The upcoming USAID-led Evidence Day on September 28 at the Ronald Reagan Building (part of Global Innovation Week) provides a perfect opportunity for Administrator Green to spell out his plans to prioritize the role of evidence at USAID. In a new CGD Note, Advancing the Evidence Agenda at USAID, Amanda Glassman and I offer some suggestions.
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Of all the governance criteria MCC assesses, none is as singularly important as corruption, which, historically, has weeded out more countries for eligibility than any other individual factor. It is, however, difficult to measure with precision, which can (and has) lead to poor decisions when interpreted too rigidly, resulting in cutting off, purely on the basis of indicator rules, compact partnerships with countries that have had no demonstrable change in their anticorruption environment. If you care about corruption, this isn’t the way to go about emphasizing that.
Ambassador Mark Green—President Trump’s pick to lead the US Agency for International Development (USAID)—is slated to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his nomination hearing on Thursday morning. Drawing on themes of efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, and results, here are a few questions we’d pose to Ambassador Green (and a few of the things we’d love to hear in response).
The White House delivered an FY2018 budget request, featuring deep spending reductions, to a less-than-receptive Congress early last week. In a series of blog posts, CGD experts sounded off on the proposed cuts to foreign aid and the philosophy that seems to guide them—including the administration’s plans to shutter the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, continued support for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the merits and potential downsides of a proposal to shift some security assistance from grants to loans.
The Trump administration’s first budget deals a harsh blow to the international affairs budget. With a topline reduction of 32 percent, few programs avoid cuts. One that fares relatively well, however, is the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). Though the $800 million request is the lowest in the agency’s 15-year history, and—if enacted—would be its lowest-ever appropriation, it represents a cut of just 12 percent over last year’s enacted level.
Though the spirit of the proposal—a fundamental desire to make US foreign aid more effective—deserves widespread support, any plan to supersize MCC by drastically cutting or eliminating USAID is impractical and counterproductive for two overarching reasons. First, the characteristics that make MCC so appealing also limit its scalability. Making the agency significantly larger would compromise much of what makes it work as well as it does. Second, scaling back or phasing out USAID would eliminate several important functions of US foreign assistance that MCC is not designed nor well-suited to address.
To amplify the discussion on country ownership, we convened a panel of high-level policymakers from inside and outside the US government to talk about their experience applying the principle, reflect on its importance, and discuss challenges and trade-offs. Here are three key messages I heard from the expert panelists.
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.
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.