New MDG Strategy Document Signals USG Commitment to Aid Transparency

If the USG gets on the aid transparency bandwagon, it could be a huge boost for the International Aid Transparency Initiative and broader efforts to strengthen the feedback loop between donors and intended beneficiaries.

September 13, 2010
Bradley C. Parks

The following was written by Brad Parks, an AidData Principal Investigator and Research Associate at The College of William and Mary.


One week from today, President Obama is expected to deliver a major speech on U.S. global development policy at a United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals. There is much

speculation about whether the President's speech will coincide with the release of the State Department's long-awaitedQuadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). However, those chomping at the bit to gain some initial insight into the administration's priorities should read the new USG strategy to meet the MDGs.

Several excerpts stand out as promising signals of the Obama administration's commitment to aid transparency, data collection, and the use of innovative technologies (e.g. crowd-sourcing and geo-referencing tools):

"Innovation, which is at the heart of the strategy, can be a powerful force multiplier when combined with other investments. Drawing on America’s long tradition of development through innovation, we will increase funding for applied research, expand access to effective existing technologies and practices, build learning partnerships, stimulate innovation in partner countries, and expand global access to knowledge."

"We will support efforts to improve our ability to track progress on the MDGs, including the World Bank’s Mapping for Results effort to develop interactive mapping of the Goals. The initiative will provide information at the sub‐national level to allow tracking of the relationships between aid flows, public expenditures, and poverty and other development indicators such as infant mortality and life expectancy."

"Our commitment to sustainability and innovation will be underpinned by a relentless commitment to measuring results. To this end, we will upgrade our institutional capacity to monitor and measure development outcomes, as well as support and learn from centers of best practice in evaluation. We will ensure that our presidential initiatives have strong monitoring and evaluation functions, and we will continue to call for the same in the multilateral organizations we support. We will help sponsor new methods and data collection initiatives to improve how we measure progress toward the MDGs."

"We will support principles to strengthen the ability to track, monitor, and report on progress by making donor commitments clearly defined, results‐oriented, and time bound. These principles are central to the credibility of mutliateral fora, just as commitments to good governance are essential for the credibility of partner governments. The G8 Accountability Report in 2010 was critical step forward, and one on which we intend to build. Meanwhile, we will put in place a new framework on aid effectiveness to guide our efforts. We will start by launching a major aid transparency initiative. In collaboration with U.S. agencies, other donors, and partner governments, we will identify the most appropriate timelines and channels to disseminate country‐level information about aid flows. After undertaking country pilots, the approach may then be scaled up. We will also seek to establish common reporting frameworks and develop an Aid Dashboard that allows stakeholders to visualize U.S. foreign assistance investments by geographic area or sector, see the details of specific projects, and track trends over time.

We are very excited to see that the USG recognized the value of Aiddata's "Mapping for Results" partnership with the World Bank. This strategy document is also good news for people interested in aid transparency and aid effectiveness. If the USG gets on the aid transparency bandwagon, it could be a huge boost for the International Aid Transparency Initiative and broader efforts to strengthen the feedback loop between donors and intended beneficiaries. We look forward to seeing more concrete plans from the Obama administration.

Brad Parks is the Executive Director of AidData at William & Mary. He leads a team of over 30 program evaluators, policy analysts, and media and communication professionals who work with governments and international organizations to improve the ways in which overseas investments are targeted, monitored, and evaluated. He is also a Research Professor at William & Mary’s Global Research Institute.