Politics of Poverty

Republicans and Democrats just agreed to strengthen US foreign aid – by making it more transparent

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Here’s hoping the third time’s the charm in this bipartisan push for foreign aid transparency.

David Saldivar is the Aid Effectiveness Policy and Advocacy Manager at Oxfam America.

Quick, name an issue that Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the White House, USAID and the State Department all agree on!

Come on.

Clock’s ticking.

Do you give up? You must not  have been watching this space.  That’s right—the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act is back, introduced today by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), joined by  Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) in the House, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) in the Senate.

Oxfam partners working to hold their own governments accountable for results have been strong supporters of US efforts to make aid more transparent.  As Ghanaian former parliamentarian and cabinet minister Albert Kan-Dapaah put it, local leaders “need this data for a better understanding of the aid flows into Ghana, so that we can use it to provide more scrutiny of our government…[It’s] what’s needed to trigger checks and balances.”   By passing this bill, Congress can help ensure that foreign aid is an effective tool in the hands of leaders like Kan-Dapaah, who are using it to build effective and accountable governance at home.

Transparency in foreign aid has a long bipartisan history.  The Bush Administration built the Millennium Challenge Corporation with transparency at its core, and the Obama Administration, through initiatives like the Open Government Partnership and ForeignAssistance.gov has made transparency a pillar of foreign aid policy.  Under that leadership, the MCC has been recognized as one of the most transparent development agencies in the world, and the other agencies, led by USAID, have been making improvements.  This bill will institutionalize US commitments to foreign aid transparency, and build a rigorous process to evaluate aid spending and learn from what works (and what doesn’t) in international development.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because the sponsors have introduced this legislation two times before, winning broad bipartisan support each time—last Congress, the bill sailed through the House on a vote of 390-0, only to run out of time in the Senate.  We’re glad to see that Congressmen Poe and Connolly, and Senators Rubio and Cardin, are undaunted and determined to make the third time a charm for this common-sense, effective aid legislation.  Here’s hoping that this time,  they will go all the way.

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