The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) administers the US government’s development assistance, economic security assistance and ‘Food for peace’ programmes. It is the most important bilateral aid agency and has considerable resources to meet its obligations under these programmes. Its total budget for the years 1977-82 is shown in Table 17.1
USAID is a federal agency and, as such, has a wide accountability for its activities. Thus, it is accountable via its administrator to the Executive. Similarly, Congress not only passes the legislation that spells out its mandate, but also monitors the agency’s compliance with that mandate during the annual budget appropriations process. USAID is also accountable to the Judiciary in the same way as other federal agencies and, therefore, can be taken to court if it fails to uphold federal legislation applicable to its activities.
Like any bilateral development assistance organization, USAID is not only a creation, but also an agent of its government. Unlike most bilateral agencies, however, USAID serves a government that passed strong environmental protection legislation in the early 1970s.
Not only did the US government adopt a vigorous domestic environmental protection policy, but its agencies found themselves answerable to the courts and public interest groups for the implementation of that policy. After USAID was challenged in the courts for failing to comply with the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), it revised its procedures, receiving forceful mandates from the President and Congress. By 1978, USAID was preparing the only enforceable and systematic environmental assessments of projects in the development assistance community.
Table 17.1 Total US agency for international development commitments (US$ millions).