Funding the Localization Agenda: Measuring progress of United States development and humanitarian assistance to local organizations
This research report challenges USAID’s self-reported progress on its localization goals. The Oxfam research builds upon “Metrics Matter,” a report by Publish What You Fund, that looks at 10 countries that are recipients of USAID funding, and how much of that funding flows directly to local actors. Oxfam used the methodology developed by Publish What You Fund and the same source data, to analyze USAID funding to an additional eight countries between 2019 and 2021.
In 2021, USAID set an ambitious goal of ensuring that 25% of its funding went to local organizations by 2025. In 2022, it released its first progress report, in which it defined critical terms such as “local,” and outlined how it would measure progress. The percentage of funding to local organizations would be measured by dividing the amount of funding given to local organizations by the total amount of funding given by USAID globally.
Oxfam contends that USAID’s definition of local and what it left out from its total funding (UN projectized funding), inflates USAID’s progress to date. Using a narrower definition of local and including all USAID funding as the denominator, the report found that USAID had only given 4% of its funding to local actors, versus USAID’s calculation of 7.3% from 2019-2021. This not only detracts from its goal of funding local organizations, but it also sets up a reverse incentive for international organizations to adapt their organizational criteria to meet the USAID definition in order to qualify as local.
The report argues that if USAID is to realize the vision it has articulated, it must adopt a narrower definition of local and include all funds directed by USAID in its total funds figure. Progress might appear slower, but if USAID is to truly “provide development assistance to help partner countries on their own development journey to self-reliance” (USAID's "about us" language), this is a better path.