Bangladesh food

Global food security: US aid coordination can be improved

What the GAO found

The agencies responsible for implementing the US government’s Global Food Security Strategy (GFSS)—collectively known as the GFSS Interagency—have established mechanisms to coordinate assistance at the global and national levels. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is leading the coordination of these agencies’ efforts to implement the strategy. At the global level, GFSS interagency working groups meet to coordinate assistance efforts. At the national level, a national coordinator facilitates a whole-of-government strategy and plan in each country where agencies provide food security assistance. Agencies providing assistance in the four countries selected by the GAO for its review said they used a variety of mechanisms to coordinate with each other and with key stakeholders. Agency officials and key stakeholders generally reported positively on the quality of this coordination.

GAO has found that GFSS interagency mechanisms for food security aid coordination generally address four of the seven best practices that GAO has identified as important for collaboration. However, this coordination can be improved. For example, in-country unstaffed agencies are not always included in national-level planning for US food security assistance. In addition, the GFSS Interagency has not put in place a mechanism to ensure that all relevant agencies can easily access information on the current and planned expenditures of others. As a result, they have a limited ability to leverage each other’s planned aid and promote a whole-of-government approach.

Selected key collaborative practices partially addressed by agencies implementing the U.S. Global Food Security Strategy

U.S. agencies reported taking steps to mitigate the potential negative effects of any duplication, overlap, and fragmentation of food security assistance in the four selected countries, where multiple agencies are pursuing similar overall goals. Agency officials and key stakeholder representatives in countries observed duplication, overlap and fragmentation, but also reported coordination to mitigate potential negative effects. For example, USAID officials in Bangladesh told GAO that they try to engage monthly or quarterly with the host government and other bilateral donors to review activities; identify any duplication, overlap or fragmentation; and designing plans to ensure complementarity of activities. US officials and key stakeholders have reported duplication, overlap and fragmentation of food security assistance in the four countries – for example, overlapping assistance provided by US agencies, the World Food Program and the Kenyan government – ​​but generally said it had had positive effects. GAO has previously noted that it can be advantageous for multiple agencies or entities to be involved in the same programmatic area of ​​large or complex federal efforts.

Why GAO Did This Study

The number of food insecure people has increased since 2014, and an estimated 768 million people were undernourished in 2020, according to the United Nations. The Global Food Security Act of 2016 required the president to coordinate the development and implementation of a whole-of-government global food security strategy. According to the GFSS, increased inter-agency engagement aims to establish effective coordination between agencies that contribute to global food security.

The GAO was tasked with reviewing US assistance to global food security. This report examines (1) US agency coordination of global food security assistance globally and in selected countries; (2) the extent to which U.S. agencies coordinate such assistance in accordance with leading collaborative practices; and (3) US agencies’ management of any duplication, overlap, or fragmentation of aid in selected countries. GAO reviewed GFSS documents and interviewed representatives of GFSS agencies and other stakeholders, including implementing partners and host governments in Bangladesh, Guatemala, Kenya, and Niger. The GAO selected these countries using criteria such as geographic diversity and high levels of US food security funding.