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Posts Tagged ‘aid effectiveness’

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

Tuesday, 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.

Stuck in the bottom of your stocking

Monday, January 9th, 2012
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This blog post was written by MFAN Partner Gregory Adams, director of aid effectiveness at Oxfam America. The post originally appeared on Oxfam America’s Politics of Poverty blog.

Most people probably weren’t paying attention to the Washington Post business page on Dec 25. (Myself, I was trying to corral two toddlers and navigate a sea of legos and torn paper). But for people in poor countries who are trying to lead their societies out of poverty, Christmas day brought good news: USAID is changing the way it works to get closer to the people it’s trying to help.

Since Administrator Rajiv Shah came on board, USAID has been trying to rebuild itself so it can build stronger partnerships with poor countries and their people. It’s based in the reality of good development, which is that development isn’t something done by USAID—development is done by poor people and poor countries themselves. In order to be a better partner, USAID needs to get closer to poor people to know better what they actually need and want. That means having more USAID people talking and working directly with people in poor countries.

Dy Yong keeps the books for the rice Bank Committee so that everybody can see how it run and maintained at the Rice cooperative in Takom village, Battambang. The rice store committee has many members and they introduce villagers to the principles of trading rice to give them security at a much reduced rate than the market offers. Photo by Jim Holmes/Oxfam

This isn’t a new idea; it’s called “partnership,” and the hard-working people at USAID have been trying to do it since the agency was created 50 years ago—with varying degrees of success. The problem is that budget cuts in the 90’s gutted the agency’s ability to do this well. Budget cutters defined “efficiency” as more dollars managed by fewer people, rather than judging the depth and effectiveness of USAID’s partnerships. As a result, things deteriorated to the point where USAID contracting officers were each managing five times the amount of money that federal guidelines said they should. By necessity, USAID’s business model was reduced to “shoveling money out the door” rather than getting to know countries, communities, leaders, and their needs.

Increasingly, to manage this, USAID starting relying on “intermediaries”; often well-meaning partners like big NGOs and contractors that could manage the money for them. US-based NGOs and contractors each have distinct roles and contributions to make to development. But in this case, the way they were used was both a substitute for USAID expanding its own knowledge and expertise, as well as an impediment to change leaders in poor countries being able to tell the US government what they really needed.

Administrator Shah is trying to change that. The Dec 25 Washington Post article unveiled his effort to get USAID back to a better business model, by cutting out the middlemen and putting more emphasis on building relationships directly with the people who are making development happen in their own countries. These are exactly the kind of people that the United States wants on our side: not because of charity or because they necessarily like us, but because they want the same things we do: a world that can fight back against problems like poverty, injustice, and disease.

These reforms have a rather bureaucratic sounding name: “Implementation and Procurement Reform.” But what they mean in practice is that USAID is making an effort to get back on the ground to work more closely with the people it’s trying to help. That means better value for American taxpayers, more power for change leaders in poor countries, and ultimately better progress in the fight against poverty.

The Global Agricultural and Food Security Program (GAFSP): An Innovative Fund to Fight Hunger

Friday, March 18th, 2011
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Today’s post is the third in a Feed the Future/Reform blog series that MFAN has been coordinating with key members of the community. To read the first post by Bread for the World, click here. To read the second post by the World Food Program USA, click here.  To see what ActionAid USA’s Director of Policy and Campaigns has to say about GAFSP and its alignment with foreign assistance reform principles, read below. You will see many aspects of country ownership reflected in the post – be sure to comment or share your thoughts!

A Guest Post by Neil Watkins

Director of Policy and Campaigns at ActionAid USA

ActionAid is an international anti-poverty agency working in 50 countries, taking sides with poor people to end poverty and injustice together. Watkins currently serves as the Northern CSO representative on the Steering Committee of the GAFSP.Women farmers

A critical, but less well known component of the USG’s Feed the Future Initiative is the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). Launched in April 2010, the fund embodies many of the principles of aid effectiveness, including country ownership, a strong monitoring and evaluation element, and provisions to ensure transparency and civil society participation.

The GAFSP was established in April 2010 following commitments made by leaders at the G-8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy in 2009 to support global food security. The fund, with a small secretariat at the World Bank, has received nearly $1 billion in pledges from 6 donors including the United States, Spain, Korea, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada and Australia. Unfortunately, the US has only delivered $67 million of its pledge to date; the remainder is currently caught up in the debate around the FY2011 budget.  Congress needs to act with urgency to meet our pledge.

