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Posts Tagged ‘Brookings’

Brookings Event to Roll Out 2011 OECD/DAC Peer Review of the U.S.

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
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Below, please see a guest post from Ariadne Medler, Program Coordinator, Development Assistance and Governance Initiative in the Global Economy and Development Program, Brookings, in which she previews the 2011 Development Assistance Committee peer review of the United States. Medler looks at how the peer review will impact reform efforts underway, particularly in the challenging budget environment, while setting the stage for the Brookings event roll out of the report tomorrow.

This week, the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD/DAC) will release the 2011 peer review for the U.S., an in-depth examination of the country’s development systems and strategies. This independent critique is intended to assess the effectiveness of aid policies and programs against internationally established principles, to assist in improving performance through mutual learning, and to foster coordination and identify best practices. The assessment falls on the heels of far-reaching policy reforms and important shifts in the U.S. development landscape, lending an international voice to an ongoing domestic dialogue.

The Obama Administration’s agenda for development is a crucial step toward real reform for the world’s largest single donor, and is intended to return the country to a position of global leadership in the development arena. The reform vision outlined in last year’s Presidential Policy Directive on Development (PPD) and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) is moving forward in promising ways, but many challenges remain.

Chief among these is their effective implementation and maintaining the momentum of reform. At a time when the country’s politics is being weighed down by heightened budget insecurity, the development community must convince both lawmakers in Washington and the American public that foreign assistance is both effective and necessary. Making taxpayer dollars do more abroad requires focusing seriously on leveraging partnerships and working better with non-state actors, such as NGOs and the private sector, and with Congress.

Recommendations from the last U.S. peer review, in 2006, included refocusing development strategy to center on priority objectives, fostering greater policy coherence and a whole-of-government approach to development, consolidating and streamlining operational responsibilities, and greater engagement with and financing of multilateral development efforts. This year’s review will likely build on these areas for improvement. How large of a focus will be placed on creating a cross-agency development strategy and increasing policy coherence, where much work remains to be done? Compared to the 2006 review, will this year’s assessment garner wider interest, given greater activity and awareness around the foreign aid reform agenda?

To delve deeper into the recommendations and implications of this year’s review, the Brookings Institution is hosting an official launch event, which will include a public panel discussion on Thursday, July 28 with Donald Steinberg, USAID’s Deputy Administrator, J. Brian Atwood, the OECD/DAC Chair, Connie Veillete of the Center for Global Development, and Homi Kharas and Noam Unger of Brookings. For more on the discussion, and to register, please visit the event page here.


MFAN Principals Weigh in on U.S. Global Development Council

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011
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On Friday, MFAN Principals Noam Unger and John Norris released a policy brief exploring the structure for a U.S. Global Development Council, which President Obama called for in the presidential policy directive on global development released in September 2010. When released, the directive stated that this council would be “comprised of leading members of the philanthropic sector, private sector, academia, and civil society, to provide high-level input relevant to the work of United States Government agencies.” The council would seemingly fulfill the role of coordinating policy and practice across all U.S. actors involved in promoting global development—since the majority resources for foreign assistance no longer come from the U.S. government alone.

Yet, as the authors note, no other information on the makeup of or the timeline for the council has been released. Unger, fellow and policy director of the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution and Norris, executive director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress, lay out recommendations for the council as the administration works to move it from concept to reality. Unger and Norris draw from the experience of past councils and advisory boards, presenting different models, as well as underlying the importance of clarifying a council’s objective. Ultimately, they outline nine core recommendations, summarized below: (more…)

Opening Up: Aid Information, Transparency and U.S. Foreign Assistance Reform

Thursday, December 9th, 2010
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brookings The Brookings Institution and Publish What You Fund today hosted a discussion entitled “Opening Up: Aid Information, Transparency and U.S. Foreign Assistance Reform.”  Moderated by MFAN Principal Noam Unger, Fellow and Foreign Assistance Reform Project Policy Director at Brookings, the conversation focused on what the U.S. government is doing to pursue greater transparency and its role in shaping international aid transparency standards.  Featured speakers were: Deputy Assistant to the Administrator at the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); and Karin Christiansen, Director of MFAN Partner Publish What You Fund.  Discussants included: Augustine Ngafuan, Minister of Finance in Liberia; Nancy Birdsall, President of the Center for Global Development (an MFAN partner); and Daniel Kaufmann, Senior Fellow at Brookings.

Publish-What-You-Fund-logo-hi-res-150x150Christiansen presented Publish What You Fund’s 2010 Aid Transparency Assessment, the first attempt to undertake a detailed comparison of the current levels of aid transparency.  The main findings of the assessment were as follows:

1.       A lack of comparable data;

2.       Wide variation in the levels of donor transparency; and

3.       Weakness across the transparency indicators used in the assessment.

Given these findings, Publish What You Fund developed a set of recommendations to first have donors make aid information available, as they have demonstrated that this is possible; second, making more and better information available; and lastly having a common standard for everyone.

