Making Aid Better
Posted by Dominic Haslam on 24 July 2012
Being an increasingly avid twitterphile has unfortunately cut back on the social media slice of my week available for blogging. But this inspiration to blog came via a tweet, so maybe I’m finally understanding how all this works. Anyway, this is what I’m talking about - a blog post from Aidspeak.
OK, so it might be fanciful, it might encourage forlorn hopes - but if you can’t do a bit of pie in the sky thinking when you’re working in a sector that’s at heart about making the world better, when can you?
The blog asks for three ideas to make aid better. I sent it round our policy and advocacy team for inputs and we failed to get to three. Maybe we should have shut ourselves away for a day until we reduced our list, it could have been interesting… But anyway, this is based on inputs from several minds (those you’ll see elsewhere in Insights). I’ve kept them short in the hope that this counts (and aren’t we also about challenging “the system”?). In no particular order:
- INGOs meaning what they say. So when we say “of course, what we’re doing is working ourselves out of a job” mean it – set yourself an exit strategy of 10, 15, 20 years for each country you’re working in (depending on your area of work). If you meet your mission, great. If not, learn from it and share it openly so others learn from your experience.
- Governments responding to the actual needs and realities of the poorest communities, rather than donor governments imposing priorities on countries based on their political interests and “recipient” governments prioritising resources based on what donors tell them or their own political or economic expediency rather than what their citizens tell them they need….
- Overseas development assistance should be directed to where need is greatest (in terms of poverty and human rights more broadly) and not to further military objectives.
- INGOs should treat development resources as belonging to the poor, not to themselves. If you can’t spend it properly and with quality outcomes (or you don’t know whether it’s working or not and aren’t trying to find out), either don’t raise it or give it to someone who can. Particularly emergency aid – what you don’t spend within a year, put back in a pot for the next emergency and inform those you’ve raised it from what you’re doing and why – then you don’t have to ask them for it again.
- End economic policy conditionality, as it’s undemocratic and has historically been based on a discredited ‘one-size-fits-all’ neo-liberal economic ideology (although of course ODA should be conditional on resources being directed towards meeting agreed objectives, in line with governments’ commitments and obligations).
- More two-way accountability. That is to say, accountability that is not skewed towards donors, but accountability towards the poor as well, in whose name most development organisations access their financial resources.
- 'Per-diemitis'. Wrong.
What do you think? Would you agree with any of these? What do you think needs to be done to make aid better?