Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the U.S. will join the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) at the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan yesterday. In her keynote address at the opening session, Secretary Clinton called for coordination to maximize development outcomes, pointing to country ownership, untied aid, and greater flexibility as key steps toward sustainability. She looked beyond traditional donors to emerging economies, developing countries, and private sector and civil society partners to reform our foreign aid efforts.
News that the U.S. will join IATI elicited praise throughout the development community, from USAID Administrator Raj Shah to MFAN partner Publish What You Fund. With the addition of the U.S., the world’s largest provider of bilateral assistance, IATI signatories now total 26 and 80% of Official Development Finance worldwide. The announcement reinforces the administration’s commitment to aid transparency and, as Secretary Clinton noted, will enable the U.S. to “report data in a timely, easy-to-use format.”
Participation in IATI brings the U.S. closer to a central focus of Secretary Clinton’s remarks: accountability for outcomes. Secretary Clinton called upon donors to shift “our approach and our thinking from aid to investment, investments targeted to produce tangible returns.” As development practitioners strive to increase country ownership—one of the principles laid out in the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness—the U.S. will need to hold itself and its partners more accountable for results. In response to calls for greater flexibility, the U.S. is working to eliminate obstacles and “streamline our procurement process and channel more resources into government ministries.” Secretary Clinton also discussed the ongoing struggle to untie aid, acknowledging the benefits but explaining the political constraints.
Secretary Clinton touched on a number of common themes—coordination, responsibility, and outcome-oriented development—but altered the standard aid dialogue, noting that “old distinctions – like ‘donor’ and ‘recipient’ – are less relevant.” Recognizing new sources of capital beyond official development assistance, Secretary Clinton highlighted successful partnerships among CSOs, the private sector, and non-traditional donors. Her speech called for increased coordination to harness all available resources—a particularly compelling message in an era of tighter budgets.
Secretary Clinton reiterated donor effectiveness principles while calling upon new partners to deliver efficient, targeted assistance. Her commitment to effective development—and to transparency in particular—promises to put the U.S. on course for results.