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Momentum Grows for Aid Transparency as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Unanimously Passes Foreign Aid Accountability Bill

November 10th, 2015
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November 10, 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

Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously endorsed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015 (S. 2184), marking another victory for the bipartisan, bicameral legislation. This bill, recently introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), would codify important reforms to ensure that U.S. agencies involved in foreign assistance are focused on rigorous and consistent monitoring and evaluation of programs and on making comprehensive, timely, and comparable aid data publicly available.

MFAN thanks Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD) for moving swiftly to take action on this legislation, and the bill sponsors for their continued leadership on efforts to make foreign assistance more transparent and accountable. This bipartisan legislation would help the U.S. government better track, measure, and allocate limited aid resources.

This swift action in the House and Senate underscores the broad bipartisan support for aid effectiveness and the need to act now to ensure our assistance programs have the greatest, most lasting impact. We urge both chambers to maintain the momentum to pass this important legislation by the full House and Senate.

MFAN Applauds Passage of Foreign Aid Transparency Bill by House Foreign Affairs Committee

November 5th, 2015
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November 5, 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

Today the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 3766), recently introduced by Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA). MFAN thanks Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) for swiftly taking up this legislation for consideration, and the bill sponsors for their continued leadership on efforts to make foreign assistance more transparent and accountable.

MFAN strongly supports this bipartisan legislation, which would codify important reforms to ensure that U.S. agencies involved in foreign assistance are focused on rigorous and consistent monitoring and evaluation of programs and on making comprehensive, timely, and comparable aid data publicly available. By reinforcing its existing commitments to transparency and evaluation through legislation, the U.S. government can better track, measure, and allocate scarce aid resources.

We hope to see swift passage of this important legislation by the full House of Representatives. We also urge the Senate to take similar action on the companion bill (S. 2184), introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD).

Statement: MFAN Applauds Introduction of the Bipartisan Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015

October 20th, 2015
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October 20, 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

MFAN welcomes the introduction of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015 by Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD). This bipartisan legislation would codify important reforms to ensure that U.S. agencies involved in foreign assistance are focused on rigorous and consistent monitoring and evaluation of programs and on making comprehensive, timely, and comparable aid data publicly available. By strengthening its commitment to monitoring and evaluation and transparency, the U.S. government can better allocate aid resources and be held accountable by a range of stakeholders.

Earlier versions of this legislation have been unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 113th Congress and by the House of Representatives in the 112th Congress. We commend Representatives Poe and Connolly and Senators Rubio and Cardin for their continued leadership to enact this important legislation.

MFAN strongly supports this legislation. It is vital to guaranteeing that U.S. foreign assistance becomes as transparent as possible and programs are thoroughly evaluated. Enacting this bill will help pave the way for the U.S. Government to further embed aid effectiveness principles in its development policy and practice in order to get the most out of every dollar we spend. The positive actions we have seen this Administration take to improve the accountability of U.S. foreign assistance, such as creating ForeignAssistance.gov as a public venue for aid data, and the USAID and State Department evaluation policies, will be strengthened by this legislation.

We look forward to working with Congress to make this legislation even stronger by requiring that aid effectiveness approaches be rigorously applied to all foreign assistance, including security assistance, and reinforcing existing U.S. government commitments to transparency and evaluation, such as meeting its obligation on the International Aid Transparency Initiative.

MFAN Letter to the NSC on the Open Government Partnership U.S. National Action Plan

October 9th, 2015
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October 2, 2015

Ms. Mary Beth Goodman
Senior Director
National Security Council
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Ms. Goodman:

We at the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network appreciate the open and consultative process led by the White House to gather recommendations for the third Open Government Partnership (OGP) U.S. National Action Plan.  Your leadership has been instrumental in the formation and implementation of the previous two OGP National Action Plans, and we welcome the opportunity to help build on those gains with strong new commitments in the next plan.

We applaud the OGP Steering Committee, of which the U.S. is a part, for its recent adoption of the “Joint Declaration on Open Government for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”  We strongly support the integration of the SDGs into the U.S Government OGP National Action Plan and vice versa — leveraging the OGP plans, platform and principles for the achievement not only of Goal 16, but the entire SDG 2030 agenda.

