See the guest blog post below from MFAN Partner Publish What You Fund, one of the 200 signatories to the Open Letter.
Obama Administration Starts Delivering on Aid Transparency
18 months in, the Obama administration is starting to deliver on its commitment to transparency within U.S. foreign assistance programs and policy. On July 30, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah unveiled the new U.S. strategy for meeting the Millennium Development Goals “Celebrate, Innovate, and Sustain: Toward 2015 and Beyond”. We applaud the announcement, which includes launching an ‘aid transparency initiative,’ and look forward to seeing concrete timelines, detailed plans and robust policy that will ensure the potential of this initiative is brought to life.
The Strategy commits to “improving the transparency of aid flows”[i] to address “data shortages, comparability problems [as] large lag times weaken [U.S.] ability to measure progress toward the Goals”[ii]:
“We will start by launching a major aid transparency initiative. In collaboration with U.S. agencies, other donors, and partner governments, we will identify the most appropriate timelines and channels to disseminate country‐level information about aid flows. After undertaking country pilots, the approach may then be scaled up. We will also seek to establish common reporting frameworks and develop an Aid Dashboard that allows stakeholders to visualize U.S. foreign assistance investments by geographic area or sector, see the details of specific projects, and track trends over time.”[iii]
We greatly welcome the focus on working with other donors on practical pilots and comparability to other stakeholders’ efforts. Without comparable aid information, the U.S. will continue to face serious challenges to minimizing duplication as well as complimenting and leveraging other donor and recipient countries’ resources. Comparability is critical to maximizing the impact of U.S. money. The most effective way for this to happen is for the U.S. to invest in and coordinate with emerging international standards (see the International Aid Transparency Initiative for more detail). It is essential that this focus on comparability is extended to the design of the Aid Dashboard and pilots.
To get the most from this important U.S. investment in aid transparency, the U.S. must work with other donors. This means working with them both in the field pilots and to extend the visualisation to include non-U.S. aid flows and with time the ability to map it to recipients’ own resources.
U.S. global leadership in aid transparency is needed to turn the promise of this strategy into reality. At this pivotal moment we need to see:
- concrete timelines for delivering the policy paper to implement the Strategy as well as the pilots by December 2010; and
- details on the piloting process including which countries, what elements of donor transparency will be tested, which other donors they will work with.
With these elements in place to support the strategy the U.S. will truly begin fulfilling President Obama’s commitment to transparency made on his first day in office and lay the foundation for delivering on the potential of U.S. foreign assistance.
 Celebrate, innovate and sustain: Toward 2015 and beyond. The United States’ strategy for meeting the Millennium development goals
July 2010. P. 3
 Ibid. 13
 Ibid. 27