The U.S. government efforts to improve development assistance transparency were addressed by Levine.  She pointed to the development of the soon-to-be-launched Foreign Assistance Dashboard website, tentatively to be released later this month in conjunction with the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which will allow for online tracking of U.S. foreign assistance funding.  Levine emphasized that the U.S. government has a responsibility to share information among agencies, and credited the Millennium Challenge Corporation for leading the charge on aid transparency, in particular with regard to its country selection process as well as spending and performance data.

She acknowledged that USAID can do better, noting longstanding problems with time lag in gathering information and siloed legacy systems that don’t speak a common language.  USAID is, however, in the process of finalizing a new evaluation policy that will be issued in January to begin to tackle these issues, and will be pursuing pilots in three countries over the course of the next year.  She also agreed that the U.S. must take an active role in the development of a common standard for transparency, as called for in the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).

Ngafuan, a native of Liberia, presented a different view from the perspective of a highly aid-dependent country.  While emphasizing the good work of the donors in Liberia, Ngafuan urged that better aid coordination will result from more information being shared by donor countries.  For instance, he suggested a dedicated in-country office that would be a one-stop shop for multiple agencies as a way to consolidate and coordinate the many actors and better aggregate the information, which has been a criticism of civil society organizations.

He also demanded the same level of accountability of implementing partners, and that universal transparency can help ensure there are “lots of eyes on the cookie jar,” from the legislature to the government auditors to the media and, most importantly, to the people themselves.  Ngafuan asserted that it is “not a matter of not knowing what to do….but of addressing the gulf between commitments and realities.”

Birdsall echoed Ngafuan’s comments that recipient countries need to have greater access to the aid information of donor countries, which she described as “very primitive, still in kindergarten.”  She noted that according to a new tool developed jointly by CGD and Brookings called QuODA, the U.S. ranks 22nd out of 31 countries on the Quality of Official Development Assistance.  She also urged the U.S. to join as a member of IATI, that in addition to better showing aid flows, there should be a “deep think about more than inputs and tracking money, but rather what is working?”  She encouraged donor nations to make quarterly and annual reports of their aid disbursements by sector and channel to recipient countries using “three or four key pieces of data.”

Kaufmann discussed the existing challenges to transparency such as the lack of comparability across agency programs, and cautioned that while increasing the use of impact evaluations is helpful, we must be sure to do it in a way that allows for comparing evaluations across projects.  He proposed donor and recipient nations joining forces to obtain greater transparency and coordination.

Poll: Top Vacancies at USAID

Monday, November 15th, 2010
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Below is a guest post from MFAN member Alex Denny, Research Assistant of the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Assistance Reform Project, taking a closer look at the remaining vacancies at USAID. To see exactly where things stand with Assistant Administrators, please see the Center for Global Development’s USAID Staff Tracker and be sure to lets us know which vacancy is your top priority based on the tracker below:

Which AA Vacancy Would You Fill Today?

Alex Denny

Almost two years into the administration, USAID still suffers from incomplete staffing in its influential upper ranks.  Of the ten Assistant Administrator positions, only three have been confirmed, and only one other AA has even been nominated. As a matter of coherent and effective leadership, President Obama’s policy intends for USAID to be “the U.S. Government’s lead development agency” and the world’s premier development agency, but these gaps in appointed and Senate-confirmed leadership have real, deleterious effects on the agency’s ability to fulfill that role and to act as a strong pillar of foreign policy.  Can you imagine the reactions if DoD was this understaffed?

The different gaps in USAID’s leadership have different consequences for the Agency’s clout in Washington and for offices in the field. Within our own conversations, we’ve heard reasons for why certain AA positions are more critical to fill than others; the health community, for example, has a valid point when it says that the missing AA for Global Health means that the Agency lacks the ability to coordinate strategy with the President’s new Global Health Initiative. But does that make it the most important AA position to fill? Or should the priority be on a particular regional bureau, on Legislative and Public Affairs or on something else?

While we look forward to all of the positions being filled, we’re curious to know what you think.  If you could pick just one of these vacant positions to be filled today, which would you pick and why?

USAID Staff Tracker 11_15

New Report Looks at Effectiveness of Donor Aid

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010
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Today, MFAN Partners the Center for Global Development (CGD) and the Global Economy and Development project at Brookings released a new report analyzing the Quality of Official Development Assisitance or QuODA.  The report describes QuDOA as an “assessment of the quality of ODA provided by 23 countries and more than 150 aid countries.”  The analysis uses 30 indicators over four dimensions based on the international consensus on quality aid.  The four dimensions include:

  • Maximizing efficiency
  • Fostering institutions
  • Reducing Burden
  • Transparency and Learning

The report features an online interactive graph in which you can select individual donor countries and compare the effectiveness of their aid provided across the dimensions.  Ultimately, the report is aimed at measuring the effectiveness of aid in areas controlled by official donors and agencies, making it easier to reform.  The authors – CGD president Nancy Birdsall and deputy director of the Global Economic and Development project at Brookings Homi Kharas – hope to produce a new QuODA report annually.  Here more about the report on CGD’s Wonkcast here and check back later for more on this new initiative.