Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last November that the United States will join the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) to make information about aid spending easier to find, use and compare globally. This is great news. But while we wait for the United States to start reporting, I’m disheartened that some on Capitol Hill are all for aid transparency, just not the reporting to an international, rather than American, standard. This is a position that Sam the Eagle clearly understands, but of course, misses the point.

Why international aid transparency? So everyone can see how much aid is being provided for what and so donors and developing countries can get a bigger bang for their aid bucks. Developing country governments and citizens are eager for this information so they can plan, manage and monitor the aid they receive. This would make a difference in everything from the (un)accountability of aid in Haiti to measuring the quality of aid around the world. Here in the United States, policymakers at the White House, in development agencies and on Capitol Hill could use the information to determine where and how best to spend the next (or last) development dollar. And Americans could better understand where and how much of their taxes are used to promote global--and in turn, American--prosperity.

The Obama administration has taken a big first step by launching the Foreign Assistance Dashboard that aims to include foreign aid spending information from twenty U.S. federal agencies that provide some form of foreign aid. Think of this as “the American part”. But of course, it matters what everyone else is doing too. And the everyone else includes other non-governmental American actors (think private foundations like IATI-signatory Hewlett or any of the U.S.-based international NGOs that I hope will someday report to IATI) as well as other bilateral and multilateral agencies.

So as we head out for the Fourth of July holiday here in Washington, I tip my hat to the administration for the Foreign Assistance Dashboard and the promise to join the International Aid Transparency Initiative (I ‘ll set off my own fireworks when the United States starts reporting to IATI). If foreign aid reflects American ingenuity, generosity and values, I’d like to think full aid transparency—not just the American part—is a value and smart policy that all Americans and their elected representatives could support.

Happy Fourth (and enjoy the full Stars and Stripes Forever clip brought to you by the American (and one Swedish?) Muppets)!