US Plans to Channel More Foreign Aid Through Local Partner Governments

Men help build transitional shelters at a USAID-funded shelter proudction site in Carrerour, Haiti. Photo by: Kendra Helmer / USAID

Local governments must step up in creating development strategies that are driven by the Millennium Development Goals, not just localizing and tweaking existing development strategies to reach the MDGs, said Leonardo Romeo, managing director of Local Development International and adjunct professor at New York University.

Romeo spoke at an early afternoon panel at U.N. headquarters addressing the role of local governments in achieving the MDGs.

Local governments are key partners because they have direct access to the people and oversee day-to-day policies on issues such as access to clean water and sanitary services, and gender equality in public primary and secondary schools.

But they also are generally ill equipped to fill a leadership position, often lacking both the financial and the legal framework to support the realization of effective development policies.

In Bhutan for example, even as its strict monarchy has shifted to a more democratic monarchy, the division of power hasn’t been able to make up for a general lack of funds, said Karma Tshiteem, secretary of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Commission.

Localizing the MDGs can be furthered by localizing both monies and laws, the panellists argued. Civil society and external partners can play a strong role in ensuring that all the legal provisions exist on a local scale that ensure all people can receive access to HIV/AIDS treatment, for example, and girls will have protection and encouragement to attend schools.

The most concrete commitment and point of guidance from this panel emerged from USAID’s senior adviser, Leonardo Martinez-Diaz. He said that the U.S. government recognizes that with its reaffirmed commitment to the MDGs – to be further articulated tomorrow in President Barack Obama’s speech and the roll-out of the U.S.’s first-ever plan on the MDGs – comes with a renewed focus on empowering local governments. That will likely take form with USAID channelling more funding directly to local governments, a trend that USAID has not kept up with in the way that it possibly should have, Martinez-Diaz conceded.

Devex News – live breaking news coverage of the Millennium Development Goals and the Sept. 20-22 U.N. MDG summit in New York.

About the author

  • Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is an award-winning journalist based in New York City. Her coverage on politics, social justice issues, development and climate change has appeared in a variety of international news outlets, including The Guardian, Slate and The Atlantic. She has reported from the U.N. Headquarters, in addition to nine countries outside of the U.S. Amy received her master of arts degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in May 2014. Last year she completed a yearlong fellowship on the oil industry and climate change and co-published her findings with a team in the Los Angeles Times.