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IPS Examines First USAID Progress Report, Released Last week

“The United States’ main foreign assistance agency is getting widespread plaudits for new data on a series of internal reforms aimed at aid improvement, but some development experts are pointing to a persistent opaqueness from the agency,” Inter Press Service reports. “In a first-of-its-kind report released [last] week, [USAID] has laid out the progress it has made under a key reform initiative undertaken over the past three years,” the news service notes, adding, “The report focuses heavily on new evaluation policies aimed at increasing accountability and country ownership, incorporating new technologies (‘from improved seeds to mobile phones’) and leveraging ‘high impact’ partnerships, specifically with the private sector.”

“In the past, USAID has been widely criticized for a lack of transparency,” IPS states, outlining “a massive overhaul of related policies” within the agency. The news service says that “many see room for improvement in USAID’s partnership strategies,” and writes, “Although the report outlines a 50-percent increase in local partnerships by USAID, it lacks detail about what local institutions were partnering with USAID.” The news service continues, “For some, the greatest threat to increased transparency could be a greater reliance on private-sector funds in development assistance,” adding, “This has been at the core of a decade-long shift in USAID projects, and now looks set to continue to increase” (Fossett, 3/22).