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.
CGD Policy Blogs
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 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.
Publish What You Fund launched their fourth annual Aid Transparency Index (ATI) today. The overall finding is that while many donors have made a number of international aid transparency commitments, the majority are falling short and not publishing useful information.
We’re getting closer to knowing how the USG spends its foreign assistance dollars. Recently, the State Department announced its first release of foreign assistance data on the ForeignAssistance.gov website (also known as “The Dashboard”).
USAID has made sweeping new commitments to two important elements of foreign assistance reform: improving learning and increasing transparency. A commitment to publish datasets associated with USAID-funded evaluations would be a further win for both.