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Archive for the ‘State Department’ Category

MFAN Statement: Development Must Play a Larger Role in QDDR Legislation

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
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September 19, 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 applauds the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for taking the first step toward enshrining the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) into law through the passage of S. 3341. However, we remain concerned that the QDDR, while a valuable exercise in determining the scope and trajectory of U.S. diplomacy and development efforts, fails to give the USAID Administrator a clearly defined leadership role in shaping the development portfolio. We understand that the Secretary has the ultimate authority over the QDDR, but failing to give a co-equal voice to what the President Policy Directive on Global Development refers to as “the U.S. government’s lead development agency” will undermine the goals set forth in the bill and walk back any gains made in elevating the role of development.

In its first iteration released in December 2010, the QDDR strengthened development as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy; put development experts in the lead of marquee Obama Administration initiatives; sought to improve monitoring, evaluation, and transparency; and emphasized country ownership as a cornerstone of the U.S. approach to development. Critically, the USAID Administrator served as a co-chair of the review, ensuring that development concerns would have a voice in the dialogue shaping U.S. policy. The Administrator’s absence from S. 3341 sets a troubling precedent for future reviews.

Specifically, MFAN calls for:

  • USAID Administrator to serve as co-chair for the process;
  • The State Department and USAID to consult with other relevant development agencies to ensure a comprehensive assessment of USG development policy; and
  • A joint State-USAID office for the QDDR, rather than an office solely at State to reflect both components of the review.

While S. 3341 rightly seeks to codify a review of U.S. diplomacy and development programs every four years, the lack of emphasis on a strong and independent development voice implies backsliding in our prioritization of U.S. development efforts. The QDDR’s important assertion that “diplomacy and development must be mutually reinforcing” is not well served by the legislation in its current form.

 

Mark Your Calendars — Week of September 10

Friday, September 7th, 2012
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Every Thursday, MFAN will post a list of upcoming events for the following week. For more information about each event and to RSVP, click on the links below. If your organization is hosting an event next week and you don’t see yourself on the list, please email info@modernizeaid.net.

See below for a list of MFAN Partner events:

 

 

U.S. Leadership on Aid Transparency

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
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See below for a guest post from Dr. David Hall-Matthews, managing director of Publish What You Fund, as he underscores the importance of implementing recent commitments made for international aid transparency standards and describes how the U.S. is uniquely positioned to lead on aid transparency globally.

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As Publish What You Fund prepares our 2012 Aid Transparency Index, I am happily reminded of the progress made on U.S. aid transparency commitments in the last couple of years.

The real game-changer was the U.S. signing up to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) in Busan last November. By joining IATI, the administration has agreed with the global consensus that if aid is to ever truly be effective, it must also be transparent.

Partial information on aid exists somewhere, in some format, but it is impossible to see the crucial big picture across the 25+ agencies administering foreign assistance. We now have a clear sign from by far the largest single donor that an agreed standard to publish aid information is needed to help us answer vital questions on who is spending on what, how much, and where.

Another milestone came in September 2011, when the President put forward the Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Action Plan. This committed the U.S. to make foreign assistance information available in a timely manner and internationally comparable format.

In her speech at the OGP annual meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, ‘We now have a chance to set a new global standard for good governance and to strengthen a global ethos of transparency and accountability.’

This is the first step in the right direction.

Now we need to make these commitments come to life and fully embrace the President’s vision on aid transparency. The U.S. is now in a position to lead on the aid transparency agenda. When all agencies are publishing consistently to a common standard, it will help to improve—and demonstrate—the value of their aid. It will also help to encourage other, newer donors to improve their transparency.

So now is the time for the U.S. to institutionalize the progress it has made.

Concretely, this means agencies such as USAID, State Department, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) must start publishing the information they already hold in their internal systems and websites in the common format, as soon as decisions are made.

According to information collected on MFAN’s Policy to Action website, some progress to that end is being made. We know that under USAID’s new Evaluation Policy, the agency is committed to publishing evaluation reports within 90 days.

The MCC joined USAID and the State Department to publish data on the Foreign Assistance Dashboard and is to date the only agency to publish obligation and expenditure data—setting a strong precedent for transparency in the U.S.

