Over the past decade, the US government has repeatedly committed to incorporate greater country ownership into the way it designs and delivers aid programs. Though a range of factors—including strong domestic pressures—influence foreign assistance, US aid agencies have taken concrete steps to strengthen country ownership in their programs. A new policy paper, The Use and Utility of US Government Approaches to Country Ownership: New Insights from Partner Countries, draws upon survey data from government officials and donor staff in 126 developing countries to explore partner country perceptions of 1) how frequently the US government engaged in practices associated both favorably and less favorably with the promotion of country ownership, and 2) how useful each of those practices was.
CGD Policy Blogs
Next Tuesday the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) board of directors will hold its final meeting of the year—and the last under the Obama administration. On the docket? Selecting which countries will be eligible for MCC assistance for fiscal year (FY) 2017. For the fourteenth year running, CGD’s MCC Monitor discusses overarching issues that will impact the decisions and offers predictions of which countries will be selected.
The country scorecards that serve as the basis for MCC country eligibility decisions aren’t complete, but the data for the particularly weighty indicators—including the must-pass Control of Corruption hurdle—is now available. I ran the numbers to get a sneak peek at some of the issues the agency and its board will grapple with over the next few months. Some of what emerged from this number crunching is encouraging—most current partner countries surpass MCC’s standards and some interesting new prospects for partnership emerge. More troubling is that two of the countries currently developing compacts—Kosovo and Mongolia—don’t pass the corruption hurdle.
ForeignAssistance.gov is a great idea in theory—a one-stop shop for information about all US foreign assistance spending. In practice, the site has struggled to become a useful and reliable tool due to missing data and poor quality information. But if you look closely, the Department of Defense (DOD), which by some measures is one of the biggest players in US foreign assistance, truly stands out for its reporting gap.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has officially kicked off its FY2017 “selection cycle” with last week’s release of the “Candidate Country Report.” Normally this is a pretty pro forma step that’s hardly blogworthy, but this year’s report showcases the inadequacy of the current rules that determine MCC’s candidate pool and the unnecessary instability they create—this year three countries that formerly “graduated” are suddenly back in the pool.
In CGD’s last blog post on the new strategy, we commended the US government for leading the charge for adolescent girls—by issuing the first-ever country strategy specifically focused on the demographic. But how do we make sure that this articulated commitment continues to get translated into concrete action? What can MCC specifically contribute? One opportunity may lie in MCC’s country scorecards.
The FY17 State and Foreign Operations spending bill brought good news for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) with big implications for its operations. New authority to engage in concurrent compacts in a single country would enable MCC to operate on a regional level, and provisions adjusting the criteria MCC uses to select partner countries could influence where MCC works. These are reasonable (even good!) ideas in theory, but the proposed eligibility requirement gives me some pause and could be challenging to apply in practice.
While recent aid transparency buzz has largely revolved around the latest donor rankings, MCC (always a top ranked donor) has been busy quietly raising the transparency bar yet again. The latest display of commendable openness? A concise report on closeout economic rate of return (ERR) for 94 projects in 10 compacts, as well as compiled data on original ERRs for 45 projects in 11 open compacts.
For some time, we’ve been cheering MCC’s interest in pursuing approaches that pay for outcomes and encouraging the agency’s stakeholders to get onboard (here and here). Now we can applaud an important step forward. The agency’s new compact with Morocco, which both partners celebrated at an event last Thursday in Rabat, spells out the potential for a results-based financing component—a welcome development.