USAID Announces Pilot Partner Vetting System in Five Countries

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September 15, 2011

On Sept. 8, 2011 United States Agency for International Development (USAID) presented its plan for a pilot Partner Vetting System (PVS) program in a briefing to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are likely to be affected. The pilot is a response to pressure from some members of Congress, who have complained that USAID resources may go to people "associated with" terrorist organizations. The PVS concept, requires U.S. NGOs with USAID funds to collect personal information on local partners for submission to the U.S. government, which in turn enters it into unspecified intelligence databases. The PVS program has been widely criticized by NGOs.

USAID plans to conduct the pilot five countries: Kenya, Guatemala, Lebanon, Philippines, and Ukraine. The presentation implied that before the pilot begins USAID will have a rulemaking, which will provide an opportunity for public comment. An information sheet showing data to be collected was also passed out.

The USAID handout says PVS "screens key contract and grant personnel and organizations against national security databases."  From the answers to questions from NGOs present, the fundamental flaws with PVS remain:
  • it violates the neutrality of NGOs by using them to collect information, making USAID grantees into investigative arms of U.S. intelligence agencies
  • it violates anti-discrimination provisions of international human rights agreements by looking for undefined  "associations" with terrorism, with potentially punitive results based on political opinion, family relationships and geographical location.