Rolled out a day after the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) in December, the Foreign Assistance Dashboard is starting to generate some serious buzz. MFAN Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram stated the dashboard “is a concrete sign that the Obama Administration is moving forward to implement the reforms.” In a piece titled “Foreign Assistance Dashboard: Helping Achieve a Rights-Based Approach to Development,” the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights notes the dominate role transparency plays in ensuring effective development that includes an emphasis on human rights. See the full guest post below:
The new Foreign Assistance Dashboard is an important step forward for improving transparency in U.S. foreign assistance. This innovative tool will increase the potential for aid effectiveness and respect of human rights. Transparency is a core element of a human rights-based approach to development, along with accountability, non-discrimination, and participation. The human rights- based approach seeks to empower beneficiaries of aid to claim the rights that every human is entitled to. Increased access to information is the linchpin of a rights-based approach, providing improved opportunities for community participation, ownership, and accountability.
The work of the RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights with Zanmi Lasante in Haiti over the last eight years has demonstrated that impacted communities tend to be the last to know critical details of planned international interventions. Communities may not be informed of project plans or how to seek redress for any problems that arise. The increased transparency from the Dashboard will allow those with internet access to gain important information, but it is necessary that information is made accessible in a variety of ways appropriate to each context, including multiple languages and formats. This will provide these communities, as well as their respective governments, the information needed to participate in the consultation, design, and implementation process—which will increase country ownership and lead to more successful and sustainable program outcomes.
While the United States continues to provide large amounts of assistance in much-needed areas, both geographically and across sectors, it has always been difficult to trace this funding to concrete on-the-ground results. In order to truly be effective and follow a rights-based approach to increase participation and accountability, the Dashboard should not only link appropriations to specific projects, but also include more detailed information on foreign assistance activities. This includes timely qualitative and quantitative data, such as project timelines, design and implementation plans, targets, benchmarks, redress mechanisms, opportunities for community members to get involved, implementing partners, and local points of contact for each U.S. government funded project. Inclusion of this data will give beneficiaries of aid the information necessary to make sure assistances is responsive to their needs. The Dashboard provides users with the capability to submit feedback and ask questions about the functioning of the site; however, what is more important for accountability would be the opportunity for impacted individuals to provide feedback on specific projects and a mechanism to be in places to provide redress if harm has been caused. In addition, information about regional strategies should be provided and funding streams should be linked to these strategies to demonstrate how funds will contribute to long-term goals, as well as allow the international community to determine whether it has achieved its intended goal, leading to increased accountability from both the U.S. government and recipient governments.
The RFK Center has long called for a tracking system such as the Foreign Assistance Dashboard and increased efforts toward aid effectiveness, and welcomes its launch. However further expansion and detail is needed to fully embody a human rights-based approach. As transparency increases, the U.S. government and tax-payers will be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of foreign assistance projects more objectively and thoroughly, while recipients will finally have the information needed to actively participate in the development of their country.