Lessons in Foreign Aid Reform from Haiti

In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, an enormous international effort was launched to rebuild and relieve the many humanitarian demands resulting from the earthquake. So far, “the international aid effort is failing to meet the earliest goals pronounced by the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon” according to the New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar.

In his article “Haiti Is Again a Canvas for Approaches to Aid,” MacFarquhar examines the different methods of effective foreign aid and solutions to some of the problems in effecting sustainable development. This article raises some questions as to how to develop and implement an effective aid system: Who should oversee development efforts, foreign governments and NGOs or the local government? To what extent should foreign governments be involved in directing the flow of foreign aid? What areas of development should receive priority over the rest?

Along these lines, Global Washington has drawn on the international development expertise of our supporters from the academic, non-profit, philanthropic and business communities to develop four principles of aid effectiveness that would address the problems of the current foreign aid system:

1. Transparency and Accountability: to make information on strategy, goals and spending easily available to U.S. taxpayers and international beneficiaries, thereby increasing accountability.

2. Consolidation and Coordination: to make sure efforts are not duplicative and are able to meet articulated goals as well as ensure non-aid policies, such as diplomacy, defense and trade, complement aid goals.

3. Local Ownership: to ensure that aid aligns with local priorities, builds local capacity and promotes local economies.

4. Targeting: to direct aid at reducing poverty, especially in the world’s poorest countries

These four principles, if implemented as part of a framework for reform, would combine to strengthen the foreign aid system, making it both more effective and more efficient. To learn more these principles and our recommendations for foreign aid reform, please visit our website to read our white paper here.