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Archive for the ‘USAID’ Category

MCC Added to the Foreign Assistance Dashboard

Monday, November 28th, 2011
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Last week, budget and appropriations information from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) was added to the Foreign Assistance Dashboard. This is a positive step toward the expansion of this user-friendly tool that allows for policymakers and the American public to track and analyze investments in foreign assistance while holding the Administration accountable for returns on these investments. Still, as Will McKitterick of the Center for Global Development points out in a new blog post, the MCC data was already available on the agency’s website. McKitterick writes:

“Based on what it sets out to provide, the website is an impressively ambitious tool, and the government should be applauded for moving quickly to get in line with international standards on aid transparency (see IATI). Nevertheless, the tool is only as useful as the information it stores, and currently, it stores very little. Sure it includes both State and USAID foreign assistance request and appropriations data, but this information was made available at the original release of the Dashboard nearly a year ago, and both agencies have yet to publish data for obligations and spent resources. The recent release of MCC information is certainly a plus, but since that information was already readily available on the MCC’s website, it hardly counts as progress.”

The “What’s Coming” section on the Dashboard, complete with a matrix (below), shows the slow progress that has been made in updating and expanding the content since the Dashboard launched in December 2010. Yet with momentum for transparency through the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and this week’s High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, as well as the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act from Rep. Ted Poe, there is a great opportunity for the government to fulfill this critical element of reform.

50 Years — A Great Start but Still a Long Way to Go

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
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See below for a guest post from MFAN Principal Carol Peasley, President and CEO of CEDPA, as she reflects on USAID’s 50 years of progress and the challenges that lie ahead. Peasley, who served at USAID for more than thirty years, calls on policy makers to work across party lines or “between government and civil society” to overcome looming challenges, such as USAID assuming leadership of President Obama’s Global Health Initiative as called for in the QDDR, to continue to build on the incredible progress and save countless more lives. This post originally appeared on CEDPA’s website.

A Commentary by CEDPA President Carol Peasley

Nov. 15, 2011 — On November 3rd, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) celebrated its 50th anniversary. It was a somewhat quiet celebration, and too few Americans were given a chance to learn about the tens of millions of lives saved as a result of USAID programs that have come “from the American people” – whether immunizations, oral rehydration therapy, safe drinking water, the Green Revolution, microfinance, family planning and maternal/child health services, the empowerment of citizens, or countless other investments.

Nonetheless, for someone like me who worked for USAID for more than half of both of our lives, it was an opportunity to reflect. Some of that reflection emerged from a short video on USAID’s website: It was a perfect statement! There were photos of hope, pride, aspiration and even disappointment. There was the voice of President John F. Kennedy, speaking so eloquently about the “…great start on our journey…” and reminding us that “…we have a long way to go.” He cautioned that we should “…expect moments of frustration and disappointment.” And, yes, there have been both. But, he also made clear that “our problems are manmade and can be solved by man.”

These manmade problems are multiple. Some relate to the traditional challenges of reducing poverty and building sustainable solutions. Some also relate to how we do development assistance. Certainly, President Kennedy’s words resonated with me as I moved on from USAID’s inspirational video and from my personal celebration of USAID’s anniversary to read some harder edged reporting on the state of U.S. foreign assistance – and the manmade problems that it faces.

First was the blog by Nandini Oomman on the Center for Global Development (CGD) website in which she asked whether USAID is being set up to fail on the Global Health Initiative (GHI). Given the difficulties the Administration has faced integrating global health investments under the GHI, the answer to that question is probably “yes.”

The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) suggested that leadership of the GHI would shift to USAID in a year. But, it would be phantom leadership if USAID is not also given the ability to steer the Initiative through its budgetary, policy and legal challenges – including those pertaining to PEPFAR, the huge and politically popular HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment program that comprises 70 percent of GHI funding. This issue must be addressed. It is a “manmade” problem and can “be solved by man,” if there is political will and courage.

Second, I belatedly read the Quality of Official Development Assistance Assessment(QODA) issued by CGD in early October. The QODA examined four dimensions of aid effectiveness: maximizing efficiency; fostering institutions; reducing burden; and transparency and learning. It was not a pretty picture. While we know that many U.S. programs are achieving important results, the U.S. scored worse than average for bilateral donors against the 30 indicators in the report. Why? Again, many of the problems are manmade and arise because of the multiplicity of U.S. agencies and the legislative and administrative barriers. We as a country can do better.

USAID, as an agency, can also do better if it is given the resources it needs, including sufficient operating expenses to hire and retain first-rate staff. But, USAID also needs legislative support to enable it to become a better development partner in the countries where it works. There are too many restrictions, many of which were put in place in the name of accountability. If U.S. assistance is to be more effective and if results are to be sustainable, steps must be taken to facilitate, not limit, direct programming with host country institutions. This must include governments and non-governmental partners, even when it means the co-mingling of funds. It also means fewer mega contracts and greater use of smaller programs that can be more targeted and experimental. USAID Forward has been designed to deal with many of these constraints, but even more is needed.

