RAYMOND, Maine — The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) often works with the local organizations in USAID operating regions to provide funding or coordinate efforts. On July 28, 2021, Sens. Kaine [D-VA] and Rubio [R-FLA] introduced bill S.2509, the New Partnerships Initiative Authorization Act (NPIAA). This bill seeks funding that will allow USAID to expand its partnership base and ease the process for USAID to develop organizational partnerships.
Breaking Down S.2509 – The New Partnerships Initiative Act
The New Partnerships Initiative Authorization Act would lessen the requirements for potential partners of USAID and allocate more funding for USAID to disperse through grants. The Initiative breaks down four distinct groups of partnerships: local, underutilized, new and nonprofit.
- Local – An organization operating by following the laws of the location in which they work and legal citizens of said nation manage it.
- Underutilized – An organization that has not received funding exceeding $25 million over the last five fiscal years.
- Non-profit – An organization that does not earn a profit and is exempt from paying federal taxes.
- New – An organization that has not received funding from USAID for the last five fiscal years.
The NPIAA would implement a two-step process for partnering with USAID. First, the defined partners would express interest. Then, USAID would work one-on-one to begin a phased partnership. As USAID is a non-partisan government organization, Congress and the Office of the President decide appropriate funding and budgeting. This bill will allocate $250 million for each fiscal year between 2022 through 2026 to be released via grants and for organizational efforts as needed. In late July, Sen. Marco Rubio [R-FL] stepped forward to be the bill’s first co-sponsor.
NPIAA’s Impacts on USAID
USAID often works with local partners to develop relationships and provide financial aid and the tools necessary to build self-reliance in the communities USAID serves. The additional funds USAID would budget in the five fiscal years the bill designates could entice new partnerships and encourage the already established yet underutilized partners to strengthen the built relationship.
Dr. Alyssa Grahame is an expert in political economics explicitly relating to disasters and crises. She is currently working as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Bates College in Lewiston, ME. The Borgen Project asked her if the NPIAA might bring “new” partners to work with USAID or if it has the potential to increase operations with underutilized partners. She answered, “Yes, I suspect that the current constraints have profoundly limited the range of potential partners.”
Further, when questioned regarding which resources USAID could increase access to quickest with the implementation of the NPIAA, Dr. Graham clarified which resources could have better access. She also stated that it would be easier to know when to disperse the resources available.
“Financial support is often considered to be the most efficient way of expanding access. But – and this is by no means limited to developing countries – there is always concern about potential misuse of funds. The recent earthquake in Haiti, in particular, has brought the specter of foreign aid back into the spotlight. Billions of dollars have been poured into the country since the 2010 earthquake. And it’s long been clear that, for ordinary Haitians, any benefit they could have expected to derive from that aid is uneven at best and non-existent or even counterproductive at worst.”
Through the act, differentiating which resources will best serve the communities in which USAID operates would become easier. Furthermore, USAID’s mission of self-reliance could become clearer with better developed and new partnerships the NPIAA builds.
NPIAA’s Impacts in Madagascar
USAID operates in regions with high poverty levels that are populated by individuals and families struggling with self-reliance. Nations with those qualifiers include Afghanistan, Madagascar and many more. Afghanistan had a 47.3% poverty rate in 2020, and Madagascar had a 75% poverty rate in 2019. USAID operates in Madagascar and works with organizations, such as WaterAid.
WaterAid is a United Kingdom-based organization that provides clean water to underserved regions of Madagascar among others. WaterAid is one of many Madagascar partners of USAID. But, Thrive Madagascar, a non-governmental, non-profit organization working to alleviate the effects of poverty, is not one of USAID’s partners. Thrive Madagascar could be a new partner for USAID with the implementation of the NPIAA.
Thrive Madagascar works directly with children and adults to provide education. In Madagascar, slightly fewer than almost four million citizens started their education and dropped out at a young age, resulting in a high illiteracy rate. In 2018, only 31% of the children that began primary school in Madagascar finished six years later. The rest of the children dropped out or began working.
In lower-income countries, such as Madagascar, for each year a child is in school, their potential daily earnings increase by at least $5 beyond the meager $1.90 daily wage. The NPIAA could make it easier for Thrive Madagascar to form a partnership with USAID, receive funding and continue its goal of providing education to Madagascar citizens.
NPIAA’s Impacts in Afghanistan
Over time, USAID in Afghanistan has publicly partnered with government departments. USAID has coordinated efforts with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture but does not often work with local entities or non-government organizations. USAID’s primary goal in Afghanistan was to legitimize the Afghan government. However, USAID still does not partner with or fund many Afghanistan organizations.
For example, organizations, such as the Afghan Women’s Educational Center, endeavor to provide women’s education but remain unpartnered with USAID. Many schools focused on educating women and closing the gender education gap are not adequately functioning or lack sanitation and the tools necessary for academic environments. Partnering with USAID and receiving a portion of the funds to fix the schools would give the educated girls a chance to find paid work in the future, something not common for women in Afghanistan.
If it passes, The New Partnerships Initiative Authorization Act could further USAID’s work significantly, build trust in communities and effectively lower poverty rates in each region where USAID operates. The areas in which USAID operates could leap towards the goal of self-reliance.
– Clara Mulvihill