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Evaluating US Foreign Assistance Programs: Perspectives from the State Department

February 21, 2013
12:00PM - 01:30PM

Annenberg School for Communication, Room 500
3620 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, 19104

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Speaker: Krishna Kumar

Categories: Seminar

Since the US Agency for International Development established its first evaluation office in 1968, evaluation has been institutionalized in foreign assistance programs. USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation and now the Department of State have been conducting evaluations of their policies, programs and projects. The focus of evaluations has been largely on examining the performance and, to a limited extent, the impacts of foreign assistance interventions.

A major development in the history of foreign assistance evaluation was the establishment of the Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance, now renamed as the Office of the Director of Foreign Resources (F Bureau) in the State Department in 2006. F was created to enable the Department to report to the Congress, Office of Budget and Management and the public on the performance and impacts of foreign assistance programs.  F developed has an extensive set of standard performance indicators “to measure both what is being accomplished with U.S. Government foreign assistance funds and the collective impact of foreign and host-government efforts to advance country development.” It submits annual reports to OMB and the Congress.

Although enormous progress has been made in the evaluation of foreign assistance programs, major challenges remain. These arise from (a) mixed objectives of the purposes of foreign assistance, (b) funding and management constraints (c) multi-donor nature of many projects in which different partners assume different roles and responsibilities, (d) limited participation of the host country partners in the conduct of evaluations, and (e) methodological issues in evaluating programs in emerging fields of assistance for the promotion of democracy and human rights and now diplomacy.  We are grappling with these issues.

Afternoon indicators workshop: Dr. Kumar will also host a workshop in the afternoon on indicators.

Dr. Krishna Kumar is a senior evaluation advisor in the Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance Resources at the State Department. Prior to joining the State Department, he served in a similar position in the Center for Development Information and Evaluation of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Earlier he worked at the World Bank and the East West Center. He received MA in Economics in India and Ph.D. at the Michigan State University.

Dr. Kumar has studied and examined development programs in 35 countries, and has directed a series of multi-country studies and evaluations on agriculture, rural development, family planning, elections, democracy promotion, the media, gender and democratic transition processes. He has given invitational lectures in numerous US and foreign universities He has authored over 35 monographs on evaluations and evaluation research and has published in scholarly journals.

He has written or edited thirteen books. His most recent books include “Promoting Independent Media; Strategies for Democracy Assistance” (2004), “Promoting Democracy in Postconflict Societies” (edited with Jerome de Zeeuw, 2006), and “Evaluating Democracy Assistance” (2013). All his past six books have been published by Lynne Rienner Publishers.