For over five decades, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has saved lives and improved human welfare around the world. As a leader in global development, our Agency has amassed a wealth of knowledge that we believe is important to share publicly. By making our data, programs and evaluations easily accessible, we’re helping to create a global commons that grounds development practice in evidence and shares knowledge to inform significantly new approaches in development.
President Obama, Secretary Clinton and I take transparency and accountability in foreign aid seriously, and we’re working hard to ensure that we effectively communicate our efforts to the American people, our stakeholders and our partners at home and abroad.
As we celebrate Sunshine Week, here are just a few examples of USAID’s commitment to implementing the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration that were outlined in the Administration’s Open Government Initiative.
Foreign Assistance Dashboard: Working with the U.S. Department of State, we launched an easy-to-use dashboard that anyone in the world can use to track how American foreign aid dollars are spent. The dashboard doesn’t just apply to USAID. Soon, every U.S. Government agency that distributes foreign aid will be incorporated into the Dashboard.
Open Government Partnership: Last year, the President and Secretary Clinton launched the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative that secures concrete commitments from countries around the world to promote transparency and fight corruption. The U.S. National Action Plan includes a commitment to making our foreign aid transparent and updating the information on a regular basis.
In one recent example of the power of open data and government, USAID launched the FWD campaign to raise awareness across America about the destructive combination of famine, war and drought that led to the recent food crisis in the Horn of Africa. Through interactive maps and tool kits, we are providing people with the latest information about the situation and giving them a powerful way to respond. The campaign represents our efforts across the Agency to strengthen open communication and partnership with a range of partners, including universities, companies and communities of faith.
International Aid Transparency Initiative: In November, Secretary Clinton and I travelled to the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, where she announced that the U.S. had become a signatory to the International Aid Transparency Initiative. This commits us to publish up-to-date data in a common format so that citizens of any country can better track the aid dollars that flow in and out of their countries.
Rigorous New Evaluation Policy: Through our ambitious set of reforms called USAID Forward, we have introduced a world-class evaluation policy that the American Evaluation Association called a model for the federal government. Under this policy, we are ensuring performance evaluations are completed for every major project and conducted by independent third parties.
By January 2013, we aim to complete 250 high quality evaluations. And we will release the results of all our evaluations within three months of their completion (see our current evaluation showcase).
USAID’s Annual Letter: On March 9, USAID released its second annual letter to directly communicate our Agency’s work with the millions of Americans who care about our mission—overcoming poverty, hunger, illness and injustice around the world. The letter also shares our thinking behind some of the strategic choices we have made to advance America’s key diplomatic and national security priorities. You can print and download a copy of the 2012 annual letter.
Freedom of Information Act: As part of our renewed commitment to the principles embodied by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), we implemented an aggressive strategy to process FOIA requests. In just the past fiscal year, we’ve reduced the Agency’s backlog from previous years by 51 percent—a rate that far surpasses the annual reduction goal of 10 percent.
As you can see, we’ve made tremendous progress in ensuring that our information, programs and results are easily accessible and transparent. By setting a high standard across the Agency, we can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our efforts, delivering meaningful results for the American people and the communities we serve.
Rajiv Shah is Administrator of USAID