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Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Improving aid effectiveness + efficiency
Earth-Info.Net has noticed a growing trend for international development aid to be endlessly fiddled with, cut or otherwise manipulated in order to fulfill short-term political goals.

This may be inevitable, especially when most aid is allocated by democratic national governments that have to be elected by their own people on a regular basis, but a global NGO partnership called Interaction has produced a timely report called Foreign Assistance in Focus: Emerging Trends which outlines some of the problems that a narrow, selfish + short-term agenda can create, and suggests reforms which would greatly improve the effectiveness + efficiency of US aid...


The Administration is dispersing responsibilities and resources so widely that the delivery and impact of foreign aid may well fall far short of expectations, both in countries of strategic interest and on a global basis.

The creation of new entities alongside a diminished – but otherwise unreformed – U.S. Agency for International Development is leading to increased fragmentation of resources and responsibilities, confusion externally about who is in charge, and a loss of coherence in the field as multiple federal agencies pursue similar goals with little coordination. Recent changes in foreign aid structures have been implemented in an ad hoc manner, often with little transparency and consultation with stakeholders, or consideration of lessons learned from the United States’ long experience in foreign aid.

Just as importantly, the Administration’s failure to meet funding pledges and the escalating costs of “extraordinary” relief and reconstruction activities in Iraq and Afghanistan threaten to undercut new initiatives and reduce, rather than strengthen, support for on-going humanitarian and development programs around the world.


* A full-scale review of U.S. foreign assistance programs, organizational structures, implementing mechanisms, and interrelated policies on aid, trade and debt in the developing world, conducted with the support of the Administration, Congress and the development community.

* Interim steps to strengthen existing foreign aid structures, particularly USAID.

* Immediate steps to address the fragmentation of foreign assistance, with greater policy consistency and clarity and improved coordination both in Washington and the field.

* A balance in U.S. foreign aid programs between activities aimed at short- and long-term impact, recognizing the importance of long-term development to lasting and sustainable change.

* Fulfillment of the President’s pledges to substantially increase overall foreign assistance levels by maintaining and enhancing traditional humanitarian and development assistance levels in addition to funding new initiatives like the MCA.

At the domestic level, while living in Australia, Earth-Info.Net witnessed the diversion of funds that were raised from the privatisation of the national telecoms operator, Telstra, away from the study and conservation of critically endangered plants and animals towards community projects during the run up to federal elections so is aware that this sort of cynical, short-term behaviour isn't new.. although it remains disappointing.

While I'm on the topic of Australia... Since I returned to the UK the Great Barrier Reef has been granted some extra, much needed + delayed protection, while the ancient Styx forest in Tasmania remains under threat from woodchippers, who will use the forest's ancient trees to make cardboard...