Open Government & Locally-Led Development: Focus on USAID

User-centered access to information about what donors are funding is necessary to understanding whether development aid is becoming more ‘locally-led’. Connecting the dots across fragmented official data sources, this project assesses USAID’s information disclosure practices, traces its sectoral priorities, and identifies patterns of funding to 'local' organizations.

Image credit: Jeffrey Hallock

Open Government Matters for ‘Locally-Led’ Development

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged to significantly increase the proportion of development assistance it provides directly to organizations based in aid-recipient countries, aiming for 25% by 2025. It has also pledged to include ‘locally-led’ input on project design, agenda setting, and evaluations in 50% of its program spending by 2030.

Analyzing progress towards these goals requires public disclosure of accessible, relevant information about funding and activities, both within and across projects. Only disaggregated budget data reveal project priorities in practice.

User-centered public access to information about the flow of development aid can enable stakeholders to follow the money, spotlight progress, identify bottlenecks, as well as to provide informed input into broader USAID agendas.

This project applies open government analysis to the ‘locally-led’ agenda through: an in-depth analysis of USAID’s Colombia portfolio; how-to guides to inform public access to subaward spending data and evaluations; a global overview of access to information about projects on land and indigenous peoples; a new tool for tracking country and project level localization trends; and eight brief country portfolio overviews.

Water barrel with USAID logo, and four women washing their hands

USAID donated handwashing stations in Colombia to help the community stop the spread of COVID-19. Credit: USAID/Colombia, CC 2.0 via Flickr

Focus Areas

1. Public Access to Project Data: Colombia Spotlight

USAID is making very gradual progress towards more direct ‘local’ funding as a share of its global portfolio. But in some countries, including Colombia, the local share is falling rather than rising.

This open government analysis assesses public data about U.S. government funding trends in Colombia. It reviews sectoral funding trends and which organizations are receiving project funding. Taking a user-centered approach to open government, it also focuses on information accessibility and legibility.

Data and technical analysis

Sources: USAID Colombia (accessed August 2023); ForeignAssitance.gov (accessed August 2023); Evaluations at USAID Dashboard (accessed August 2023).

2. Public Access to USAID Contractor Subaward Data

When available, USAID subaward data provide important information about subcontractors that are relevant for tracking ‘locally-led’ development. Official subaward data are difficult to locate, not linked on USAID project sites, not always published per reporting requirements, contain significant errors, and may be redacted without public disclosure or justification.

This analysis of USAID subawards includes a review of data errors and a step-by-step guide on how to access and download subaward funding data.

 

3. Public Access to USAID Project Implementation Reports and Evaluations

USAID project implementation reports and evaluations are not linked to USAID project websites. Instead, they are available from two main sources: the USAID Development Experience Clearinghouse (DEC) and the Evaluations at USAID Dashboard. DEC is difficult to use but also includes project implementation reports, while the evaluations dashboard is more user-friendly but covers a limited period (2016-2022).

This analysis focuses on accessing USAID’s instructive implementation reports and evaluations on the DEC.

4. Public Access to USAID Portfolio Trends: Land Tenure and Indigenous Rights

ARC is conducting a pilot overview of USAID’s global funding trends for specific topic areas, starting with land tenure and indigenous rights.

Land tenure and indigenous rights are priority issues for USAID. Yet the full scope of projects under these portfolios is difficult to assess as USAID does not publicly tag all related projects under these two issue areas.

 

5. Localization Search Tool: USAID ‘Local’ Funding Trends FY2020-2022

The ARC USAID Localization Dashboard enables interactive visualization and analysis of USAID’s self-reported direct funding figures by collating data from USAID’s FY 2022 Localization Report and USAID’s dataset for Direct A&A Funding for Localization (Excel file). The dashboard enables fine-grained examination of data not made easily available by USAID and provides:

  • downloadable and searchable data tables detailing USAID project data by country
  • visualizations of USAID’s self-reported direct local funding percentages from the FY2022 Localization Report
  • visualizations of USAID funding obligations based on USAID designations of contractors as ‘local’ or ‘non-local’, with an option for country-to-country comparison.

Access the Dashboard: Accountability Research Center’s USAID Localization Dashboard.

Source: International Aid Transparency Initiative (Country Development Finance Data – Colombia, accessed May 31, 2023). USAID figures for 2021 and 2022 are from USAID’s report “Moving Toward a Model of Locally Led Development”. See also, Tilley and Jenkins (2023) “Metrics Matter: How USAID Counts “Local” Will Have a Big Impact on Funding for Local Partners,” Publish What You Fund.

An asterisk denotes that public data is reported as not complete for the year when accessed.

Publish What You Fund and USAID define ‘local’ organizations differently. For Publish What You Fund, local denotes the recipient organization’s primary headquarters is in the recipient country; for USAID, it includes nationally incorporated branches of international entities.

6. Sectoral and Direct Local Funding Trends: USAID Country Profiles

These preliminary country profiles briefly analyze development project priorities, sectoral trends in U.S. foreign assistance, and changes in direct local funding (2021-2022).

They use data from USAID mission pages, USAID reports, ForeignAssistance.govUSASpending.gov, and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).

 

Feedback on any aspect of ARC’s Open Government and ‘Locally-Led’ Development project is welcome; contact Jeffrey Hallock (jh1227a@american.edu).