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Aid effectiveness, US global development policy, US foreign assistance, the Millennium Challenge Account
Sarah Jane Staats was director of CGD’s Rethinking US Foreign Assistance Initiative, a one-stop shop for information and policy analysis on the mission, mandate and organizational structure of US foreign aid and US global development policy. Staats has written on aid effectiveness, the US role in the international financial institutions, and the nexus of US development policy, advocacy and Congress. She previously served as CGD’s director of policy outreach where she led the Center’s engagement with the development policy community, especially senior staff in the U.S. Congress, the US administration and development advocacy NGOs.
Staats previously worked at the US Government Accountability Office (GAO); at InterAction, a coalition of 160 US-based development and humanitarian NGOs; and with the ONE Campaign.
US aid agencies are on an open data roll this month. On Monday, we applauded Treasury’s release of technical assistance program data in Excel and International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) formats. Yesterday, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) released more than 53,000 FY2013 financial transaction records on the US Foreign Assistance Dashboard, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) posted much of its open data catalog information in the IATI format on its website, too. All three agencies will likely see steady or higher marks in the 2013 Aid Transparency Index that comes out in October (but finished collecting data yesterday). Regardless, we're giving a huge “hooray” for the major boost in amount and detail of publicly-available US aid data and hope it spurs interesting analysis and ideas to better communicate and inform development policymaking and practice.
Success has many fathers. So too does the administration’s new vision for US-Africa engagement. At a packed CGD event with USAID administrator Rajiv Shah on President Obama’s recent trip to Africa and the new Power Africa energy initiative, CGD president Nancy Birdsall called it “the Shah vision.” Shah was quick to call it “the Obama vision.” I suspect others are applauding OPIC, MCC, and the African Development Bank, too. It’s good to see pride and shared ownership for the new effort, but who will see it through?
This brief on the General Capital Increase is one of a suite of policy briefs that provides basic background information and practical analysis of the financial and governance issues facing the international financial institutions.
The death of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi after twenty-one years in charge raises fresh questions about the future of US foreign aid to the country – including all three of President Obama’s development initiatives – and the conundrum of focusing aid in countries whose leaders hang on to power for more than a decade. Could a new rule banning foreign aid to long-serving heads of state help?
President Obama is wheels up for Africa Wednesday. The White House and US development agencies have been unusually quiet prior to departure, but some things are sure to be on the agenda: economic growth, trade, investment, democracy, youth, food security, and health. Obama is widely expected to announce a new power initiative. But Nelson Mandela’s failing health could dramatically shift the trips’ tone and focus.
It's not your father's USAID. That's the big message in USAID's first progress report on how the agency, under Administrator Rajiv Shah's leadership, is trying to be smarter about where and how it delivers aid around the world. There's a lot to like in the report: better evaluation, more developing-country partners, mobile technology and an end to some programs. This is all good news for revamping USAID, but our enthusiasm is tempered by the constraints USAID can’t fix alone.
I was pleasantly surprised by the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last week on the FY2014 USAID and MCC budgets. I expected a remix of the partisan spats I watched two years ago. Instead, there was impressive congressional turnout plus serious questions and thorough answers. There was even some friendly competition between USAID and MCC. But five contradictions come up anytime foreign aid is on the Hill and the latest budget hearing was no exception.