United States: U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

  • Overview

    Accountability Counsel advocates for USAID to create an accountability office to provide communities redress and accountability for harm caused by USAID’s and its implementing partners’ activities.

    U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

    Created In: 1961

    Headquarters: Washington, D.C., United States

    Mission: To promote global health, support global stability, provide humanitarian assistance, catalyze innovation and partnership, and empower women and girls.

    Accountability Office: Not yet established as of July 2020. Read more about USAID’s transparency practices.

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is the U.S. government’s lead international development agency. USAID works in over 100 countries to promote global health, support global stability, provide humanitarian assistance, catalyze innovation and partnership, and empower women and girls.

    As of July 2020, USAID does not have an accountability office through which affected communities can seek redress for their complaints. Read more about our advocacy to push USAID to create an accountability framework according to international best practices.

    We advocate for accountability offices that are independent, fair, transparent, professional, accessible, and effective tools for justice. Because USAID has yet to establish an accountability office, our number one priority on USAID advocacy is to push for the creation of an accountability mechanism through which communities can register complaints and seek justice.

     

  • Our Advocacy

    The Issue

    Unlike the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation and other development organizations around the world, USAID currently lacks an accountability office to address grievances related to its activities. Our support of the Kolektif Peyizan Viktim Tè Chabè (the Kolektif), a collective of Haitian farmers and their families – representing nearly 4,000 people affected by the Caracol Industrial Park (CIP) project, demonstrates the consequences of this accountability gap. These families were forced from their farmland in 2011 to make way for the CIP, a large industrial facility financed by USAID, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and others. In addition to taking 250 hectares of the most Portrait of Eva Jean Baptistefertile agricultural land in the area, the CIP’s environmental impacts are also concerning to many of the affected families. These include significant pollution impacts from the 10 MW heavy fuel oil and diesel power plant within the CIP, which was specifically financed by USAID.

    After trying to address their issues with the CIP through many various channels, the communities filed a complaint to the IDB’s accountability office in 2017 to address the harm related to the IDB’s involvement in the project. The accountability office, also known as the MICI, was able to facilitate a neutral dialogue process between the Kolektif, the Haitian government, and the IDB, which resulted in a historic agreement in December 2018 that includes provisions to replace farmland and restore livelihoods. The parties are currently working together to ensure that the agreement is fully and robustly implemented. Unfortunately, the communities have not had the same opportunity to address grievances with USAID, as it lacks an accountability office, and many of the environmental challenges posed by the CIP and its associated facilities remain unresolved.

    “We have something really strong if all the parties properly put the agreement into practice – if they land it – then the situation will be better for the people.” – Eva Jean Baptiste (pictured), in our When Hope is Power report.

    The Opportunity

    Fortunately, the U.S. Congress has taken steps to increase the accountability of USAID. In the explanatory statement attached to the U.S. budget legislation for the 2020 fiscal year, Congress directed USAID to ensure that “effective grievance and redress mechanisms for victims of human rights violations and other misconduct exist” for its national parks and protected areas work. This provision was motivated by reports of torture and other abuses to Indigenous Peoples tied to national parks and protected areas work supported, in part, by USAID.

    Accountability Counsel is working to ensure that this congressional directive is implemented meaningfully so that both the accountability of USAID and its clients is strengthened, community grievances are effectively remedied, and USAID receives and incorporates lessons learned for the strengthening of future projects. Namely, we are advocating for USAID to (1) create an agency-level independent accountability mechanism according to the best practices that are at other development institutions; and (2) apply this mechanism to all of USAID’s activities. This builds on years of advocacy for USAID to create an effective accountability framework, including through a joint submission to then-Secretary of State John Kerry during the development of the U.S. government’s National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct.

    In addition to advocating for the creation of a USAID accountability office, we are also pushing USAID to ensure that it has strong safeguard policies. In August 2020, we submitted comments on USAID’s draft Gender Policy. USAID provided very little time for public comment on the policy, and our submission called on the agency to extend the consultation period to ensure that stakeholders could provide feedback on this important policy. We also urged USAID to ensure that the policy truly promotes equality and nondiscrimination and to create an accountability office to address any negative gender impacts from USAID projects.

  • Resources

    U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

    Created In: 1961

    Headquarters: Washington, D.C., United States

    Mission: To promote global health, support global stability, provide humanitarian assistance, catalyze innovation and partnership, and empower women and girls.

    Accountability Office: Not yet established as of July 2020. Read more about USAID’s transparency practices.

    Mechanism and Institutional Resources

    As of July 2020, USAID does not have an accountability office through which affected communities can seek redress for their complaints. Read more about our advocacy to push USAID to create an accountability framework according to international best practices.

    The Automated Directives System (ADS) contains the policies and procedures that guide USAID’s programs and operations. Relevant ADS chapters include Environmental Procedures (chapter 204) and Integrating Gender Equality and Female Empowerment in USAID’s Program Cycle (chapter 205).

    As a federal agency, USAID must follow the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA, found in Section 552 of Title 5 of the United States Code, was enacted by Congress to provide the public with access to certain federal records. The act requires federal agencies to produce government records in response to requests from the public, provided that the records are not exempt from disclosure by FOIA. Additional information on USAID’s transparency practices can be found here.

     

  • Documents

    Congressional Documents

    Explanatory Statement to the FY 2020 Appropriations Legislation

     

    Key Documents by Release Date

    May 2020 – AC’s Vision for USAID’s Accountability Mechanism.

    Dec 2016 – Following extensive advocacy by Accountability Counsel, The United States released its first National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct, including guidelines for USAID. An assessment of the national action plan, based on the recommendations in our submissions, can be found here.

    Aug 2015 – Submission on USAID for the U.S. National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct.