Publish What You Fund Director, Karin Christiansen, today submitted a response to the UK newspaper The Guardian’s 29 July article “US foreign aid ‘needs greater coherence’, report says”:
Having just got back from a trip to the US where we met different officials from the many different aid agencies, I couldn’t agree more with the OECD’s assessment (as in article of 29 July, “US foreign aid ‘needs greater coherence’, report says”). The effectiveness of US aid is certainly undermined by lack of coordination between the agencies.
A clear first step in improving the coordination and effectiveness of US foreign assistance would be to increase the availability of up to date information about what is being spent where, and with what impact. As highlighted positively in the OECD’s report, there is a new dashboard – found at ForeignAssistance.Gov – where agencies have promised to publish information about their aid spending. Right now however only two of 24 agencies have submitted data – and only for aid budgets formally approved by Congress, not what was really spent.
To get the most out of US aid money, the clear next step is for all agencies to publish data to the Dashboard, and then make sure the information is comparable not only between US agencies but also to other aid-giving countries and institutions, by signing up to and implementing the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). This is essential to address the current issue of gaps in aid funding or duplication of activities resulting from a lack of national and international coordination. The Make Aid Transparent campaign, endorsed by over 80 organisations from both northern and southern countries, is now calling for all aid donors to sign up to IATI.