As President Kennedy indicated, all of these “manmade problems…can be solved by man.” We simply need to work harder to solve them – and we need to work more collaboratively to do so, whether across political party lines or between government and civil society. Or, if those proverbial “men” can’t do it, I know a lot of women who are ready to take on the challenge!


FWD The Facts

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011
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Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched USAID FWD Day – a massive push to spread awareness and ensure the Horn of Africa tragedy no longer goes overlooked. There are currently 13.3 million in crisis suffering from the worst drought in 60 years, the worst famine in 20, and non-stop violence.

With FWD Day, USAID hopes to reach 13.3 million people in one day (the same number of people in crisis). We need your help reaching this goal by using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to generate tweets and shares the FWD facts. Some specific actions include:

  • Tweeting with the #FWD hash-tag,
  • Sharing updates from the USAID Facebook page,
  • E-mailing your friends and telling people about,
  • Creating your own video on YouTube, or
  • Texting “GIVE” to 777444 to donate $10.

USAID’s website also has simple and helpful infographics (below) that illustrate the severity of the crisis. MFAN will be on Twitter and Facebook today to support FWD Day, but please share this with your networks and help to forward the facts!

Former and Current Administrators Celebrate USAID’s 50th Anniversary at CSIS

Friday, November 4th, 2011
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As the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) celebrates its 50th anniversary this Thursday, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) hosted a panel last week featuring a host of USAID administrators discussing past achievements, present challenges, and future hopes for U.S. foreign assistance. The panel included Peter McPherson, USAID administrator from 1981-1987; Brian Atwood (by video), administrator, 1993-1999; Andrew Natsios, 2001-2006; Henrietta Fore, 2007-2009; and Rajiv Shah, current administrator.

Shah focused on the importance of health, highlighting the success of sustained programs under previous administrators. Shah commented that “Health is a good example of where we are doing as much as we can to build upon our past successes”.  Programs including oral rehydration therapy, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), and International Planned Parenthood programs have saved millions of lives because of key innovation, persistence in implementation, and continuity through changing administrations.

Going forward, Shah hopes to improve synergies between partner-country governments and USAID programs. Key to this synergy is tracking, reporting, and promulgating innovative ideas and technology, reforming procurement practices, improving interagency coordination, and continue promoting public-private partnerships to facilitate development.  The current administrator declared inclusive leadership, effective impact evaluation and transparency, and greater innovation will pave a successful path to more effective U.S. foreign assistance in a “diverse and decentralized development environment.”

McPherson commended the efforts of the succeeding administrators, commenting that “we build on who came before us.”  In this spirit, he stressed the continuation of bipartisan support, claiming “it is important to keep it that way” because “a hungry child has no politics.”

McPherson discussed issues of food security, drawing attention to the current World Bank report that food production must increase 70% to feed the projected 9+ billion world population by 2050. The Feed the Future initiative under President Obama and Administrator Shah shows promising steps, McPherson said, toward re-vamping USAID’s focus on agricultural development and food security. Sustaining and strengthening this approach would provide necessary global leadership in solving the impending challenges of hunger and food production.

Atwood appeared on a video commenting on the “challenges of fragmentation” and the need to coordinate interagency efforts and centralize spending authority to ensure the quality of development efforts.

Natsios, in recognition of the importance continuity of development programs, called for greater patience, saying that expectations for development must not demand immediate results. The products of sustained approaches, as evident by past administrators, and the nature of development’s “lag effect,” have meaningful impacts that are not measurable until years later.

Natsios argued that challenges to these sustained efforts include burdensome oversight. Natsios points out there are ten committees that oversee various aspects of USAID efforts, from which contradictory mandates may be given, confusing the planning and development process. Critical in moving forward is determining the “cost of oversight,” and through a proposal for no intrusion, no required reporting other than appropriation, and no regulation for five charter programs for five years – which is similar to an MFAN recommendation in From Policy to Practice — Natsios believes such an effort will provide substantive evidence needed to support peeling back regulatory layers.

Fore spoke on the importance of engaging the private sector through the Public-Private Partnerships initiative, saying that USAID should be “allowed to put the private sector to work in supply chains.” This greater engagement recognizes both the “private sector [as a] natural partner for all government programs” and the prospect of opportune private-sector investment in developing countries.

In addition to private-sector engagement, Fore emphasized the need for USAID to “focus on moving the center of gravity our programs to countries” and use partner country ideas and initiatives. Fore argued for the continued support of the Development Leadership Initiative started under President Bush, saying that additional Foreign Service officers and workers are critical to bringing project planning to the field. The challenges of budget austerity are threatening USAID’s Operating Budget, which would stymie much of the progress made through the DLI to rebuild the Agency.

USAID: Celebrating 50 Years of Progress

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
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50 years after President John F. Kennedy established the U.S. Agency for International Development, the agency has made remarkable strides in the fight against global poverty. Celebrate USAID’s progress with this powerful video, and explore their work at