U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently attended the Busan Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in South Korea, where she stressed the need for a shift in our development approach from aid to investment, with investments targeted to produce tangible returns.
In order for aid to achieve maximum results, Secretary Clinton emphasized, it is critical to follow the recipient country's lead and ensure country ownership of development strategies to “spark self-sustaining progress.” Donor decisions should be based on recipient country needs, not motivated by donor political preferences. For example, the new Global U.S. Health Initiative supports country-led plans to strengthen health systems so these countries can better address their own health needs.
Determining the right measures of success, without confusing inputs with successful outcomes, is another area of concern identified by recipient partner countries. Within the U.S. government, the Millennium Challenge Corporation has pioneered in this area, and USAID’s new measurement and evaluation model has been broadly recognized as the gold standard. Flexibility also helps ensure aid flows more quickly and efficiently to where it is needed most without sacrificing high standards or outcomes. The United States is working to streamline its aid procurement and allocation process to improve aid delivery efficiency. Also, the United States is trying different approaches to better coordinate assistance efforts.
Secretary Clinton also noted that being an accountable donor means refusing to look the other way when leaders repress their own people. Any growth plan that depends on opening new businesses also depends on strong institutions: impartial courts, competent police, and a free press.
Developing countries must do their part for aid to fulfill its promise. These governments must be willing to take on the biggest obstacles to their country's development. For some it may be the court system. And for many it is a ruling elite who protect their own interests at the expense of their fellow citizens.
The United States remains committed to improving the lives of millions of people and to helping those who are on the frontlines doing development work every day.