What comes first for USAID – evidence or policy? Over the last decade, many would argue that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has increasingly focused on the US state department goal of transformational diplomacy, with an emphasis on countries that are politically important. It’s top five recipients, for example, are Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Colombia and Egypt. This is neither regressive, as governance is clearly a key issue on the development agenda, nor a new phenomenon. But with development implicitly tied to foreign policy objectives programme evaluation has increasingly focused on the reporting of activities and outputs for budgeting and accountability purposes, rather than changes in welfare of the poor. For example, the USAID clearinghouse contained only 31 impact evaluations (which assess how an intervention affects final welfare outcomes of beneficiaries) a year between 2004-6. See more here.

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