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Foreign Aid Effectiveness

Overview
TLC/ MFAN Evaluation Study

Foreign assistance remains central to achieving a more stable and prosperous world. When properly administered, development assistance remains a bargain for U.S. national security and for our own economic and moral standing in the world.

It is evident that poorly-governed states with impoverished populations can pose grave threats to our national security. Nations that struggle with severe poverty and corrupt governance are at greater risk from terrorism and instability. We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars in recent years fighting wars and preparing for military scenarios in underdeveloped regions of the world. If properly targeted, foreign assistance programs can mitigate national security risks and improve U.S. connections to peoples and governments. They may well save huge military expenditures down the road.

Beyond the national security imperative, no nation that claims to possess the moral high ground can afford to relinquish its leadership in addressing global disease, hunger, and ignorance. We diminish ourselves and our national reputation if we turn our backs on the obvious plight of hundreds of millions of people who are living on less than a dollar a day and facing severe risk from hunger and disease.

"When properly administered, development assistance remains a bargain for U.S. national security and for our own economic and moral standing in the world."

But even as we make these arguments, we must be working hard to ensure efficiency in U.S. assistance programs. Among other management imperatives, the Lugar Center works to promote a higher standard of transparency that enhances the prospect that development dollars will produce the most demonstrable results for impoverished people.

With greater transparency in U.S. aid, both taxpayers and aid recipients can hold aid programs accountable for measurable results. These goals may be demonstrated through both the monitoring and evaluation of aid programs and projects, as well as through the prompt reporting of aid activities. Equally, emerging and traditional aid donors need to be urged to meet international transparency standards.

The Lugar Center seeks to create a platform and forum for promoting aid effectiveness and greater efficiencies in a period of budget austerity. The foreign assistance environment is changing considerably in line with the Paris/Accra/Busan principles and with the emergence of new donors. The Center will propose policy options for deepening and expanding trilateral cooperative arrangements with emerging donors. Trilateral cooperation is a relatively new model in which the United States partners with an emerging donor, such as Brazil or South Africa, to carry out development enterprises in a third country.

Complementing these activities, the Center strongly advocates for the modernization of U.S. foreign assistance programs and holding government programs accountable for objectives outlined in the President’s Policy Directive on Global Development. The Center will engage with existing organizations to keep this agenda prominently before policymakers.

TLC/ MFAN Evaluation Study

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Executive Summary:

The United States has been a leader in providing foreign assistance across the developing world for more than 50 years. This foreign policy tool is vital to advancing U.S. interests – promoting security, economic opportunity and our moral values – by helping to ensure that countries can meet the needs of their people and to protect human dignity. While this aid represents only about one percent of the federal budget, it has resulted in the transitioning of some countries from impoverished to middle income, to full trading partners of the United States. In order to ensure that the US Government’s (USG) foreign assistance programs are meeting their targets in a cost-effective manner, however, it is vital to conduct and utilize quality evaluations that answer questions such as how funds are spent, whether programs and projects meet their targets, and what the impact is on intended beneficiaries.


Over the past sixteen years, the United States Government has ushered in numerous changes to the evaluation policies and practices of the primary agencies in charge of foreign assistance: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of State (State), and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), as well as the interagency President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR.) Under President Bush, great strides were made to expand and enhance evidence-based foreign assistance through the creation of the MCC and PEPFAR, both of which established clear objectives and benchmarks against which to measure progress. Under President Obama, the primary foreign assistance organizations adopted or revised evaluation policies that outlined specific requirements about when evaluations should be conducted, what types of methodologies are appropriate, who should be responsible, and what level of funding should be allocated to evaluations. Many of these changes aimed to improve the quantity, quality, and utilization of evaluations in order to ensure USG foreign aid is as efficient as possible in meeting its objectives.

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