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.
USAID has announced its intention to pursue “strategic transitions”—shifting select countries which have achieved an advanced level of development to a model of US engagement that relies less on traditional development assistance and more on other forms of cooperation. This paper seeks to inform USAID’s approach to strategic transitions.
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.
For over ten years, the international development community, including the US government, has committed to incorporating greater country ownership into the design and delivery of foreign assistance. This paper makes six broad recommendations for how USAID, MCC, and Congress can help the US government build momentum around its efforts to promote country ownership.
This brief considers how the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) conceptualize ownership and apply the concept in practice. We focus on three pillars: ownership of priorities (the willingness and ability of donors to align their efforts with country priorities); ownership of implementation (the degree to which donors involve local partners in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of programs); and ownership of resources (the degree to which a partner country contributes its own finances to the objectives receiving donor support).
The Use and Utility of US Government Approaches to Country Ownership: New Insights from Partner Countries
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.
The last board meeting of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) under the Obama administration will take place on December 13, 2016. On the docket? Selecting which countries will be eligible for MCC assistance for fiscal year (FY) 2017. For the fourteenth year running, CGD’s Rethinking US Development Policy Initiative discusses the overarching issues that will impact the decisions and offers its predictions of which countries will be selected.
Attention presidential transition teams: the Rethinking US Development Policy team at the Center for Global Development strongly urges you to include these three big ideas in your first year budget submission to Congress and pursue these three smart reforms during your first year.
Since its establishment more than 54 years ago, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has expanded into an $18-billion-a-year agency, operating in over 145 countries and in nearly every development sector. But USAID is often constrained in its ability to adapt to emerging development challenges due to differing political priorities among key stakeholders and resource constraints. This memo is the result of a roundtable discussion in July 2016 on how the next US administration, in close concert with Congress, can build upon and maximize the development impact of USAID.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) was established to provide large-scale grant funding to poor, well-governed countries to support their efforts to reduce poverty and generate economic growth. However, the statutory definition of which countries are “poor” for the purposes of MCC candidacy is inadequate. Based solely on GNI per capita with a rigid graduation threshold, it does not portray a clear picture of broad-based well-being in a country. Using a new, comprehensive country-level dataset of median consumption/income, the authors explore the merits and limitations of such a measure and suggest how it might be applied as an additional determinant of MCC candidacy.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC’s) board of directors is scheduled to meet on December 16. When it does, the members will vote on which countries will be eligible for MCC assistance for fiscal year (FY) 2016. As always, the board is faced with some hard decisions.
MCC’s model has received much recognition. However, since the agency controls just a small portion of the US foreign assistance budget, it alone has not fulfilled — and cannot be expected to fulfill — the founding vision of transforming US foreign assistance policy. Partly in response to the recommendations stemming from the 2010 Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) on Global Development, the larger agencies, especially the US Agency for International Development (USAID), have commendably worked to incorporate many of the same principles included in MCC’s model. For the most part, however, those principles are applied to a still-limited portion of the overall US foreign assistance portfolio. The next US president should continue to support MCC as a separate institution and support efforts to more thoroughly extend the good practices promoted in MCC’s model throughout US foreign assistance in general.
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.
One of the key pillars of MCC’s model is that country ownership matters for results. In broad terms, the idea of country ownership is that donors’ engagement with developing countries should reflect the understanding that partner country governments, in consultation with key stakeholders, should lead the development and implementation of their own national strategies and that foreign aid should largely serve to strengthen recipients’ capacity to exercise this role.
This brief reviews the MCC’s focus on policy performance. A longer discussion can be found in the full paper, “Focus on Policy Performance: MCC’s Model in Practice.”