Clinton’s recommendations require greater aid transparency

Publish What You Fund welcomes the essay on foreign affairs by Hilary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, who has emphasized greater coordination in U.S. foreign assistance. Clinton’s essay comes in anticipation of the eagerly awaited Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR)  tipped to be released next month.

Clinton alludes to the importance of using partner countries’ systems to increase ownership of development in the recipient country: “A developing country must be in charge and set its own goals for meeting the needs of its people. The U.S. government comes to the table as a partner, not a patron, lending resources and expertise and, eventually, putting itself out of business when a host country is self-sustaining.”

Comprehensive, timely and comparable information on aid is crucial in giving country governments control of their own development. If recipient countries do not know where aid money is going, or the impact it is having, the effective planning of their domestic budget and the potential for sustainable development is undermined. See Oxfam’s paper ‘Ownership in practice: The key to smart development’ for more information on country ownership.

Coordination of U.S. agencies with each other, and with other donors, is critical to the U.S. realising the potential impact of its aid. Clinton explains how the U.S. is now working in “full collaboration with other governments and international donors” constructing plans to support Bangladesh’s food-security strategy.

The impact of U.S. foreign assisstance is maximised when there is comparability across agencies and between donors. Donors need to provide aid information in a common format that will be understood by all other donors and agencies involved. A common format for aid information allows donors to better coordinate aid based on a full and comprehensive picture of all aid entering a country or sector. It also helps recipient governments to see the combined flows of all aid coming into their country and link it to their budgets.

The U.S. has approximately 27 agencies providing some form of foreign assistance, which is why the internal reforms advocated by Clinton will serve to address the lack of coordination between the agencies. “USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah has laid out an aggressive set of operational priorities called USAID Forward […] designed to make the agency more effective, accountable, and transparent [and] organizing the internal branches of the U.S. government with a focus on integration, cohesion, and problem solving.”

The priorities for U.S. foreign assistance as outlined are of critical important to the U.S. realizing the potential impact of its aid. However, it is essential that the U.S. puts international aid transparency at the heart of its strategy, as outlined in the 2009 Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act (HR 2139).

Only with comparability to other donors, and among U.S. agencies, can aid be used to greatest effect.

Read Clinton’s essay.

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