blog logo image

Archive for the ‘USAID’ Category

Congress Eyes Greater Transparency in Foreign Aid, This Time the Timing Could be Right

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
Bookmark and Share

See below for a guest post from Lori Rowley, Co-Chair of MFAN’s Accountability Working Group and Director of Global Food Security and Aid Effectiveness at The Lugar Center. This post is part of MFAN’s ACCOUNTdown to 2017 Dialogue Series.


From the perspective of both U.S. taxpayers and recipients of U.S. foreign assistance, it’s been a very positive few weeks on both sides of the Capitol. Legislation to advance greater transparency of U.S. foreign assistance programs has now been approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

As a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under the leadership of Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-IN), I staffed the Senator when he authored the Senate companion bill  that Congressman Ted Poe introduced in the 112th Congress and has continued to introduce in every Congress since then, The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act. The bill narrowly missed enactment in the waning days of that Congress – late in December of 2012 – despite a unanimous vote by the full House.

Since that time, interest in the topic of foreign aid effectiveness has not waned. Neither has the need for it. In fact, in today’s world, maintaining the effectiveness of our taxpayer dollars in keeping starving people alive with critical food aid, investing in women, smallholder farmers so they can improve their crop production and in turn feed their families, and supporting  HIV/AIDS victims with life-saving medical treatment is more vital than ever.  Our financial resources in supporting people in the developing world be able to move from living in crisis to living in stability are stretched to their maximum, with destabilized governments, drought and continued lack of access to water and basic education a constant across much of the world. We need to see where we’re investing, what we’re getting in return, and how we can make progress to move these countries and their citizens from being dependent on our aid to becoming our trading partners.

In my current position at The Lugar Center, we continue to endorse the critical investment in developing countries in order to promote a more prosperous and stable world.  We believe that an important component of this investment is ensuring its effectiveness through transparency, and we work to promote it. The Obama Administration took important steps in this area, with the creation of the webpage, Here taxpayers are now able to see how much of their taxpayer dollars go to a specific country and for what purpose. Further, the transfer of this data to the International Aid Transparency Registry provides even greater transparency regarding the flow of aid funds into each developing country by a host of donors, NGOs and others from across the globe.

While some federal agencies responsible for administering U.S. foreign aid are already living up to executive branch commitments to be more transparent about where and for what purpose taxpayer dollars are being spent, regrettably not all of them are. The posting of this information to, is uneven and often incomplete. Only the Millennium Challenge Corporation has received a rating of “Very Good” on the Publish What You Fund 2014 Aid Transparency Index.  Frankly, all 22 federal agencies providing foreign assistance need to do better.

Here is where the Congress can play a critical role. By enacting legislation that requires all federal agencies providing foreign assistance to publish their data to the webpage, the legislative and executive branches of government become partners in working to ensure transparency, and thus accountability in our foreign assistance. That is a win-win for both U.S. taxpayers and people across the globe who receive our aid. Locking in important steps to improve our foreign assistance seems ripe for action now, and I am hopeful that as we approach December of 2015, enactment of the Foreign Aid Accountability and Transparency Act won’t be a narrow miss as it was when I staffed this bill, but rather a full endorsement of foreign aid transparency and accountability by both the House and the Senate.

Statement: MFAN Applauds President Obama’s Commitment to New Global Development Agenda

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015
Bookmark and Share

MFAN Applauds President Obama’s Commitment to New Global Development Agenda

September 28, 2015 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Carolyn Miles, and Connie Veillette

In the first of two addresses to the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama announced the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a sweeping global development agenda to end extreme poverty and hunger. MFAN is encouraged by President Obama’s strong commitment to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and his recognition of how integral development aid has been and will continue to be to promote democratic governance and strong institutions, decrease hunger and deaths by preventable disease, increase the number of boys and girls in schools, and lift people out of extreme poverty.

