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Sarah Rose is a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. Her work, as part of the Center’s US Development Policy Initiative, focuses on US government aid effectiveness. Areas of research and analysis include the policies and operation of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the use of evaluation and evidence to inform programming and policy, the implementation of country ownership principles, and the process of transitioning middle income countries from grant assistance to other development instruments.
Previously, Rose worked for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Mozambique as a specialist in strategic information and monitoring and evaluation. She also worked at MCC, focusing on the agency’s evidence-based country selection process. She holds a Masters degree in public policy and a BS in foreign service, both from Georgetown University.
In recent months, USAID has been working diligently to craft its approach to “strategic transitions,” framing the principles it will follow, the benchmarks that will help inform transition decisions, and the programs and tools it can bring to bear. This Thursday, in a public discussion with the agency’s Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid (ACVFA), USAID will outline its initial thinking about strategic transitions. Our recent paper, Working Itself Out of a Job: USAID and Smart Strategic Transitions, offers some advice to the agency as it charts the course ahead. Here are the main takeaways.
Every December, MCC’s board of directors meets to select the set of countries eligible for MCC’s compact or threshold programs. And each year, before the board meeting, CGD’s US Development Policy Initiative publishes a discussion of the overarching issues expected to impact the decisions alongside its predictions for which countries will be selected. Here’s what to watch for at the upcoming MCC board meeting on December 19.
Next month, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s board of directors will meet to select the set of countries that will be eligible for the agency’s large-scale grant programs. One of the decisions on the table will be whether to continue the partnership with the Philippines. Over the last year and a half, questions have emerged about whether the Philippines continues to meet MCC’s good governance criteria. In one month, MCC and its board will have to answer those lingering questions.
Domestic revenue mobilization (DRM) seems set to be a priority area for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) under Administrator Mark Green. The challenge has been in tracking US (and other donors’) support for DRM activities. While the data only covers projects in 2015 so far, it contributes to a better understanding of what US aid agencies are doing in the DRM space and where they are working. If the United States is looking to step up assistance in this area, it will be instructive to understand the landscape of current efforts.
Of all the governance criteria MCC assesses, none is as singularly important as corruption, which, historically, has weeded out more countries for eligibility than any other individual factor. It is, however, difficult to measure with precision, which can (and has) lead to poor decisions when interpreted too rigidly, resulting in cutting off, purely on the basis of indicator rules, compact partnerships with countries that have had no demonstrable change in their anticorruption environment. If you care about corruption, this isn’t the way to go about emphasizing that.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is at a crossroads. Many of its early compacts—large-scale, five-year grants that support country-led solutions to poverty reduction through economic growth in a select set of poor but well-governed countries—are coming to a close.
Over the last decade, the US government has repeatedly expressed its commitment to incorporating “country ownership” into the way it designs and delivers foreign assistance. This paper draws upon perception-based data from government officials and donor staff in 126 developing countries to explore how development policymakers and practitioners evaluate US government efforts that promote (or hinder) country ownership and the extent to which these efforts are perceived as useful. While the US government does pursue some approaches considered favorable for country ownership, practices that put countries more firmly in the driver’s seat are underutilized compared to their perceived utility.
When MCC was founded, there was widespread skepticism about the effectiveness of foreign assistance. Many observers, both external and internal to development institutions, agreed that too much aid was being spent on poor projects in service of poorly defined objectives with correspondingly little understanding of what these funds were achieving.
After more than a decade of operations, MCC has made the shift from innovative start-up to established donor agency. “MCC NEXT,” the agency’s new, much-anticipated strategic plan, takes a hard look at how the poverty and development landscape has evolved over the past decade and stakes out the position a more mature MCC should take in this new context.
CGD and the Brookings Institution recently released the third edition of the Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA), a joint venture that measures donor performance across a series of aid quality indicators to encourage governments, institutions, and agencies to disburse more effective, transparent, and efficient assistance.