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Foreign Assistance: Middle East Partnership Initiative Offers Tools for Supporting Reform, but Project Monitoring Needs Improvement.

GAO-05-711 August 8, 2005

In December 2002, the U.S. Department of State (State) established the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) to promote democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. MEPI provides assistance for political, economic, and educational reform and women's empowerment. In fiscal years 2002-2004, State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) reviewed U.S. bilateral economic assistance programs in the region to ensure they were aligned with the new U.S. policy focus on promoting democracy and reform. In this report, GAO (1) describes MEPI's structure for managing projects and allocating funding, (2) examines MEPI's uses of the reviews, and (3) evaluates MEPI's project monitoring.

MEPI has worked with U.S. embassies, USAID headquarters in Washington, D.C., and USAID missions overseas to manage projects and obligate funding. In turn, MEPI and its partners have negotiated agreements with nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and other U.S. agencies to implement the projects. MEPI has obligated about 45 percent of the $129 million that it received for fiscal years 2002-2003, and its partners have obligated the remainder. MEPI used the State and USAID reviews of existing U.S. bilateral economic assistance programs in the Middle East and North Africa in two ways. First, in response to the reviews, MEPI targeted reform activities in the Middle East and North Africa that were not being addressed by other U.S. agencies. For example, responding to the reviews' finding that little progress had been made in supporting women's political involvement, MEPI provided funds to assist women candidates. Second, MEPI shaped its strategy in response to the reviews, particularly regarding the need to monitor projects' short-term results and hold project implementers accountable for project performance. Despite its strategic emphasis on monitoring projects' performance, MEPI's monitoring has been limited by unclear communication of roles and responsibilities and a lack of complete project information. MEPI has acknowledged these deficiencies and begun to address them; in July 2005, State and USAID agreed on a framework for project monitoring roles and responsibilities. Without the ability to evaluate its projects' performance with certainty and access to complete information, MEPI's capacity to meet its strategic goals of producing tangible results and making results-based decisions is limited.
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Publication:General Accounting Office Reports & Testimony
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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