The adoption of this ambitious global agenda is a reminder of how critical accountable, locally-led development is to combatting poverty and suffering and reducing inequality around the world. MFAN is pleased to see that the President specifically mentioned the importance of using our development resources more effectively, learning from our successes and failures, and helping build the capacity of recipient countries to “do more with what they receive.”

The President’s speech endorsing the 2030 Agenda comes on the heels of the release of USAID’s Vision for Ending Extreme Poverty, the agency’s plan to accelerate progress to end extreme poverty by 2030. MFAN applauds USAID for the release of the vision document, which tackles not only why ending extreme poverty is an important development objective, but also begins to looks more tactically at how to do it. It is particularly encouraging to see the document make specific reference to the link between accountability and country ownership and how the two together “help create a world in which developing country stakeholders have the tools to make smart decisions about their own development priorities and power to implement those decisions.”

Five years after President Obama pledged to the United Nations that the United States would remain the global leader in development, MFAN is encouraged that the President and his Administration are reaffirming this commitment by backing the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Now that these commitments have been made, we look forward to working with the Administration as they begin to tackle the implementation of the global goals and measure its progress. As President Obama said in his remarks on Sunday, “supporting development is not charity, but is instead one of the smartest investments we can make in our own future.”


ACCOUNTdown Reviews USAID Effectiveness to Build for Future

Monday, August 10th, 2015
Bookmark and Share

See below for a guest post from Nora O’Connell, Associate Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy at Save the Children and Co-Chair of MFAN’s Country Ownership Working Group.


Recently, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) launched the ACCOUNTdown campaign and scorecard to push for greater aid effectiveness reform by the Obama Administration.  ACCOUNTdown focuses on the U.S. government’s progress to strengthening its international development programs’ accountability and country ownership.

The ACCOUNTdown report highlighted a range of improvements by various U.S. development agencies and departments. We welcome these incremental shifts, but with just less than a year and half left in this Administration, we want to see more.

We know from Save the Children’s own work that embedding accountability and ownership in programs can have an impact on the ground. Whether it is health, education, or nutrition programming, the most lasting impact occurs when local potential is nurtured to enable countries and communities to achieve their own aspirations. Aid can and should do that better. Here are four things that could make a difference now.

  • Too much USAID funding is still being driven by priorities set by the U.S. government in Washington, rather than aligned with host-country strategies. When aid is driven by Washington, then Washington funding goes away, so does a lot of the progress. But when aid is part of a partnership with local communities, governments and civil society, then the results are not only continued by the people in those countries – they are magnified.
  • The introduction of USAID’s Local Solutions initiative in 2010 set a target for increased direct flows of U.S. government resources to developing countries. But partnership is more than that; USAID must start measuring how it’s increasing local capacity more broadly.
  • The Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) was created in 2004 in part to enable more country-driven approaches; their country compact development process is a good example of aligning with host country priorities. MCC should work to increase the use of country systems and local partners in high-performing countries to extend country ownership.
  • The U.S. government has made progress in helping countries finance their own development and should continue to do so. This was illustrated in the announcement of the Addis Tax Initiative and PEPFAR’s launch of the innovative health financing initiative which reflect how the U.S. is supporting domestic resource mobilization for development.

The U.S. government can take many additional steps in the next 18 months to further its commitment to country ownership and accountability to have a greater impact through its on-the-ground programming.

As an active MFAN member, we look forward to future progress reports from the ACCOUNTdown campaign as a way to ensure the Obama administration honors its commitments to aid effectiveness.

Another step forward by USAID on the road to aid transparency

Monday, July 6th, 2015
Bookmark and Share

See below for a guest post from Sally Paxton, U.S. Representative for Publish What You Fund and member of MFAN’s Accountability Working Group, on USAID’s recently released IATI Cost Management Plan. This piece originally appeared on PWYF’s blog on Monday, July 6.


