MFAN Partner ONE Speaks Out on Aid Reform and the Budget

ONEMFAN Principal Larry Nowels, ONE’s U.S. policy director, urged policymakers to think through cuts to the International Affairs budget and the impact such cuts would have on ongoing national security efforts in a recent op-ed in The Hill. Nowels points to the reform effort in the Obama Administration as evidence that U.S. development programs recognize the need to become more efficient and effective and better respond to the challenges, both here and abroad. Read the full piece here and see excerpts below:

“Smartly, some among the Obama foreign assistance team have been scrutinizing their agency budgets for some time and identifying where cuts can be made. In a speech three weeks ago hosted by the Center for Global Development, Raj Shah, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, acknowledged that USAID would need to do “more with less” or at least with a stagnant budget. Administrator Shah previewed some reductions, announcing the graduation from foreign aid of at least seven countries by 2015, the closure of expensive offices in Europe and Tokyo, and administrative savings of $50 million over five years.”

“Now, the RSC is again calling for USAID’s termination, but offers no suggestions on where or who would manage the roughly $18 billion in programs overseen by the agency. And if the assumption is that the State Department or some other government agency would assume this responsibility, rolling their budgets back to 2008 would not exactly prepare for an orderly transition. Who would conduct oversight to ensure the funds are spent as intended and not lost to corruption or mismanagement? And most of all, who would provide the development expertise of experienced USAID staff that are responsible for planning, implementing, and measuring impact of our foreign aid dollars?”

“This month marks the beginning of what is sure to be a difficult and contentious year-long, and perhaps years-long, debate over U.S. spending. Foreign aid should and will be part of that discussion and cuts are certain, whether they come from the Administration or Congress. But my hope is that they will be “smart” cuts that will not minimize the goal of advancing American interests, scale back aid programs that have proven to be effective, or stifle promising new initiatives that will bring greater efficiency, accountability, and impact to that less-than-1% of the budget that is foreign aid.”

Sara Messer, policy manager for aid effectiveness at MFAN Partner ONE, posted a blog today about a significant leap forward for aid transparency and accountability that occurred earlier this week. On Tuesday the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Steering Committee met and agreed upon a new set of standards for publishing aid information—establishing a common language and format. Several MFAN Partners were key to behind-the-scenes work around IATI, including Publish What You Fund whose director Karin Christensen commented, “For the first time, a standard exists which means more aid information will actually be better aid information. And that is what we need to make aid transparent; not only to other governments, and aid agencies, but to the public in all of our countries too.” When everyone can see how much aid is being spent where, and on what, governments – whether giving or receiving aid – can be held accountable by their citizens for spending it well.” Read more of Messer’s recap and the important next steps toward greater accountability here.

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