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Archive for the ‘USAID’ Category

Mark Your Calendars — Week of December 19, 2011

Thursday, December 15th, 2011
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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 during the week of December 19, 2011:

 

 

 

Save the Children Releases Report, Afghanistan in Transition

Monday, December 12th, 2011
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MFAN Partner Save the Children has released a report, Afghanistan in Transition, calling for attention to development and governance during the impending withdrawal of U.S. troops, and outlaying recommendations to development and government actors.

As the United States begins to draw down its efforts in Afghanistan – a situation not unlike some 20 years ago – the sustainability of the transition will depend on careful focus and continued development efforts. Afghanistan has received large portions of U.S. aid and made significant development gains over the last decade, but this progress will be at risk if continued diligence is not given.

The report details much of Afghanistan’s progress in sectors such as health, nutrition and food security, education, child protection and child rights, and humanitarian issues. However, achievements in these sectors are only relative, and even these gains are at significant risk of being lost. As an example, Afghanistan has witnessed a 26 percent reduction in its child mortality, yet it still retains one of the world’s worst child mortality rates. Solutions, such as training for Community Health Workers and midwives, have been only marginally addressed. Save argues that greater focus is needed in all sectors where relative achievements show promise but lack necessary emphasis and funds.

Afghanistan in Transition goes further to outline the reasons why development progress has been slow in Afghanistan. First is the issue of poor governance, including cases of corruption and a lack of institutional capacity. This leads to bottlenecking and waste of aid dollars, as well as the misalignment of development projects.  Moreover, a relatively weak civil society and a lack of transparency and accountability in governance add to this deficit.

Afghanistan is a fragile state in the midst of conflict, further complicating its development progress. Under the discretion of national security interests, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) targets areas of strategic importance rather than responding to direct provincial needs. As the report notes, “the aim of ‘winning hearts and minds’ has had the effect of penalizing the ‘peaceful but poor’ provinces.” For example, 77 percent of aid efforts are directed to southern and eastern regions of military interest, drawing resources away from peaceful provinces where the poverty rates are far higher.  Questions of sustainability are also rising, as 97 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP is comprised of aid money.

In the end, Afghanistan in Transition’s recommendations include:

  • Long-term investments to ensure sustainability and effectiveness of aid programs;
  • Strengthened mutual accountability, by increasing transparency and improving results measurement;
  • Investment in improved data and statistical capacity through concerted efforts;
  • A focus on children; over half of Afghanistan’s population is comprised of children, and issues such as health, education, and protection will require donor involvement; and
  • Prioritization of funding for needs-based areas. Military, political, or security interests cannot divert efforts for sustainable development.

 

Wilson Center Releases ‘Aiding Without Abetting’ Report on Effective Aid in Pakistan

Friday, December 9th, 2011
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A working group within the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars conducted an extensive policy re-evaluation of civilian aid provision to Pakistan in their report Aiding Without Abetting: Making U.S. Civilian Assistance to Pakistan Work for Both Sides. The group “concludes that a robust program of U.S. civilian assistance to Pakistan serves important interests of both countries” and recommends “substantial mid-course changes” as a key step to that end.  Improving civilian aid effectiveness in Pakistan would in turn improve American-Pakistan diplomacy by attaining mutually beneficial goals of economic development and security.

The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, better known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act (KLB), commits the United States to a multiyear program of expanded non-security assistance to Pakistan. This act authorizes assistance to Pakistan with the expressed goals of supporting democratic institutions, building capacity of governance and civil society, promoting economic freedoms and sustainable development, investing in people, and strengthening diplomacy. However, the report states that “nearly two years later, the United States is still struggling to fashion and implement an effective program of civilian aid for Pakistan.”

The KLB’s lack of impact has unsurprisingly resulted in political pressure to discontinue aid to Pakistan. Criticisms emanate for a number of reasons: a lack of results, ungratefulness and icy relations, limited institutional capacity and good governance, and the failure of aid to win hearts and minds in Pakistan. However, the working group finds that these criticisms forget the demonstrable achievements of aid efforts over the years, misunderstand the objectives of aid programs, and do not accurately account for the opportunity costs of discontinuing Pakistani aid.

The report states that stronger diplomacy with Pakistan is in the strategic interests of the U.S. for many reasons, including Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability, proximity to Afghanistan, military power, and ties to China and Saudi Arabia. Discontinuing aid would only jeopardize the integrity of a working partnership, instrumental in both avoiding hostilities and attaining mutual goals. However, while the continuation of KLB is strongly advised, the working group concludes that mid-course corrections to KLB implementation “are vital to avoid lost opportunities and disappointed expectations on both sides.”
The report finds that many obstacles in providing aid for Pakistan are beyond the responsibilities of USAID, the principle executor of KLB.  The complex and opaque mechanisms of U.S. aid-funding is a great source of confusion. Programs with overlapping objectives allow for legislators to reprogram funds under different flags for often political reasons. What results are a labyrinth of funding and a myriad of complicit programs falling under the umbrella of KLB, including the Economic Support Funds (ESF), Global Health Child Survival (GHCS), International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE), Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining, and Related (NADR) and others. To make matters worse, different USG departments- including State, USDA, DOE, and DHS- manage different programs. This not only confuses responsibilities and authority but makes spending reports and data very inaccessible and confusing.

The report outlays a series of recommendations for mid-course corrections in the implementation of KLB civilian aid. Included in these are recommendations for “improving effectiveness, transparency, and donor coordination mechanism for U.S. aid.” To this end, the report calls for enhanced USAID effectiveness through:

published information regarding KLB and other U.S. civilian aid programs and aid flows

-“seeking congressional support to streamline USAID application and administrative procedures”

-“using in-country senior personnel” to encourage “moving programs toward autonomy from aid”

-“extending Pakistan tours for USAID personnel” and “recruiting personnel experienced in international aid, not necessarily with USAID”

-evaluate whether or not USAID should switch “from cooperative agreements to (procurement ) contracts as the main implementing mechanism for U.S. aid in Pakistan.”

 

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: http://50.usaid.gov/50-years-of-progress. 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!