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Community Shows Broad Support for “The Way Forward”

April 25th, 2014
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Last week MFAN launched a new policy paper, The Way Forward: A Reform Agenda for 2014 and Beyond, and with it, a newly streamlined agenda focused on two key pillars of reform: accountability through transparency, evaluation and learning; and country ownership of the priorities and resources for, and implementation of, development.

Take a look at what the community is saying about the new paper…

Plan International USA
: The fact is there is mounting evidence that aid, designed and delivered around these pillars, is more likely to have higher impact and deliver sustainable benefits well beyond the original time frame of the donor-funded project.

Oxfam America: The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network’s new agenda focuses the tools that partner country stakeholders need to make smart decisions about their own development.

U.S. Global Leadership Coalition: Much has changed in the world since 2009, and these two issues offer a smart focus on where progress could be made. They reinforce the recognition that private sources of capital (investments, remittances, private philanthropy) into the developing world have grown over the last forty years to dwarf official assistance, which now must leverage rather than substitute for private capital.

ONE: These reforms will ensure that US development will be more effective and more efficient, ensuring that the money we spend to fight global poverty is making developing countries’ systems more sustainable, and governments, both here and abroad, more accountable.

Save the Children: U.S. foreign aid to developing countries is vital in the effort to save lives, fight famine, put kids in schools, and respond to disasters. But, our help will be even more impactful and lasting if designed and implemented in true partnership with developing country governments and citizens, in ways that strengthen their own efforts, and that they can build on.

The Hewlett Foundation: If the world’s biggest bilateral donor puts partner country priorities at the top of the agenda, invites their citizens to the table, and opens its books about how much it spends and what it does (or doesn’t) achieve, this sets a standard by which other actors, including partner countries themselves and private investors, are held to account.

The Lugar Center: These two priorities will form the core of MFAN’s work over the next two years. During this period – as our country enters the next presidential election cycle — it is critical that we solidify progress that has been made on foreign assistance reform and build a consensus for a deeper reform agenda.

Bread for the World Institute: MFAN emphasizes that development and development co-operation need to promote inclusive, accountable partnerships that support country-led processes that will improve the lives of hungry and poor people.

Devex: The next two years are an important window of opportunity for U.S. aid reform. The midterm elections in 2014 are certain to shake up the membership of Congress. In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals will expire and a new global development agenda will take its place. And 2016 will bring with it the end of the Obama administration.

Inter Press Service: U.S. foreign aid is becoming increasingly outdated, analysts here are suggesting.
Rather, reforms to U.S. assistance need to focus on issues of accountability and country ownership, according to a policy paper released this week by Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), a prominent coalition of international development advocates and foreign policy experts.

Politix: While both the Obama administration and the Bush administration before it have taken important steps to push the ball forward, there are still a number of reforms that would make a big difference in getting the best value for our money and helping move more people out of poverty, more reliably. These are outlined in MFAN’s new policy paper, The Way Forward: A Reform Agenda for 2014 and Beyond, which reflects on past achievements and describes the path ahead.

President’s Global Development Council: Fine Work But Now What (and When)?

April 24th, 2014
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See below for a post from Connie Veillette, Senior Fellow for Global Food Security and Aid Effectiveness at The Lugar Center and MFAN Co-Chair.

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The President’s Global Development Council (GDC) released a much awaited report (Beyond Business as Usual) April 14 calling for a focus on the private sector, innovation, transparency and evidence, climate smart food security, and global leadership. Many of its points coincide with current thinking in development quarters, one of which is the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network’s (MFAN) new policy paper.

The wait for a GDC product has been exceedingly lengthy. The Council was born out of the President’s Policy Directive on Global Development issued way back in 2010. I should note here that many of us hailed the PPD for its emphasis on transparency, country ownership, and even more selectivity and focus in funding choices. One can see many of its principles reflected in U.S. development programs, although not to the level that many of us expected four years hence. From 2010 until GDC members were named in 2012, the development community waited. Once the members were named, a new waiting game began for what the council would do and how it would do it. But two years later, they have issued a fine report.