One of the innovations of the GAFSP is its governance structure. It is governed by a Steering Committee that includes 12 voting members (the aforementioned 6 donors, along with 6 developing country governments), as well as 11 non-voting but fully participating members. Non-voting members include three civil society representatives (including a farmers organization leader from Africa and Asia); three representatives from the United Nations system; and representatives from the five development banks which serve as the supervising entities for GAFSP projects. As the fund has evolved, in practice there is little difference between voting and non-voting members: all discussions and decisions are taken with all members present.

In June 2010, the GAFSP Steering Committee approved five grants totaling US$224 million for Bangladesh, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Togo and Rwanda. In November 2010, more than $100 million in grants were approved for Mongolia, Ethiopia, and Niger. The successful country proposals demonstrated a high level of need, an effective agricultural investment plan, and a coherent project proposal.

left_scThe GAFSP has adopted the Rome Principles — agreed to by 193 nations at the World Food Security summit in November 2009 — into its governance structure, planning, and implementation procedures. All GAFSP funds support country-led agricultural development strategies. In Africa, the fund specifically supports countries that have advanced through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program CAADP process. The CAADP process, launched at a summit of African heads of state in Maputo in 2003, commits African governments to spend at least 10% of their budgets on agriculture and includes a peer and technical review process to ensure development effectiveness.

Moreover, official contributions and pledges to the Fund have been able to leverage additional commitments including from non-traditional donors (Korea) and the philanthropic sector (Gates Foundation). The Fund also operates with a high level of transparency, with all Board documents posted to its website within one week of approval, and detailed information and financed projects publicly available.

From the outset, the GAFSP has placed a strong emphasis on civil society participation, recognizing the vital role civil society organizations (CSOs) play in ensuring that its programs have the greatest impact for the most vulnerable. ActionAid has been encouraged by the inclusion of CSOs in the governance structure of the Fund and the responsiveness by the Fund to CSO input provided to date.

The following are some concrete examples of the successes that CSOs have achieved by serving on the GAFSP Board:

  • Instructions are now sent along with grant notices to countries that receive awards from GAFSP directing the countries to ensure meaningful stakeholder participation in the finalization of their proposals;
  • The project financed by GAFSP in Togo involved farmers organizations and civil society organizations in the drafting, finalization, and now implementation of the project;
  • We also successfully pushed the Private Sector Window, a smaller lending window of the GAFSP which specifically supports the private sector, to commit that Environmental and social safeguards apply to financial intermediaries involved in the Private Sector Window; and that the development indicators the IFC uses to evaluate development impact of PSW projects will be shared with the steering committee.

ActionAid is also working with farmer’s organizations and other CSOs to press the GAFSP to further empower civil society and farmers organizations:

  • At the request of the full steering committee, we are developing detailed benchmarks and guidelines for effective civil society participation at the country level to ensure much deeper engagement and participation of producers’ organizations especially;
  • Pushing the GAFSP to clearly identify and support projects that favor innovative models of agricultural development that are likely to have the most beneficial impact on poor smallholders, especially women;
  • Pressing the Private Sector Window to operate transparently, to directly support smallholders and their organizations, and to demonstrate development effectiveness; and
  • Ensure strong linkages and accountability with the Committee on World Food Security.

ActionAid believes the GAFSP is a promising vehicle through which donors should deliver agricultural development assistance. We are urging Congress to provide full funding for the United States’ pledge to the fund. The current shortfall from the US is a risk to the fund’s sustainability. We are also urging other G-20 countries that have not yet contributed to GAFSP to make pledges to the Fund, which is an important model of aid effectiveness in practice.

A Good Day for Aid Transparency

Friday, December 17th, 2010
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MFAN Partner Publish What You Fund posted the following blog after the launch of

Today in DC, the US government launched the new Foreign Assistance Dashboard.  This new website, and particularly the data behind it, is an important first step to increase the timeliness, comparability and comprehensiveness of information on American foreign assistance.

After a series of consultations with agencies, NGOs and the development community, the team at ‘F’ (a bureau in the State Department) has launched the first version of a new one stop shop to finding information about U.S. aid. The Foreign Assistance Dashboard, is a tool to disclose, visualize and allow people to explore U.S. aid information.  It responds to the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, steps agreed in the Accra Agenda for Action and President Obama’s Open Government Initiative focusing on making government transparent, participatory and collaborative.

