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In general, the Monitoring Country Progress (MCP) data and analysis facilitate an evidenced-based discussion as to how foreign assistance resources should be allocated. The most common application is the country-specific gap analysis which is used at various stages of USAID’s country strategic planning process. By helping to identify salient development gaps or challenges, the analysis facilitates discussions along the lines of the following questions:
- Why is USAID not prioritizing more in a specific sector given the significant country needs?
- Is the gap too large given limited resources and/or is it an area where USAID is not likely to get much traction given the political environment of the country?
- Are other donors addressing this development gap?
- Why is assistance focused in one area where gaps are not prevalent, particularly given that needs are much greater in other sectors as suggested by the data?
- Which gaps are more important than others? Among the gaps, can MCP analysis identify the binding constraints towards development?
Monitoring Country Progress Reports
Since 1997, a periodic report of the Europe and Eurasia (E&E) region, the Monitoring Country Progress in Eastern Europe & Eurasia report, has been produced. MCP in E&E #13 was released in October 2011. This report provides the basis to update and underscore broad regional and thematic or sector trends in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, and is helpful in bureau-wide strategic planning. It addresses such questions as the following:
- Does the democracy gap between Eastern Europe and Eurasia continue to widen?
- Does the social transition continue to lag behind economic reform?
- In which countries and in which sectors has recovery from the global financial crisis been most evident?
The MCP in E&E report also serves as a reference by providing annually updated data for all the MCP indicators and, in an appendix, a full explanation of the MCP methodology including indicator definitions, the method of converting original data to the MCP 1 to 5 scale, and data sources.
Monitoring Country Progress Reports
Phase Out Analysis
The MCP system was initially developed in the late 1990s largely to provide a credible, objective means to assess whether countries were sufficiently advanced to be ready for graduation from U.S. Government foreign assistance. Graduation from U.S. Government foreign assistance occurred among the eight Northern Tier CEE countries from 1996 (in Estonia) to 2000 (Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia). The MCP analysis was used to provide a level of assurance that the correct countries in roughly the correct order were being graduated.
In the spring of 2004, the State Department’s Office of the Assistance Coordinator for Europe and Eurasia (EUR/ACE) led an interagency process aimed at establishing target dates for phasing out U.S. Government foreign assistance to all the existing recipient countries in E&E. The MCP system was used as the core analytical tool to facilitate the discussions and decisions.
In late 2009, EUR/ACE formed an interagency working group to review and make recommendations to revise the Phase-out Framework. New guidance was finalized in December 2010. The MCP system plays a central role in the process. Each year, the MCP team will calculate reform projections for each E&E country using the MCP economic and democratic reform indices, and will estimate the number of years it will take a country to reach the phase-out benchmark (defined as the reform progress on average of Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania in 2006). Should a country be projected to be within five years of reaching the benchmark, a an interagency phase-out review committee will convene, weigh a variety of considerations (including country conditions and progress as well as the impact of our assistance, regional foreign policy issues, and the role of other donors), and make a recommendation to the Assistance Coordinator as to whether it is advisable to commence phase-out of assistance.
E&E Working Paper Series
An E&E Bureau Working Paper series started in 2004 to complement and apply the MCP dataset and analysis. These thematic reports, facilitated greatly by the employment of summer intern graduate and undergraduate research assistants, have provided a means to look at critical gaps and challenges more rigorously. They have also allowed the MCP team to explore and test causal relationships; to go beyond the largely descriptive analysis of the MCP reports and country-specific gap analyses to better understand the whys and the hows. An Assessment of E&E/USAID’s Graduation Policy and of the Transition Progress in the Graduate Countries, Working Paper #11, is forthcoming.
Integrating MCP and M&E
While conceptually integrating evidence-based analysis at the country progress level with program progress and USAID impact is fairly straightforward, implementation remains challenging, partly due to labor-intensive statistical input and analysis. The MCP team has been approaching this objective in three ways: (1) tracking and analyzing middle-tier or sector-level indicators and indices in an effort to bridge country progress and program progress; (2) aligning country progress and sector-level indicators with USAID program funding trends; and (3) undertaking a country case inventory and analysis of empirical trends at the country, sector, and program levels, drawing on the available evidence including program evaluations.
- Linking country progress with program progress. Much of this exercise involves developing and using sector-level indicators and indices, sometimes referred to as the “missing middle” set of indicators. The E&E Bureau has made notable progress in the development of such indicators. Significant among these sector-level indicators are various E&E efforts or E&E-funded efforts in the democracy sector which include the financing and oversight of Freedom House’s disaggregated democracy indicators in its E&E region-specific annual publication, Nations in Transit; the NGO Sustainability Index, which initiated as an in-house Bureau effort and is now implemented through contract with MSI; and the Media Sustainability Index, contracted out to IREX. Efforts are ongoing to replicate the NGO Sustainability and Media Sustainability Indices to other parts of the Agency. Efforts are also ongoing in terms of developing sector-level indices in other development dimensions; e.g., the E&E Bureau is overseeing the development of a financial sector stability index. The MCP team continues to develop and adapt sector-level indices as part of its MCP system.
Linking sector trends with program funding trends. Descriptive funding information can provide useful contextual information for understanding current and past USAID commitments to sectors covered by the MCP indicators. In this context and drawing in part on an extensive effort overseen by colleagues in the Agency’s DCHA Bureau to correlate democracy funding with USAID impact, the MCP team has begun analyzing possible links between program funding data and development trends in the economic, democracy, and social sectors in E&E.
- Country case study integrating MCP analysis with M&E. This is an effort to use existing data and evidence to provide as complete an evidence-based picture as possible of development trends in a country and of USAID’s role in those trends. Case study integration involves working closely with a USAID country mission and drawing on the MCP indices, program indicators of output and outcome, analysis of trends by regions within the country, and any and all available program evaluations, sector assessments, and surveys.
Last updated: October 11, 2013