Monitoring and Evaluation of U.S. Foreign Assistance

In 2006, the Lundy Foundation began advocating for the inclusion of monitoring and evaluation requirements in U.S. foreign assistance programs. Since it successfully campaigned to include assessment provisions in the reauthorization of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR July 2008), the foundation began advocating for reform that would mandate similar requirements in all U.S. foreign assistance.

Representatives of Squire Patton Boggs, which has provided pro bono legal counsel to the foundation, met with members of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee to better understand the committee’s goals for foreign assistance reform. The Lundy Foundation organized a task force of evaluation experts who created a white paper addressing the need for program monitoring and evaluation, including impact evaluation, which was delivered to the committee.

The House passed the monitoring and evaluation portion of H.R. 2139 as part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R. 2410), which contained many of the Lundy Foundation’s proposals. On July 5,2016, President Obama signed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 3766) codifying key reforms that Lundy has been advocating for to ensure U.S. foreign assistance is transparent, measured, and accountable. Any additional legislation should continue to focus on five core principles:

  • Evaluation of all foreign assistance programs. Every foreign assistance program must conduct some form of monitoring and evaluation to demonstrate short- and long-term results.
  • Adequate funding. Monitoring and evaluation must be adequately funded.
  • Lessons learned and transparency. Program administrators must have timely access to evaluation results.
  • Oversight and coordination. A coordinating body should oversee and coordinate monitoring and evaluation efforts.
  • Local capacity building. Resources should be provided for local populations and aid recipients to evaluate assistance, reducing the burden on the United States and increasing program sustainability.

The Value of Program Assessment

Why allocate funds for monitoring and evaluation when dollars could be spent on direct aid? Achieving meaningful, long-term change is as significant as providing immediate assistance. Too often, well-intentioned organizations contribute resources without establishing a protocol to measure the impact of their spending. Sometimes, assistance programs are simply not sustainable. In other cases, donor actions can become a barrier to achieving program targets. And as in other areas of government spending, U.S. taxpayers have the right to know that their investments are being spent efficiently and effectively to improve the lives of the people receiving direct aid — that these efforts are providing a positive rate of return that can be measured in improved well-being.

Identifying performance measures, setting targets, gathering performance data, evaluating results and making program changes where needed — these steps enable organizations to improve the effectiveness of assistance efforts.