Now what? The GDC was created to “provide high-level input relevant to the work of United States Government agencies.” The report notes that it “will also explore other areas moving forward.” This is a good thing for a number of reasons.

First, while I agree that the GDC focus areas are important, and some are downright crucial, I would suggest that the Council left out a particularly difficult but nonetheless critical issue, that of country ownership. The vast majority of the development community believes in the value of building local capacity and in engaging governments, business, and civil society in creating and implementing development strategies. However, there is considerable disagreement on how best to do this. There is even disagreement on such an elementary question as what country ownership means. MFAN has formed a working group on this very issue. Our goal is to help inform this dialogue within the administration, Congress, aid implementers, and the public.

Second, time is running out. A GDC goal is to help institutionalize many PPD principals within government agencies. It is quite conceivable that GDC can continue into the next administration, but there are no guarantees. GDC should be operating within the premise that its work is done by the end of 2016. Given the administration’s track record in getting the panel named and up and running, and then the fits and starts of the Council over the last two years, my concerns seem merited.

Third, do we really need another conference? And who is the audience? And will the administration want to lead an effort that would require huge investments in stature, planning, funding, partnerships, etc. in order to have much of an effect on U.S. public opinion? (Are we talking about annual Farm Aid concerts that have raised public awareness of the value of American farmers?) Such an event may be fun for attendees, but better value may be found in working on identifying best practices and helping U.S. agencies implement them. As the report notes…”The Council will place particular emphasis on identifying successful approaches to inclusive and sustainable development and will be open about those approaches that don’t work.” Hallelujah.

Local Voices and Resources Are the Ultimate Answer in the Fight Against Poverty

April 18th, 2014
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See below for a guest post from Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children and MFAN Co-Chair.

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This week, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) released a policy paper – The Way Forward: A Reform Agenda for 2014 and Beyond – urging the U.S. Government to work more closely than ever before with our partner countries and their citizens to improve the way in which our aid dollars are planned and spent. The paper highlights MFAN’s new agenda and makes clear why country ownership and accountability are powerful and mutually reinforcing pillars that will make U.S. aid more effective in helping leaders and citizens in developing countries drive decisions about their own development.

U.S. foreign aid to developing countries is vital in the effort to save lives, fight famine, put kids in schools, and respond to disasters. But, our help will be even more impactful and lasting if designed and implemented in true partnership with developing country governments and citizens, in ways that strengthen their own efforts, and that they can build on. A frank conversation between our government and the people we want to help is necessary to address the inefficiencies in our aid system that often delivers aid piecemeal and is not integrated with local efforts.

Save the Children is a leading voice in MFAN, driven by the belief that U.S. foreign assistance needs to focus on fostering local partnerships and creating relationships of mutual accountability. In countries where we operate, Save the Children works in partnership with national and local governments and communities on programs that we know are working for children and that are helping to bring about more of their government’s investment in the long run. In Nepal, we have joined forces with district governments, each providing half of the funding needed to create a Child Endowment Fund that allows caregivers of vulnerable children to receive consistent support.

In addition, we have just launched a pilot program in multiple countries to identify and support local advocates for children in their efforts to secure a fairer share of public resources from their governments for the care, protection and development of their children. Foreign aid is certainly helping achieve these outcomes, but the foundation for continued care for these children lies in our partner countries’ own commitments to the cause. This commitment can be demonstrated in effective, child-focused policies and programs, and growing shares of public funding for childhood care and development.

The U.S. Government is already committed to engaging citizens and governments in developing countries to inform the planning and delivery of our aid programs. It is in America’s own interest to ensure that our aid dollars are integrated with the efforts of these governments and local citizens, and that we’re helping to prepare them for a day when foreign aid is no longer needed. MFAN and its members, including Save the Children, want to see this commitment translated into greater action, and stand ready to help the Obama Administration put local institutions in the driver’s seat and equip them to bring about a permanent end to extreme poverty for children and families across the world.

