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USAID plays an outsize role in advancing global development progress. Working in more than 120 countries, the agency manages the world’s biggest bilateral aid portfolio, totaling around $20 billion a year across a wide range of sectors, including health, education, economic growth, democracy promotion and humanitarian relief. CGD’s rigorous analysis of the agency over the years has made us a go-to source for advice and ideas for how to make US foreign assistance more effective and evidence-based.
After months of speculation, we are finally getting some clarity on the broad outlines—and internal debates—of development policy under the Trump administration. Here are five main takeaways from hearings with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and USAID administrator nominee Mark Green:
When White House officials decided to talk publicly about a big boost in defense spending and big cuts for EPA, the State Department, and foreign assistance while still deep in their internal negotiation process, they did so for political reasons, making a direct case to voters devoid of any clearly stated policy rationale. It’s been encouraging, and even a little bit surprising, to see strong and quick statements of opposition coming from key Republicans in the Senate and House as well as the military community. But the reality remains that the White House has decided to politicize foreign assistance in a way that we have not seen for over 30 years.
CGD and the Brookings Institution recently released the third edition of the Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA), a joint venture that measures donor performance across a series of aid quality indicators to encourage governments, institutions, and agencies to disburse more effective, transparent, and efficient assistance.
With the US Congress considering cuts to foreign assistance and aid budgets in other donor countries coming under increased pressure, evidence about what works in global development is more important than ever. Evidence should inform decisions on where to allocate scarce resources—but to do so, evaluations must be of good quality.