The Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

Aid reform is like bowling. It’s all in the follow-through

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Today’s guest blog post is written by Porter McConnell, Oxfam America’s policy and advocacy manager for Aid Effectiveness. The OECD and international aid donors recently released a peer review on US aid. Their verdict: reforms are great on paper, but they’re not yet delivering for poor people. The review highlights new US policies – the […]

Today’s guest blog post is written by Porter McConnell, Oxfam America’s policy and advocacy manager for Aid Effectiveness.

The OECD and international aid donors recently released a peer review on US aid. Their verdict: reforms are great on paper, but they’re not yet delivering for poor people.

The review highlights new US policies – the PPD, the QDDR and USAID Forward – that commit the US to a coherent approach. But, fragmentation remains a huge problem.

In aid reform, as in bowling, it's all about the follow-through. Image from FCIT: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/
In aid reform, as in bowling, it's all about the follow-through. Image from FCIT: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/

There are 12 different departments, 27 different agencies, and almost 60 government offices involved in development, and US efforts often work at cross-purposes. USAID, the lead development agency, is responsible for only half of US assistance, so overseas programs may be prioritizing US commercial or military interests over alleviating poverty and saving lives.

This kind of inefficiency leads to duplication, conflicting priorities, and wasted effort. Last week’s debt ceiling negotiations on Capitol Hill demonstrate that the administration simply doesn’t have the luxury of inefficiency in this cutting mood.

At this time of high budget deficits and higher political stakes, the US needs to be more efficient than ever with its development dollars. This means the administration must tackle the hard parts of PPD implementation, like working with Congress on legislation that makes USAID’s reforms permanent. It means Congress needs to stop deluding itself that cuts to development assistance, just half of one percent of the federal budget, will balance the budget.

In aid reform, as in bowling, follow-through is everything. And follow-through requires the courage to make tough choices. Making tough decisions is the only way the administration and Congress can ensure these critical reforms go from great reforms on paper to real results for people living in poverty. This fall, it’s critical that we send a message to both branches to follow through with reform.

Learn more from the report, and stay tuned as we follow US aid reform efforts into the field.

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