US aid reforms making a difference in developing countries

By lrusu

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Washington, DC – International relief and development organization Oxfam America praised new policies that are pushing the US government to invest more in locally defined development priorities, as they have already demonstrated to achieve more sustainable results in the fight against poverty. Oxfam America also urged US policymakers to support the reform agenda and solidify the transformation to a recipient-led approach to development.

In new survey findings released today for an upcoming report entitled Quiet Renaissance: How reforms are making America a better partner in the fight against poverty, Oxfam outlined how US foreign assistance reforms are going in the right direction, and underscores that they are being well received. The findings were released at a Washington, DC event featuring USAID Administrator Raj Shah, Malawi Health Network Executive Director Martha Kwaitane, and moderated by Kojo Nnamdi, host of WAMU 88.5’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show.

 "Our findings clearly show what we’ve known for years: that development depends on the choices and actions of people in developing countries themselves, not on donors,” said Paul O’Brien, vice-president of policy and campaigns at Oxfam America. “It’s great to see the US government is recognizing that there’s tremendous value in the power of local people to decide how aid is spent, and how to execute and lead their own development efforts in partnership with the US.”

“America is a better partner now because foreign assistance is more focused on empowering citizens to tackle problems of poverty and health themselves,” said Kwaitaine, who attended the report launch in Washington, DC.

Oxfam’s report draws on extensive field interviews that Oxfam America conducted with citizens, civil society representatives, businesspeople and public officials in US aid recipient countries including Bangladesh, Ghana, Malawi, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, and Senegal. Key findings from the report include:

  • 83% of survey respondents said the US is aligning better with national government plans.
  • 75% said the US is aligning better with the needs of people in countries.
  • 77% of stakeholders said that their interactions with the US have improved too.
  • 73% percent of survey respondents noticed an increase in US capacity building efforts in their country.
  • 86% of survey respondents said direct assistance to local civil society and governments would be much more helpful in their efforts to achieve development outcomes

Oxfam’s survey did find some frustration among recipients in that from their perspective, the US government is often moving too slowly to implement this reform.

Oxfam America offered a number of recommendations in the report, including increasing two-way information sharing with stakeholders and partners at all stages of the development process, continuing to invest in strengthening recipient country public institutions, including through budget support, to strengthen accountability and responsiveness, and expanding investments in democracy, governance and accountability though civil society groups and take stronger action to bring civil society voices into the development process at all levels.

“The US government is showing that it is relearning the lesson of leveraging local leadership,” continued O’Brien. “But it’s time for the US to accelerate and deepen these reforms in order to maximize its contribution to the fight against poverty.”