USAID Administrator Raj Shah answered questions from young Americans at the White House on Thursday afternoon. In a discussion moderated by Kalpen Modi, Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement, Administrator Shah highlighted a number of USAID’s priorities. He spoke about accountability under USAID Forward, Feed the Future as a driver of self-sufficiency, and the importance of investing in women and girls.
In a session aimed at engaging youth, Administrator Shah touted the enthusiasm and creativity of American students as crucial elements in future development efforts. He focused on innovation and technical expertise as means to overcome funding constraints, emphasizing the agency’s eagerness to work with new partners.
This blog post from Porter McConnell, policy and advocacy manager for aid effectiveness, first appeared on Oxfam America’sPolitics of Poverty blog.
Once in a while, the development and democracy communities have a “Eureka” moment:
Development types are realizing that poverty + stuff does not = development. Development is a relationship that we can support; it’s not a set of items that poor countries are lacking.
Democracy types are realizing there’s no way to build country systems short of actually using them. Developing country governments are like muscles: if the U.S. and other donors leave them to atrophy because we can’t “trust” them, they will never become strong.
In part because of the Arab Spring, the democracy and development communities are seeing anew that their fates are inextricably linked. This week, USAID is holding a conference called Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance 2.0. Speakers from USAID Administrator Raj Shah to Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment are calling for better integration of U.S. development and democracy efforts.
It’s about time: in the last 10 years, the pendulum of donor opinion has swung from excluding governments entirely and funding civil society to focusing entirely on supporting governments and downplaying the importance of civil society. Heading into theFourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectivenessin Busan this fall, the development community needs to avoid the temptation to engage in these wild pendulum swings. Both government and civil society have to be engaged in order to see any lasting development impact.
Development at its core is about the compact between people and their governments. U.S. programming, whether it’s development or democracy, needs to keep that compact front and center. I’ll give you a recent example from Ecuador: the EC announced it was funding the Ministry of Education directly to implement its ten-year national education plan. Local civil society had to convince the EC to fund civil society oversight too, to hold the government accountable to the plan. If the EC had had the compact in mind, they would have sought from the start to support Ecuador’s education plan in a way that strengthened that critical relationship between people and their governments.
That’s not always easy to do. For civil society to play a “watchdog” role, they need the space to operate without government crackdowns. Cambodia is a test case of this right now. If theCambodia NGO lawthat’s being discussed right now becomes law, exercising healthy oversight over the Cambodian government will effectively become illegal. Human Rights Watch and Freedom House are speaking out, but many of the development groups are staying silent. Development groups have historically stayed out of the fray when civil society space is threatened. They reason that they can be more useful addressing economic and social rights by maintaining relationships with the government. The problem is, under the proposed NGO law, small community-based organizations may find it difficult to continue current operations, and flagship U.S. programs like Feed the Future won’t have any implementers. Development NGOs simply cannot afford to shy away from talking about civil society space. That’s why Oxfam, and now Save the Children and CARE, arespeaking out.
But why should democracy groups care if their development colleagues speak out? It turns out that one of the best ways to make progress on governance is through development programs, where “democracy” is not the central goal of the program. One oft-cited example of this isadaptation to climate change, where some governments have given their blessing to multi-stakeholder bodies because the frame is climate, not governance. Democracy, human rights, and governance groups would do well to engage development colleagues, and their resources, in the broader effort to increase accountability.
For more about what the future holds, check outvideo coverageof the Tuesday panel on “Integrating Democracy, Human Rights & Governance across All Development Goals”, featuring Oxfam America Vice President Paul O’Brien.
On Wednesday morning, MFAN co-hosted an event with Partner Management Sciences for Health (MSH) examining the impacts and implementation of performance-based financing (PBF) for global health services. A panel of experts, moderated by MSH performance-based finance Advisor Kathy Kantengwa, discussed the thinking behind PBF and shared some success stories. More efficient HIV/AIDS programming in Rwanda (described in the video below) is a prime example:
Oscar Picazo, a health economist who has worked with USAID and the World Bank in the Philippines and elsewhere, described performance-based financing as an “approach to financing that focuses on the achievement of measurable outcomes.” Offering flexible strategies and implementing programs at macro, institutional, and individual levels, PBF incorporates global health supplies and demands to maximize returns.
The panel’s overview of results-oriented funding aligns nicely with the discussion of innovative financing at a February event co-hosted by MFAN. Performance-based financing also drives many of the principles laid out in MFAN’s new policy agenda, From Policy to Practice: Pamela Rao, Senior Health Systems Strengthening Officer at USAID’s Office of HIV/AIDS, linked “payment for performance” (P4P) initiatives to efficiency, accountability, and local ownership.
Gyorgy Fritsche, Senior Health Specialist with the World Bank, highlighted the importance of monitoring and evaluation, saying that PBF demands verification, not a “business-as-usual strategy.” Daniel Kraushaar, MSH’s Principal Technical Advisor for Health Systems, agreed on the need for evidence to evaluate performance-based financing and offered some data as examples. Liberia, for one, has seen improvements in its maternal health indicators thanks to performance-based contracting.
Performance-based financing has the potential to increase funds and autonomy for healthcare providers throughout the developing world. Today’s event underscored the need for country-wide, multi-level solutions led by local actors that offer long-term visions with increased accountability. Performance-based financing will rely on consistent evaluation as it assesses past programs and develops strategies for the path forward.
Last week the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, released its first-ever annual letter. In the introduction, USAID Administration Rajiv Shah looks back on the Marshall Plan and President Kennedy’s argument that advancing opportunity and freedom is central to America’s security, prosperity and national conscience. Shah frames the letter as an opportunity to show Americans that “by doing good, we do well,” and to demonstrate how he is leading an effort to revitalize and reform the agency to make U.S. development assistance more effective and sustainable.
The letter then runs through three sections that make the case for reform and explain how USAID fits into the broad range of U.S. development efforts. The first section, “The Modern Development Enterprise”, begins with Shah writing about his experience in Haiti. He notes, “Crises often bring clarity—a sense of urgency that leaves no room for hesitation or red tape…As USAID staff launched the largest humanitarian relief and search-and-rescue efforts in history, the speed, skill and dedication they showed was awe-inspiring. They responded quickly, overcame bureaucratic hurdles, worked inclusively with a broad range of partners and made smart, calculated choices to get better outcomes.”
Last Wednesday, USAID Administrator Raj Shah and MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the President’s FY’12 budget request and the future of foreign assistance programs. Yet, Shah and Yohannes barely got a word in edgewise as members on both sides of the aisle succumbed to partisan debate over whether the U.S. can afford to pay for foreign assistance programs. And the debate was hardly constructive.
Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) remained above the fray, kicking off the hearing with some promising comments about the need to emphasize partnerships with the private sector and be more accountable with our aid dollars—with the ultimate goal of promoting economic growth. Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) hit on some important reform principles both USAID and MCC have implemented into programs and policies whether those principles are about emphasizing science and technology as part of USAID Forward or embracing transparency and accountability with MCC compacts. Ultimately, Berman said the committee should be focused on ensuring that every tax dollar is put to best possible use but that doesn’t mean we should cut foreign assistance funding.