On July 1st, Publish What You Fund released its 2015 U.S. Aid Transparency Review, which assesses the progress of six U.S. donors on their efforts to publish high quality aid information.  The Busan deadline – December 2015 – is when the U.S. has committed to fully implementing the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).  And important commitments are at stake in the Financing for Development conference in mid-July in Addis Ababa.  So at Publish What You Fund, we thought a mid-year progress report would be an important undertaking to see where these U.S. agencies are and what needs to be done in the next six months.

The Review found that the progress of the various agencies was mixed – only two of the four are “on track” to meet the 2015 deadline.  For a number of years, USAID has lagged in its performance of our Annual Transparency Index, coming in at the bottom of the “Fair” category in both 2013 and 2014.

But USAID is turning an important corner.  In our 2015 Review, it was the biggest improver, jumping 22 points from its 2014 score to reach the “good” category for the first time.  Behind this improvement was the effort of a small cross-cutting working group.  Consistent with USAID’s Open Government Plancommitment to undertake both an analysis of its IATI capabilities and what it would take – both in terms of resources and steps – this working group produced a four-phase cost management plan.

On June 4th, the Acting Administrator approved three out of the four phases of the plan.  Additionally, the intent is to have IATI folded into its Development Information System, so that it is integrated with its other information platforms, thus obviating the need for Phase IV.  And on July 1st, USAID made its International Aid Transparency Initiative Cost Management plan public.


One might sensibly ask why what seems like such a bureaucratic exercise is important?  There are a few reasons – which cover both the content and the way in which USAID is conducting its efforts to achieve robust publication of its aid information:

  • In order to implement the IATI standard, agencies need to identify what it publishes, where the gaps are, and what it will take to be fully compliant, both in terms of resources and processes. The working group approached this in a pragmatic way. In fact, phase I (which were internal steps that could be taken without resource implications) was completed in April – before the approval of phrases II and III. This thorough internal review will help to ensure efforts are sustainable and long lasting.
  • The working group consulted with the stakeholder community on its initial plan – prior to agency approval. This informal outreach underscored the agency’s commitment to practice
  • This same practice of consulting prior to a final report was also done in connection with USAID’s Aid Transparency Pilot Assessment, where two consultations were held – again, prior to reaching the final conclusions.

The plan isn’t perfect.  The published cost management plan, for example, is very light on the “cost” part.  And publishing a plan doesn’t guarantee success.  But it is very hard to deliver without a vision on how to get to the finish line. Top USAID leadership will need to give the working group’s plan its continued support so that implementation moves forward on time and on budget.

But this is a really positive step.  So congratulations to USAID.  We look forward to your continued forward progress on the road to aid transparency.

Broad Coalition Calls on U.S. Senate to Confirm Gayle Smith as USAID Administrator

Monday, June 15th, 2015
Bookmark and Share

Broad Coalition Calls on U.S. Senate to Confirm Gayle Smith as USAID Administrator

June 15, 2015 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Carolyn Miles, and Connie Veillette:

MFAN, along with a broad coalition of international development organizations, policy experts, and the private sector, is calling on the U.S. Senate to swiftly confirm Gayle Smith as the next permanent USAID Administrator. Having a Senate-confirmed appointee at the helm of USAID is essential to advancing U.S. development goals and optimizing the use of U.S. foreign assistance resources. As we cautioned in our open letter to the President in April, when the Administrator position was vacant in 2009 for nearly a full year, USAID and its programs suffered.

Gayle Smith is a strong and experienced leader and is well-equipped to further implement and institutionalize important reforms at the U.S. government’s lead development agency. Smith has long been a champion of the aid effectiveness agenda while ensuring development has a strong voice at the policymaking table. In her time as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy, Smith has helped to foster a more robust interagency dialogue and coordination around U.S. development efforts.

At a time when we are responding to global crises in places like Nepal, Syria, and Yemen, and with the Millennium Development Goals expiring and a new set of goals taking their place, the United States cannot afford to be without a strong, permanent USAID Administrator to lead our engagement and represent our development interests internationally.  We are pleased to see that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing for this week and urge a swift confirmation process in order to sustain strong U.S. leadership on development programs and the accountability of our foreign assistance.