But for organizations working on the ground in Afghanistan, Haiti, or Liberia, knowing where money has been spent after the fact does not help—they need to know where money is going right now, when the funds will be disbursed and spent, and for what purposes.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a single website where tax-payers can see exactly how their tax dollars are spent—and for what purpose?

Now imagine the value of that information when it is compared against what other donors are doing. All of a sudden you start to get a clear picture of spending patterns in some of the most highly aid dependent countries. That is one of IATI’s main goals, but in order to make it happen, donors need to start putting information through the IATI Registry.

This is what takes us from one agency publishing in one particular format and on one particular website, to a common platform where—for the first time—information becomes compatible and comparable. This will be invaluable for recipient countries and development effectiveness.

Only then can we start to have pragmatic conversations about why a hospital is built in a rural town without a road leading to it, or why there are three donors working on preventive health care and none working on treatments or researching local medicine.  Aid has the power to radically transform lives, but its potential is not being fully realized because we do not know enough about how it is spent.

The U.S. is now making important decisions on how to implement these transparency commitments.  There are experts within agencies, the White House and OMB, working out how to meet the Presidential Policy Directive on Development, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, USAID Forward, the OGP and the Busan commitments on aid transparency.

At Publish What You Fund, we believe there is a simple answer—that all agencies administering foreign assistance must start publishing timely, comprehensive, and comparable information online to the IATI standard.

 

Secretary Clinton Co-Chairs First Annual OGP Meeting

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
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As part of her recent trip to Brazil, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to co-chair the First Annual High-Level Meeting of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Launched in September 2011 by Presidents Obama and Rousseff, OGP formally welcomed 42 new countries into the Partnership and announced concrete commitments to prevent corruption, promote transparency, and harness new technologies to empower citizens.

A fact sheet on OGP states that since its inception, it has become a “global community of government reformers, civil society leaders, and business innovators, who together are advancing a new standard of good governance in the 21st Century.”

In her opening statement, Clinton said, “In the 21st century, the United States is convinced that one of the most significant divisions among nations will not be north/south, east/west, religious, or any other category so much as whether they are open or closed societies. We believe that countries with open governments, open economies, and open societies will increasingly flourish. They will become more prosperous, healthier, more secure, and more peaceful…By contrast, those governments that hide from public view and dismiss the idea of openness and the aspirations of their people for greater freedom will find it increasingly difficult to maintain peace and security. “

Click here to watch Secretary Clinton deliver opening remarks at the First Annual High-Level meeting for OGP.

To demonstrate how OGP is already making good on its commitments, Clinton pointed to Chile, Estonia, Jordan, and Tanzania—all of which have a joined a host of other countries in making public data available to citizens on everything from crime statistics to local budgets and procurement through new websites.

The State Department is estimating that nearly 1.8 billion people will benefit from the commitments reached at the first meeting.

 

 

Summer 2012 Interns — Apply Now!

Monday, April 2nd, 2012
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The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) – a coalition of foreign policy experts, international development practitioners, and NGOs dedicated to effective foreign assistance programs – is seeking a motivated intern for the summer. MFAN’s learning internships offer an opportunity to explore the nuances of foreign aid reform and U.S. government advocacy. Internships are unpaid but include a travel stipend.

Intern duties will include:

  • Attending congressional hearings and community events, and providing summaries to MFAN staff
  • Tracking relevant news stories and partner publications
  • Assisting with event planning
  • Data entry and other administrative and support duties as needed

Interns will gain:

  • Exposure to international development and foreign assistance reform
  • Knowledge of U.S. government affairs and processes
  • Relationships within the NGO community

Qualifications:

  • Rising junior or higher in college
  • Background or demonstrated interest in political science, public policy, international affairs, development, or related field
  • Experience in an administrative setting
  • Ability to work independently
  • Courteous, professional demeanor
  • Eagerness to learn and help

If you’re interested in applying or have questions, please contact Sarah Tansey, stansey@modernizeaid.net.

To learn more about MFAN, view recent publications or visit our Partners page.