Aid Effectiveness

U.S. engagement with developing countries can help to create a safer and more prosperous world where poverty is reduced, opportunities for growth are created, and human dignity becomes a reality. However, to live up to its most transformative potential, the current system for U.S. global development must be fundamentally reformed. U.S. development strategic objectives and engagement should: 
  • Be aimed at creating broad-based economic growth and reducing poverty , which will require increasing the voice of development within Washington-based foreign policymaking processes and at field level. A key part of this is strengthening the mandate and resources of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
  • Be strategic and coherent , which will require increased coordination between agencies and departments within the U.S. government (USG) responsible for implementing or funding foreign assistance programs and with other donors and stakeholders. 
  • Be more responsive to local priorities , which will require decreasing the number of funding directives emanating from D.C.; and increasing the capacity and role of local institutions, namely country governments and local civil society, in directing and managing their own development.
  • Be more accountable to US taxpayers and recipients , which will require more transparency, an increased focus on development results rather inputs and numbers, accompanied by a decrease in burdensome bureaucratic reporting and regulatory requirements that reduce flexibility and unnecessarily hinder development professionals.

 The Obama administration has signaled a clear intention to put development at the center of its foreign policy, alongside defense and diplomacy. Save the Children strongly supports President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive on Development, including its recommendations to equip USAID with the resources and authority to be a true leader of the U.S. government’s development program, and its proposals for institutionalizing a quadrennial U.S. Global Development Strategy that will promote country-led development, a comprehensive whole-of-government approach to development, and better impact and evaluation of foreign assistance resources.  

Save the Children Research and Advocacy
Save the Children has brought field experience to aid reform discussions in Washington, DC. Since early 2008, we have carried out research in 11 countries, gathering evidence about the impact of U.S. foreign assistance where it matters the most — in the communities and households of our partners in the developing world. We have consulted our field staff in offices around the world. We have talked to hundreds of the people across these countries — host government officials, donors, national and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the end beneficiaries of assistance — who know best what U.S. aid looks like on the ground.

We have used these insights to inform an ongoing dialogue with the administration, Congress, NGOs and think-tanks, working in particularly close collaboration with the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), a coalition of international development and foreign policy practitioners, advocates, experts, concerned citizens, and private sector organizations working to bring about aid reform.  


Aid Reform Stories from the Field
Save the Children has launched this blog series as part of its commitment to support effective U.S. foreign assistance. The series documents recent aid reform efforts drawing upon interviews in 2012 with Save the Children staff working in fifteen countries.  By focusing on one reform in one country over time, the stories provide insight into how policies intended to modernize U.S. foreign assistance can result in meaningful change on the ground.

Guatemala:Moving Local Organizations into the Driver’s Seat” by Carlos Cardenas, Guatemala Country Director, July 18, 2012

Malawi:Fighting Global Poverty with Locally Led Strategies” by Matthew Pickard, Malawi Country Director, September 25, 2012

Planning for Locally Led Development
Save the Children wrote a report in fall 2011 examining ways that critical development policies work in the field and how they might be improved to better to support host country governments, civil society organizations, and citizens’ leadership of their own sustainable development. See our report: Planning for Locally Led Development: Reforming U.S. Development Planning Processes

Consultation and Participation for Local Ownership: What? Why? How?
Save the Children’s brief published in November 2010 makes suggestions for how the U.S. government can best strengthen its own models of engagement and consultation, while also providing support to national governments and civil societies to make their own processes more inclusive. See our report: Consultation & Participation for Local Ownership What? Why? How?

Supporting Local Ownership and Building National Capacity
This series of research published in spring 2010 has focused on the importance of our partner governments and their citizens having ownership of and the capacity to lead their own development. Many years of foreign assistance has taught us that development requires the active inclusion of many different groups in society — including government, civil society, the private sector — and that ideas imposed from the outside often fail to gain the same traction and longevity as policies that national governments and local people have had a stake in designing and implementing. 

Our two briefs address these issues, exploring how the U.S. government can better support local NGOs and how a more flexible and country-based approach to aid mechanisms can build the accountability and capacity of host institutions. We’re pleased to see many of our recommendations reflected in USAID’s Implementation and Procurement Reforms.

Save the Children’s Insights from the Field: Modernizing Foreign Assistance
Our research teams travelled to a number of countries in 2008 and 2009, gathering data, exploring best (and worst) practice examples of U.S. foreign assistance and development engagement in action, and examining the impact U.S. aid policies have on the governments and citizens of our partner countries in the developing world.  

These publications provide insight on best practices and how to improve the effectiveness of foreign aid in recipient countries like Haiti.

Get Involved
Save the Children is part of a coalition of international development and foreign policy practitioners, advocates, and experts, concerned citizens, and private sector organizations working to bring about substantial reform. The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) and Save the Children President and CEO Carolyn Miles have urged the Obama Administration and Congress to take critical steps necessary to make U.S. development efforts more effective and appropriate to the global challenges facing us today.

Jenny Russell , Director of Development Policy & Advocacy – Aid Effectiveness:

Last Updated February 2013

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