Charting A Way Forward on U.S. Development Policy

April 16th, 2014
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See below for a post by MFAN Co-Chairs George Ingram, Carolyn Miles, and Connie Veillette.

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The U.S. has an important leadership role to play when it comes to supporting development and reducing poverty around the world. Foreign assistance serves our national interests by enhancing national security, expanding global economic opportunities, and promoting American values. In 2008, MFAN was established because of the growing recognition that U.S. foreign assistance and development policy needed to be strengthened and modernized in order to confront today’s challenges and bring about a more peaceful and prosperous world.

Since MFAN’s founding we have seen the Administration and Congress take actions to improve development policy and practice and make U.S. assistance dollars work smarter. Today, with the launch of our new policy paper, The Way Forward: A Reform Agenda for 2014 and Beyond, we both reflect on past achievements and humbly recognize there is much more work to be done.

MFAN’s new agenda outlines two powerful and mutually reinforcing pillars of reform – accountability through transparency, evaluation and learning; and country ownership of the priorities and resources for, and implementation of, development. These pillars are vital to building capacity in developing countries to enable leaders and citizens to take responsibility for their own development.

We applaud the many actions that have already been taken or put in motion to advance accountability and country ownership. For the Obama Administration, these include the commitment to fully implement the International Aid Transparency Initiative, USAID’s Partnership for Growth and Local Solutions initiatives, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s commitment to transparency reflected by its top ranking on the 2013 Aid Transparency Index. In addition it is particularly encouraging to see that transparency is embedded in the recommendations of the Global Development Council that were released this week. Congress has also taken up the reform cause with the creation of the Congressional Caucus on Effective Foreign Assistance, the introduction and reintroduction of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, and recent efforts to improve the efficiency and responsiveness of international food aid.

These next two years are an important window of opportunity for U.S. aid reform. The midterm elections in 2014 are certain to shake up the membership of Congress. In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals will expire and a new global development agenda will take its place. And 2016 will bring a new administration and further changes in Congress.  We urge the Administration and Congress to work together to institutionalize the important reforms that have already been introduced and continue to push forward on strengthening country ownership and accountability. The profound changes in international aid globally make the focus on these changes even more important to ensuring US aid effectiveness.

We will be tracking progress made on the key reform actions we outline in the paper and sharing our thoughts with the community, the Administration, and Congress. We invite – and look forward to – the dialogue that these recommendations will generate.

U.S. Pace on Aid Transparency Won’t Cut it for 2015 Deadline

April 8th, 2014
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Development leaders from around the globe will gather in Mexico City next week for the first high-level meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. The Global Partnership was established at the Fourth High Level Forum in Busan in 2011 and brings together a wide range of development actors working towards more effective, sustainable, and impactful development results. Today, 161 countries and 54 organizations have endorsed the Global Partnership Principles, including the United States.

Next week’s meeting offers up a chance to evaluate donors’ progress on their commitments to the Principles, including one focused on transparency requiring that donors publish all aid data to a common, open standard by December 2015. The U.S. endorsement of the Global Partnership Principles goes hand in hand with the commitment made by Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), also announced at Busan.

MFAN has joined with many other individuals and organizations in an effort spearheaded by Publish What You Fund to call on USAID Administrator Raj Shah and Secretary of State John Kerry to increase aid transparency efforts ahead of the GPEDC meeting. The supporting individuals and organizations have sent letters to Administrator Shah and Secretary Kerry outlining key recommendations, including:

  • Accelerate efforts to publish timely, comprehensive and forward-looking data on all development flows in accordance with IATI and improve the quality of published data;
  • Ensure information on development cooperation is compatible and aligned with partner countries’ budgets and systems;
  • Support specific actions to improve access, dissemination and use of this data by all stakeholders at country level.

With 2015 just around the corner, the U.S. needs to pick up the pace on publishing timely, comprehensive, and forward-looking data if it is to meet its important commitment to aid transparency. We hope this gathering will provide a much-needed kick-start to that process.