The most important and exciting thing about the site is that it is the beginning of more and better things to come.  This is the first output of an important interagency aid transparency process working to develop a common framework and publish aid information, documents and data across all of the agencies providing foreign assistance.

The team have already oPWYFlogo-RGB- lo_r1utlined elements of future iterations of the site, including expenditure and project information and adding in more agencies beyond the current USAID and State Department information – including MCC and Treasury in the first instance and extending to others to represent a larger portion of the foreign assistance pot.

At the Hill briefing this afternoon on the new US foreign assistance policy document, the QDDR the State Department Director of Policy Planning, Anne-Marie Slaughter stated that the dashboard aimed to “cover all foreign assistance across the government, […] so you can see what we’re spending and you can see whether or not there are results, because in the end, nothing we do from the point of view of contracts is nearly as powerful as empowering the people who have a stake in getting that assistance to find out what happened to it.” (For more on the QDDR and aid transparency see here).

The interagency aid transparency group’s 7 guiding principles for the dashboard are:

  • Presumption of disclosure
  • Putting existing data online in open format
  • Sharing detailed, timely and quality data-beyond budget level information to granular details and results
  • Prioritizing – core data fields and identifying these is critical for version 2.0
  • Building on comprehensiveness and comparability of data within agencies and other donors though engaging with the International Aid Transparency Initiative
  • Accessibility of aid data and aid information
  • Institutionalizing this effort to ensure it last, by issuing an OMB statistical bulletin.

The data on the site currently is from Fiscal Years 2006-2011 from State Department and USAID, available in the Congressional Budget Justification.

Our Christmas wish list for version 2.0 to would be:

  • Build in data comparability to other donors, but particularly to recipient country systems so taxpayers in both donor and recipient countries can see the impact of their efforts in relation to others.
  • Clarify who gives and who gets what: separating out activities from USAID and State Department in the short term as well as the other agencies as they are added
  • Let’s get the data to project level and disbursement across agencies
  • Support others to use the data – don’t try and make the dashboard the only way to explore the data, but democratise it by supporting and encourage others to build websites, dashboards and ways of exploring the information.

The Global Campaign for Aid Transparency

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
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Publish What You Fund is presenting the first-ever global Aid Transparency Assessment in Washington, D.C. in December – at the World Bank on Wednesday the 8th and the Brookings Institution on Thursday the 9th.

The Assessment has already begun to make waves in the development world, with academics, CSOs, and government officials recognizing the importance and development potential of greater aid transparency.  It ranks 30 major donors on their levels of transparency across seven weighted indicators that fall into three categories – commitment to transparency; transparency to recipient governments; and transparency to civil society.

Aid transparency is important because currently a Minister of Finance in a recipient country cannot get a clear picture of the aid money coming into their country, and therefore, cannot allocate their domestic resources in a complementary way. If all donors were to publish their aid information in a common format then everyone would be able to see the national overview or the ‘bigger picture’. If  the U.S. can see what others are funding next year, it can allocate money in a way that maximizes it’s lifesaving or life changing potential as it can see other donors’ and the national government’s plans. Having comparable information can also help drive increased aid effectiveness as donors can benchmark their impact and performance against others.

The U.S. Government has sought to increase its aid transparency and aid effectiveness as recent initiatives such as the aid dashboard demonstrate. However, the U.S. scores far below average on 4 of 7 indicators in the Assessment, as can be seen in the graph below. The U.S. can improve its position in the assessment (at 24th out of the 30 donors assessed) by working towards better international comparability of its aid information, increasing the predictability of its aid and providing information in an accessible way for civil society.


The U.S. can and should make aid transparency a priority.  Achieving comparability of aid information between the multiple U.S. aid-giving agencies will be key to delivering more effective aid and improving value for money. In addition, achieving international comparability through continued engagement in the International Aid Transparency Initiative is essential to unlock the potential of aid and enable global benchmarking so that the quality of aid can continue to improve.

The Assessment can be downloaded from Publish What You Fund’s website, where you will also find an interactive visualization which allows you to assign different weightings to the three indicators to see the effect on the final ranking. If you would like further details about these events or the assessment please refer to the website.