by focus areas, funding sources, and locations and extract detailed data related to budgets, implementing organizations, and targeted results in areas from governance and rule of law to crisis prevention and recovery.

These data reflect budgeted contributions and expenditures through 2011, including some projects that are now closed. Data will be updated quarterly beginning in the new year, and our transparency team will continue upgrading and expanding this portal with real-time data, including photos from the field, going forward.

Our new open-data portal was financed by a grant from the United States, a key UNDP partner worldwide in supporting our work on democratic governance, crisis prevention and recovery, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and more peaceful, prosperous communities. The portal helps fulfill UNDP’s commitment to achieve levels of transparency by 2013 that are above and beyond international standards.

UNDP created the portal as part of its implementation of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). While the portal was financed by a $225,000 U.S. contribution, the overall IATI effort is funded through UNDP’s core budget. UNDP, a founding member of IATI, committed to full adoption of the common aid transparency standard by 2013 to ensure publication of financial data and project information in the most transparent and accessible way.

Initial responses to the portal have been overwhelmingly positive. UNDP welcomes comments and suggestions as we continue to expand and streamline the portal, and continually augment our efforts to make UNDP’s work as open and transparent as possible.

 

MFAN Statement: President Obama Can Use Second Term to Solidify Gains, Drive Additional Progress on Foreign Assistance Reform

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012
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November 13, 2012 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

MFAN wishes to congratulate President Barack Obama, as well as returning and new Members of Congress, for their victories in the 2012 elections. With regard to U.S. development and foreign assistance efforts, this is an important moment to look back at the accomplishments of the last four years and ahead to the clear opportunities of the coming term.

During President Obama’s first term in office, we saw significant progress made in elevating, reforming, and reshaping U.S. development programs. The President built on efforts by the Bush Administration to create a new model for U.S. foreign assistance, taking them a step further by releasing the first-ever Presidential Policy Directive on Development (PPD). The PPD established a roadmap for transforming our development programs with a greater focus on country-led approaches, monitoring and evaluation, transparency and accountability, and more efficient partnerships and coordination between the public and private sectors. To execute this vision effectively, the President supported a landmark internal reform process to revitalize the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and launched innovative new programs like Feed the Future and the Partnership for Growth. We applaud the President, his staff, and other key players from the Administration and Congress for having the courage to push these reforms.

The next four years offer the opportunity to solidify gains and drive additional progress. MFAN will focus specifically on four key areas, which will be discussed in more detail in a forthcoming set of transition recommendations:

  • Institutionalizing reform by working with Congress to pass key legislation, like the Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act, which enjoys support from Democrats and Republicans in both chambers.
  • Strengthening U.S. leadership in global development by producing an overarching global development strategy.
  • Improving transparency and accountability by ensuring that relevant agencies follow OMB guidelines and submit information to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), and that such information is cross-posted to the ForeignAssistance.gov dashboard.
  • Transitioning from aid to development cooperation by rethinking our relationship with middle-income and other countries where non-aid tools, such as trade and investment, can have a stronger impact.

These are big and ambitious undertakings but we believe they are realistic and achievable. We are particularly optimistic of success because of what we heard on the 2012 campaign trail. Both President Obama and Governor Romney spoke publicly about the importance of U.S. efforts to alleviate poverty, drive economic growth, and eradicate disease in developing countries. We hope that policymakers in both parties will agree that our ability to maintain our leadership and leverage on a changing world stage, and turn the unprecedented development gains of the past decade into lasting change, will rest heavily on how well we use non-military tools of foreign policy like development and diplomacy.

We look forward to working with our MFAN partners, the Obama Administration, and the next generation of development leadership in Congress to continue reforming U.S. foreign assistance to make it more effective and accountable.

 

MFAN Statement: New Evaluations Advance Transparency and Provide Valuable Guidance for Future Programs

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
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October 23, 2012 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN).

With the release of the first round of impact evaluations, MFAN is pleased that the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) continues to push forward and insist that we prove the effectiveness of U.S. development programs, be transparent about the successes and challenges, and, importantly, learn from our experiences. MFAN’s Co-Chairs and Principals submitted the following statements in support of the evaluations released today.

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“The Millennium Challenge Corporation’s impact evaluations are a tremendous step forward in improving transparency and effectiveness within U.S. development programs. We’ve lobbied for such evaluations for years and are pleased to see the MCC moving forward. They speak to the value and impact of development programs on the ground and will provide a roadmap for improvements. We hope these evaluations encourage Congress to continue to invest in improving the lives of people in developing countries.”

– Rev. David Beckmann, MFAN Co-Chair and President, Bread for the World

“The MCC has been at the head of the movement toward more rigorous monitoring and evaluation of foreign assistance programs, a difficult, complex, and absolutely essential step toward more accountable and effective development.  Tremendous kudos to the MCC for putting its reputation and work on the line through transparent, honest, rigorous evaluations, and sharing the results — thereby allowing us all to learn and setting an example for other development agencies and organizations, both public and private. This path-breaking effort is putting to the test long-held assumptions about how to promote development and is just the type of learning we need if we are to use our assistance resources effectively.”