The inclusion of commitments to improve the transparency of U.S. foreign assistance in the previous two plans has helped motivate the progress agencies have made over the past four years.  However, much work remains to be done. In order to fully deliver on prior commitments, a robust new commitment to improving data quality and data use is needed.

We propose that the U.S. government make the following new commitments in the area of foreign assistance transparency.

1.All U.S. agencies administering foreign assistance will publish data at the activity level and on a quarterly basis, in line with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). By 2017, the data published will represent 100% of U.S. official development assistance (ODA).

This commitment represents full implementation of the International Aid Transparency Initiative, which the U.S. joined in 2011. The 100% figure comes from the implementation schedule presented in December 2012 by the State Department and USAID on behalf of the U.S. Government.[1] Though the previous two National Action Plans called for all agencies administering foreign assistance to publish their aid data to ForeignAssistance.gov and in line with the international standards, only some data has been published and the quality of the data is generally low.[2]

In order to meet this commitment, each U.S. agency administering foreign assistance should publish a cost management plan that assesses how the agency will collect and publish aid data, what resources the agency will need, and the source of those resources. The U.S. government’s commitment to IATI will only be achieved when responsible agencies have clear plans that identify how they will collect and publish the data. Agency-specific plans should be developed by December 2016 to allow at least one year for implementation. USAID’s publication of such a plan this year demonstrates that this commitment is feasible.[3]

2.The U.S. government will encourage the use of the data it publishes by domestic and international stakeholders. It will develop capacity-building programs within U.S. agencies and with domestic and international stakeholders so the data can be accessed and used for different purposes.

The potential of open data to have a transformative impact on development will not be realized unless the data is used.  Capacity training programs should be developed in the first quarter of 2016 and should continue for the duration of the plan.  During the course of the third National Action Plan, the U.S. government must build on the progress made in opening data by encouraging its uptake and use.  This requires identifying and responding to demand for the data by multiple stakeholders.

The interagency team led by the State Department and USAID responsible for ForeignAssistance.gov has made some progress over the last two National Action Plans in understanding the information needs of domestic stakeholders like Congress, the academic community, and the public.  Going forward, the attention to data use must expand to include more partner country perspectives.

Partner country governments have a critical need for foreign aid information. Aligning this information with country budget classifications, for example by implementing the IATI budget identifier, will help users bridge the gap between the aid and the domestic budget. It is this more complete picture that can lead to better decision making.  A recent USAID study found that, despite increases in the quantity of data published, the local communities that U.S. foreign assistance serves rarely access or use the data to monitor and give feedback on the development activities of donors and their own governments.[4]  To remedy this, the U.S. should implement capacity building programs within foreign assistance agencies to work with local media and civil society partners as “infomediaries” on innovative ways to effectively communicate U.S. foreign assistance information to local audiences.

We appreciate the effort and attention that will be necessary to realize these commitments, and we look forward to providing assistance and public support to help translate these commitments into outcomes during the course of the third U.S. National Action Plan.

Thank you for your consideration and your leadership in using the Open Government Partnership as a global platform to set a high standard of open and responsive government.  We look forward to your response and continued dialogue.

Sincerely,

George Ingram, The Brookings Institution & MFAN Co-Chair

Diana Ohlbaum, Independent Consultant & MFAN Accountability Working Group Co-Chair

Lori Rowley, The Lugar Center & MFAN Accountability Working Group Co-Chair

Didier Trinh, MFAN Executive Director

InterAction

ONE

Oxfam America

Publish What You Fund

Save the Children

 

 

 

[1] IATI Implementation schedule. http://publishwhatyoufund.org/files/IATI-Implementation-Schedule_Final_USA.xlsx

[2] 2015 U.S. Aid Transparency Review. http://roadto2015.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/2015-US-Aid-Transparency-Review.pdf

[3] USAID International Aid Transparency Initiative Cost Management Plan, July 2015.  See https://www.usaid.gov/documents/1870/usaid-iati-cost-management-plan

 

[4] https://www.usaid.gov/transparency/country-pilot-assessment

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

September 29th, 2015
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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.”