U.S. Needs Better Evaluation, More Transparency For Foreign Assistance

“As the importance of [America’s] foreign assistance has grown, so has the number of mechanisms to dispense it,” Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, write in the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog. The authors note that “more than 24 different agencies play some role in our development and assistance efforts,” including USAID, PEPFAR, and the Department of Defense. They continue, “Policymakers have for some time recognized that we need to bring better strategic guidance and coordination to this system,” adding, “In particular, we need a better way to monitor and evaluate these programs to make sure they are working well and fulfilling their policy goals.”

“We need consistent guidelines for success across the different agencies that handle foreign assistance, and a better method for translating lessons learned into improved performance,” Lugar and Beckmann write, noting “[a] Congressionally appointed bi-partisan commission found in 2007 ‘the systems our government uses to evaluate development and humanitarian assistance programs are either in disarray or do not exist.'” The authors write, “The administration has acknowledged the need for such steps, but progress has been slow,” and they highlight three proposed pieces of legislation addressing the issue. “Ultimately, to make our foreign assistance as effective as possible, we need a strong, independent aid agency, with its own budgeting and policy-making capacity, to lead the strategy, set priorities, and coordinate the activities and programs of all the relevant agencies and departments,” they conclude (10/9).