– George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair

“From its inception, MCC was designed with a commitment to transparency and evidence-based decision making.  The release of these results puts that promise into action.  The discussion that follows from this and future evaluations is vitally important, because it is only through critical assessment that the MCC will be able to fulfill its dual mission to have greater impact in the lives of the world’s poor while at the same time providing better stewardship of U.S. taxpayer dollars.”

– Jim Kolbe, MFAN Co-Chair and former Congressman

“We applaud the Millennium Challenge Corporation on the publication of its first round of impact evaluations. In addition to providing more rigorous analysis of how U.S.-funded MCC programs are improving the lives of citizens in partner countries, the evaluations contain lessons that will enable the MCC to advance their future policy and programs. ONE continues to be impressed by the MCC’s dedication to transparency, impact monitoring, and poverty reduction.”

– Tom Hart, U.S. Executive Director, ONE

“The MCC’s release of its first independent impact evaluations has set a high bar for other U.S. agencies and for aid agencies around the world. The challenge for the MCC is to integrate its findings, both good and bad, into its future work. The challenge for the rest of us, including those on Capitol Hill, is to understand the subtleties of the results. We should all want to encourage sensible risk-taking and more honest assessments.”

– Todd J. Moss, Acting President and Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

“MCC has set a very high standard by investing in rigorous evaluation and demonstrating its commitment to transparency and accountability for results — a standard that no other U.S. foreign assistance program has matched.  It is evidence of the agency’s overall commitment to holding itself accountable for results:  MCC was recently ranked 9 out of 72 donors globally for its transparency, ahead of Canada, Germany, Japan, and France.  Other donors, and the U.S. government as a whole, should be paying attention and following suit: that the MCC is willing to show the bad with the good is a risk only to the extent that we have few other institutions to compare them with.

“With these impact evaluations, MCC is serving as a model for bi-partisan efforts in Congress.  The bipartisan Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 3159/S.3310) sponsored by Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Howard Berman (D-CA) and Sens. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) (S.3310), would help make this type of rigorous accountability the standard for U.S. foreign assistance efforts.   Congress should act to embrace MCC’s efforts and raise the level of accountability for programs to fight poverty and build a better world.”

– Ray Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America

“MCC deserves an enormous amount of credit for its first round of impact evaluations, which focused on farmer training activities in five countries. Some of the key findings underscore that reducing poverty by changing farmer behavior and improving productivity depends on a number of factors, such as the customizing of training programs, time spent with farmers, and inputs provided. As an organization that is establishing frameworks for companies to measure the social and economic impact of their business operations on individuals and communities, we know how challenging it can be to move beyond the measurement of outputs to fully understand and quantify outcomes. By publicizing its results and sharing how those results will drive program improvements, MCC is modeling a commitment to transparency that other development agencies should follow. The evidence base created will not only inform other development organizations, but also the investments of our member companies in agriculture value chains. Those of us who care deeply about development outcomes, whether driven by business investment or foreign assistance dollars, should support the honest assessment of results embodied in these first impact evaluations as well as the culture of learning they enable.”

– Jennifer Potter, President & CEO, Initiative for Global Development

“Committed to transparency since the beginning, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is truly ‘walking the walk’ through today’s release of its first set of impact evaluations. These evaluations of farmer training programs in Armenia, El Salvador, Ghana, Honduras, and Nicaragua, are honest about what’s working and what could be improved. This transparency is critical to ensuring that women and men are able to make decisions about and truly ‘own’ MCC projects in their countries. We hope that the next series of evaluations will include tools to assess the unique impact of MCC programs on women and girls, such as the use of sex-disaggregated data. For now, though, we hope Congress sees these evaluations as a prime example of the MCC’s leadership in transparency and accountability — principles that we know are vital to ensuring the effectiveness of U.S. international assistance.”

– Ritu Sharma, Co-founder & President, Women Thrive Worldwide

“Impact evaluations aren’t about pass or fail for specific projects. Development programs — and the MCC compacts — comprise multiple complex activities. Some may turn out well, others may flop, and the measure of a strong organization is that it wants to know the difference and learns and improves when it finds out. The MCC is taking brave steps in this direction.”

– Sarah Jane Staats, Director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Initiative, Center for Global Development

“InterAction welcomes the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s release of its first set of impact evaluations. The principles of transparency and accountability are important pillars of effective development for both governmental and nongovernmental organizations alike. The impact evaluations demonstrate the MCC’s commitment to these principles and to implementing programs based on concrete evidence.  The MCC’s willingness to share information on both the successes and challenges of its programs and to apply the lessons learned is a model for the aid community.”

– Sam Worthington, President & CEO, InterAction