US Foreign Assistance Dashboard

June 1, 2013 § 2 Comments

Foreign Assistance by CountryScreen Shot 2013-05-29 at 7.47.49 PMClick image to enlarge. Source:

The term ‘Dashboard‘ is defined as “a control panel placed in front of the driver of an automobile, housing instrumentation and controls for operation of the vehicle.”  In the aftermath of Memorial Day patriotism, I found this definition fitting. The United States is  democracy,  after all, so its citizens  have a voice that can create and catalyze change. It happens every day. And in that respect, the Foreign Assistance Dashboard is a tool for empowerment.

The United States provides billions of dollars in foreign assistance each year. Those are tax dollars, of course, but this is the first time that the raw data for tracking their use has been placed in the hands of  citizens. Begun in 2010, this dashboard is one among many fruits of the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government (the Open Government Directive). Though it certainly displays weaknesses inherent in our nations data gathering mechanisms–and though in certainly displays weaknesses of its own1–this dashboard also stands as a sign of progress, transparency, and accountability. Voters are essential drivers behind one of our greatest national vehicles for good1: foreign assistance. It is only fitting that we now have a road map–however incomplete.

“The Foreign Assistance Dashboard was created in response to the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and President Obama’s Open Government Initiative. The goal of the Foreign Assistance Dashboard is to enable a wide variety of stakeholders, including U.S. citizens, civil society organizations, the Congress, U.S. Government agencies, donors, and partner country governments, the ability to examine, research, and track U.S. Government foreign assistance investments in an accessible and easy-to-understand format.

The Dashboard is still in its early stages of development. Future versions will incorporate budget, financial, and program data in a standard form from all U.S. Government agencies receiving or implementing foreign assistance, humanitarian, and/or development funds. Those agencies include but are not limited to:

Department of Agriculture Department of the Treasury
Department of Commerce Department of Transportation
Department of Defense Environmental Protection Agency
Department of Energy Federal Trade Commission
Department of Health & Human Services Inter-America Foundation
Department of Homeland Security Millennium Challenge Corporation
Department of the Interior Peace Corps
Department of Justice U.S. African Development Foundation
Department of Labor U.S. Agency for International Development
Department of State U.S. Trade Development Agency

Currently the Foreign Assistance Dashboard website provides both raw data and summarized data/interactive infographics for evaluating (among other things) the planned, obligated, and actual spend out of US tax dollars toward foreign assistance.To learn more, visit the FAQ page of

1As the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights notes, “In order to truly be effective and follow a rights-based approach to increase participation and accountability, the Dashboard should not only link appropriations to specific projects, but also include more detailed information on foreign assistance activities. This includes timely qualitative and quantitative data, such as project timelines, design and implementation plans, targets, benchmarks, redress mechanisms, opportunities for community members to get involved, implementing partners, and local points of contact for each U.S. government funded project. Inclusion of this data will give beneficiaries of aid the information necessary to make sure assistances is responsive to their needs. The Dashboard provides users with the capability to submit feedback and ask questions about the functioning of the site; however, what is more important for accountability would be the opportunity for impacted individuals to provide feedback on specific projects and a mechanism to be in places to provide redress if harm has been caused.

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