Sounding off on USAID’s aid localization efforts

By Ma. Eliza Villarino 25 June 2015

The Education Cluster is an emergency response to the Nepal earthquake, serving as temporary learning centers, provide recreational activities for children, as well as offer psychosocial support to teachers. Photo by: Kashish Das Shrestha / USAID / CC BY-NC

Early this week, Devex published an analysis indicating that the U.S. Agency for International Development is still some way from achieving its target of allocating 30 percent of its program funding to local organizations by the end of fiscal 2015. USAID, however, appeared to downplay the lack of progress, suggesting that the target is aspirational and not set in stone.

Behind on 30 percent local spending target, USAID eyes '100 percent sustainability'

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah set the ambitious target of channeling 30 percent of the agency's funding to local groups by 2015. Now that Shah has left the stage, is USAID still on track to meet this goal? And as USAID sets its sights on "100 percent sustainability," does the agency intend to stay the course on that target beyond this year? A Devex feature analysis.

The agency’s measure of success is achieving “100 percent sustainability,” USAID’s Coordinator for Local Solutions Elizabeth Warfield told Devex, making use of all investments to sustain local systems. Aid experts and implementers, although agreeing with the agency’s shift to “100 percent sustainability,” have urged USAID to continue pursuing the 30 percent local spending target.

Several readers have offered their take on the issue.

It’s the content and not the figure of 30 percent that poses a problem, according to reader jsryanjr.

“Budget support to a local organization that allows it to keep doing what it has always done counts against the 30 percent quota, but technical assistance to invest in improving its performance does not count, even when requested by the organization,” jsryanjr wrote. “If it did, USAID could arguably report 100 percent for all its development assistance.”

For reader Steve Londner, redefining what qualifies as local spending is a “truly bad idea,” adding that “setting ambitious goals that require improved local capacities remains a good one.”

John Lowrie, meanwhile, argued that a commitment to localization means greater involvement of locals in decision-making in every step of the process.

“And that means incorporating the means to do proper post-project checks at least 1-3 years ‘after the funding stops.’ Too often beneficial change unravels once donors shelve reports,” Lowrie wrote.

What’s your view on USAID’s localization efforts? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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About the author

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Ma. Eliza VillarinoDevexElizaJV

Currently based in New York City, Eliza is a veteran journalist focused on covering the most pressing issues and latest innovations in global health, humanitarian aid, sustainability and development. A member of Mensa, Eliza has earned a master's degree in public affairs and bachelor's degree in political science from the University of the Philippines.

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