The Obama Administration released data on United States foreign aid earlier this week while Congress is pushing legislation that will make such transparency law. These efforts seek to make aid more effective and to create a more open government. This is by no means, a recent occurrence.
For the past decade, the U.S. has moved toward making foreign aid accountable and transparent, which was started in 2004 with the creation of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Initiated during the Bush Administration, it sought to generate publicly available data on foreign aid and selected which countries to give aid grants to based on how well they do in areas such as rule of law, trade policy and civil liberties.
USAID is revamping a self-audit program that seeks, in addition to being extensive and impartial, for the evaluations to be a spring of learning that the agency can build from. In this vein, they have named their first major series of evaluations USAID Forward.
The benefits of this transparency are multifold, but one of the major boons is that citizens have the ability to become better informed on what the government is doing to combat global poverty. This could do untold good since the majority of Americans vastly overestimate the amount that the United States contributes to foreign aid. The general public believes the U.S. spends 25 percent of the Federal Budget on international aid, when, in actuality, expenditure is only a paltry 0.2 percent.
In the Philippines, the Department of Budget and Management launched the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub, anagrammed as FAiTH, which provides information on what is being done with the aid received in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. This is likely in response to allegations of corruption scandals in relation to foreign aid.
The accountability of aid is a high priority, and Benigno Aquino III, President of the Philippines, says that this accountability stems from gratitude: “Ultimately, FAiTH is more than a hub of information: it is an expression of appreciation for the kindness of those who stand in solidarity with our countrymen.” The pair of accountability and appreciation seems a strong one in winning further donations.
With 3,976 people dead, 1,600 missing, and another 4 million displaced and in need of basic amenities, there is great need for aid. More than $270 million has been donated thus far, and FAiTH is helping ensure further aid does not diminish amid the graft. An oft-used excuse for not donating is that the money never makes its way to those in need. Transparency is an active foe to this pernicious way of thinking, and one that is dramatically making ground.
– Jordan Schunk