Are USAID programs high impact and good value for money? Do they work? Do they generate more results for less cost than if the agency just gave poor people cash? We don’t always know the answers to those questions, but USAID is trying to find out.
The Trump administration has pledged to tie foreign aid more directly to countries’ United Nations (UN) votes, threatening to punish countries who vote against the US position by cutting their foreign assistance. While the administration’s harsh rhetoric marks a shift from the recent past, the United States has been using aid to influence UN votes for decades.
Front and center in discussions around the reform and redesign of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are the objectives of increased efficiency and effectiveness. The agency’s new administrator, Mark Green, who has highlighted these goals from day one, has an excellent opportunity to improve the agency’s efficiency and effectiveness through better generation and use of evidence to inform policy and programming decisions.
Some Answers to the Perpetual Question: Does US Foreign Aid Work—and How Should the US Government Move Forward with What We Know?
Happily, in the last 25 years, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day has dropped by two-thirds. Most of this success is due to major global forces such as trade and cross-border labor mobility. And much of the credit goes to the governments and citizens of developing countries themselves for pursuing the policies that have enabled donor, private sector, and (increasingly) their own resources to translate into development outcomes. But development assistance—including US aid—has made important contributions.