The US government has set up an interesting interactive tool for improving transparency in its foreign assistance spending. The tool — ForeignAssistance.gov – is completely open for public use and seeks to provide transparency for enabling stakeholders and the general public to better understand US global aid data, make foreign aid more useful for development, and help hold ourselves more accountable.
“To us, better data for sustainable development means opening data to one and all,” a tweet from the ForeignAssistance.gov office said ahead of the first UN Data Forum to be held in Cape Town, South Africa from January 15 to 18.
[CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE INTERACTIVE TOOL]
Currently running in beta version, ForeignAssistance.gov has been working to establish standard data requirements across the US government, support agencies in quarterly data reporting, and develop a dynamic and user-friendly website. Its mission is to serve as a central repository where stakeholders can easily access and use US government foreign assistance budget, financial, and award information in a standardized and easy-to-understand format.
What is US Foreign Assistance?
About 1% of the federal budget supports the US government’s foreign assistance investments to further America’s foreign policy interests on issues ranging from expanding free markets, combating extremism, ensuring stable democracies, and addressing the root causes of poverty, while simultaneously fostering global good will.
These diverse programs are implemented by many US federal agencies via a wide variety of partners including international ones. ForeignAssistance.gov consolidates all of this information into one central, standardized repository in accordance with the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Bulletin 12-01 – Guidance on Collection of U.S. Foreign Assistance Data.
ForeignAssistance.gov incorporates all international data fields from the International Aid Transparency Initiative, domestic data fields for the US Overseas Loans and Grants report (Greenbook), and other data elements.
The site is under continual development as more data becomes available and the reporting abilities of agencies mature. Ultimately, the site aims to incorporate budget, financial, and award data in a standard format from all US federal agencies managing foreign assistance funds and programs.
ForeignAssistance.gov provides multiple ways to explore the data. The search option is pretty simple — a user just has to click on a country to zoom and then get complete details of not only the funds received but also the areas they were spent. A user may choose to drill down by country, sector, agency, and year on the map. One can also click on the “Download” tab to surf the data.
The content, data, documentation, code, and related materials on portal is in public domain and made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal dedication and license-free. All data posted on the portal are free for public consumption and further use. A user can copy, modify, distribute, and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.
What does the data reveal?
A cursory glance reveals that the US government plans to spend about $34 billion in global aid in 2017. In 2016, a total of $11.22 billion was spent in global aid against a planned amount of $37.89 billion. The top 10 recipient countries were: Afghanistan ($664,714,248), Jordan ($392,853,637), Pakistan ($383,200,773), Ethiopia ($371,655,145), South Sudan ($302,327,256), Syria ($290,654,817), Kenya ($203,653,607), Liberia ($172,705,318), Uganda ($161,687,060) and Nigeria ($154,209,871). Interestingly, among one of biggest its planned aid recipients for 2016 was Ukraine, which was supposed to get $513,502,000 in aid under the plan. However, it ended up getting only $51,810,213.
The aids were given by various US government agencies like US Agency for International Development, Department of State, US African Development Foundation, US Department of Agriculture, Inter-American Foundation and the US Department of the Treasury. The purposes for which the aids were disbursed were: peace and security; democracy; human rights and governance’ health’ education and social services’ economic development; environment; humanitarian assistance; program management; and multi-sector.
Why was ForeignAssistance.gov created?
ForeignAssistance.gov was created following President Obama’s Open Government Initiative and in response to the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. The website supports the US government’s commitment to the International Aid Transparency Initiative by providing US data in the internationally comparable format.
The US government claims the foreign assistance goes to other countries to support global peace, security, and development efforts, and provide humanitarian relief during times of crisis. It is said to be a strategic, economic, and moral imperative for the United States and vital to US national security. The US government manages foreign assistance programs in more than 100 countries around the world through the efforts of over 20 different federal agencies.
What is interesting to note is the government claim that these investments further America’s foreign policy interests on issues ranging from expanding free markets, combating extremism, ensuring stable democracies, and addressing the root causes of poverty, while simultaneously fostering global good will.
In 2010, President Obama signed the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development that calls for the elevation of development as a core pillar of American power in accord with diplomacy and defense for an integrated approach to national security. The directive governs US efforts in support of global development and provides clear policy guidance to all US government agencies managing and implementing foreign assistance.