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As the largest bilateral donor in the world, the US government can play a leadership role in pushing aid effectiveness principles and sustainable development practice. The past two administrations have interwoven, to varying degrees, a number of these principles into the reform agenda of USAID as well as new institutions and initiatives like the Millennium Challenge Corporation, PEPFAR, Feed the Future, and Power Africa.
CGD evaluates US efforts to implement these reforms and principles which include:
The principle of country ownership reflects the idea that local actors including governments, civil society, and the private sector should have a stronger leadership role in the formulation and implementation of development activities in their country. Country ownership is central to the approaches of MCC, Feed the Future, and Power Africa, while USAID and the State Department have increasingly focused attention on shifting a greater share of implementation leadership and responsibility to local actors.
Foreign Aid Transparency & Accountability
In recent years, there has been a major global push to increase the transparency and accountability of foreign assistance. The US government has the potential to be a global leader in aid transparency and accountability, but it has struggled to make progress on its international commitments.
Domestic Resource Mobilization
Domestic resource mobilization (DRM) broadly refers to the process of countries raising their own money to finance their development agenda. US government efforts to support DRM have focused on helping governments expand their tax bases, improve tax compliance, and increase the capacity of tax administrations. In addition to an emphasis on resource collection, current US efforts around DRM also emphasize the importance of the transparent and accountable expenditure of resources by governments.
Results or outcome-based aid has long been a key area of study for CGD. Compared to traditional models of US foreign assistance, these funding models shift attention from inputs to outcomes -- measuring and rewarding real progress, encouraging innovation and adaptation, aligning incentives, limiting corruption, and reducing waste of donor funds. Results-based aid approaches have shown promise in improving service delivery and country ownership.
Using an experimental design, we assess the feasibility of interactive voice recognition (IVR) surveys for gauging citizens’ development priorities. Our project focuses on four low-income countries (Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe). We find that mobile phone-based approaches may be an effective tool for gathering information about citizen priorities.
Last week USAID, the world’s largest aid agency, released its Vision for Ending Extreme Poverty. That’s right, USAID (an agency not usually known for its foresight and strategic acumen) has already put forth its plan on how it intends to reorient the Agency to meet the call to end extreme poverty.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation is a model aid agency in a lot of ways, one of which is its commitment to learning from experience and evidence on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to development programs. Despite that, it still has an egregiously flawed way to deal with the risk of corruption. The MCC takes a slippery and poorly measured concept and puts it to the most blunt of zero tolerance tests: if a country is below the median in its income group on the Worldwide Governance Indicators measure of control of corruption, it doesn’t get a compact.
The Third Conference on Financing for Development has come and gone; country delegates and their leaders, civil society actors, aid organizations, and policy wonks have all returned home. As we discussed prior to FFD , the United States government had a major opportunity to make commitments on domestic resource mobilization (DRM) and data. So how did the US government fare in these areas?
Weak institutions are both a cause and a consequence of underdevelopment. Improving governance is widely regarded as critical to accelerating economic opportunities, democracy, and security. This is especially important for fragile states and countries emerging from conflict. Despite this, the United States and other donor governments have few financial tools that are demonstrably effective at stimulating and delivering improved governance.
While global development is about much more than aid, US foreign assistance is, and will remain, one of the most visible tools for US development policy in many countries. The US government spends less than 1 percent of its annual budget — about $23 billion — on nonmilitary foreign assistance across the globe. These programs have consistently come under fire for failing to achieve measurable and sustainable results, ignoring local priorities and contexts, perpetuating bureaucratic inefficiencies and inflexibility, and repeating mistakes over time. A paradigm shift within US aid agencies is needed. In this brief, we outline concrete proposals that would address many of the traditional shortcomings of US foreign aid approaches.