The new paper presents two priorities as the linchpins of more effective foreign assistance. The first is accountability, which includes full transparency surrounding foreign aid funding, thorough evaluation of programs, and applying lessons from those evaluations. Devotion to these principles would improve the efficiency of foreign assistance spending and increase the impact of U.S. programs. With greater transparency, both taxpayers and aid recipients can hold governments and aid programs accountable for measurable results. Such a commitment by the U.S. government would also improve its standing to encourage both traditional and emerging aid donors, including philanthropic organizations, to meet international transparency standards. The second priority is promoting joint responsibility by recipient countries for developing and ensuring the success of foreign assistance programs – a principle knows as “country ownership.” There is considerable evidence for aid being more successful where recipients own the development strategy and play leading roles in its implementation.
These two priorities will form the core of MFAN’s work over the next two years. During this period – as our country enters the next presidential election cycle -- it is critical that we solidify progress that has been made on foreign assistance reform and build a consensus for a deeper reform agenda. It may seem obvious to casual observers that accountability and country ownership should be fundamental elements of any foreign assistance program. But these principles require a great deal of commitment and discipline from agencies that do not always see them as part of their historic mission.
Even though the foreign assistance landscape is changing with aid comprising less and less of international financial flows, it remains an important way to partner with developing countries and benefits the United States in numerous ways. Budget pressures in donor countries also require that funds are spent wisely with a greater focus on better understanding of what works well.
Richard G. Lugar serves as an honorary co-chair of MFAN, with Howard Berman and Jim Kolbe former Members of the House of Representatives. Lugar represented the State of Indiana in the U.S. Senate from 1977 to 2013 and is a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.