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Aid allocation: Should equally poor countries be treated equally?

Paolo Verme's picture

Donor countries are routinely confronted with the problem of how to allocate the aid budget. The debate on aid allocation has called for various types of indicators including institutional capacities and governance but in the practice of aid allocation a multitude of factors, such as strategic geopolitical interests, budget constraints and internal political considerations, still play an important role in most countries. However, if we focus on welfare indicators and on current practices of aid allocation, there are two monetary indicators that have gained prominence over the last few decades: GDP per capita and the poverty rate. GDP per capita is a natural choice of an indicator that is well understood and widely available. The poverty rate is a more recent choice explained by the new status that poverty acquired as a development objective. For a combination of events such as the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the publication of the World Development Report on poverty in 1990 and the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, multilateral organizations have increasingly adopted poverty reduction as the overarching development goal. This new focus on poverty and the increased availability of expenditure surveys worldwide have also enabled the use of poverty measures to rank countries and allocate aid.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

BET
Like Water for Internet: Ory Okolloh Talks Tech in Africa

“Last week, ahead of her trip to Washington, D.C., to speak to the World Bank about Africa’s private sector, the 35-year-old Policy Manager for Google Africa took to her Twitter account and asked her followers, “What should I tell them?”
The responses came in fast and varied from rants about corruption in multinational corporations to comments about infrastructure and energy. For the most part, Okolloh didn’t engage the responses, but she did re-tweet them for all to read and she made sure to add the World Bank’s twitter account to the dispatches so that the behemoth institution could also see what Africa’s tweeting populace had to say.” READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

BET
Like Water for Internet: Ory Okolloh Talks Tech in Africa

“Last week, ahead of her trip to Washington, D.C., to speak to the World Bank about Africa’s private sector, the 35-year-old Policy Manager for Google Africa took to her Twitter account and asked her followers, “What should I tell them?”

The responses came in fast and varied from rants about corruption in multinational corporations to comments about infrastructure and energy. For the most part, Okolloh didn’t engage the responses, but she did re-tweet them for all to read and she made sure to add the World Bank’s twitter account to the dispatches so that the behemoth institution could also see what Africa’s tweeting populace had to say.” READ MORE

Kevin Watkins on Inequality – Required Reading

Duncan Green's picture

If you want an overview of the current debates on inequality, read Kevin Watkins’ magisterial Ryszard Kapuściński lecture. Kevin, who will shortly take over as the new head of the Overseas Development Institute, argues that ‘getting to zero’ on poverty means putting inequality at the heart of the development debate and the post2015 agreement (he doesn’t share my scepticism on that one). As a taster, here are two powerful graphs, showing how poverty will fall globally and in India, with predicted growth rates, in a low/high/current inequality variants. QED, really.

 

What if We Allocated Aid $ Based on How Much Damage Something Does, and Whether We Know How to Fix It?

Duncan Green's picture

I usually criticize development wonks who come up with yet another ‘if I ruled the world’ plan for reforming everything without thinking through the issues of politics, power and incentives that will determine which (if any) of their grand schemes gets adopted. But it’s been a hard week, and today I’m taking time out from the grind of political realism to rethink aid policy.

Call it a thought experiment. Suppose we started with a blank sheet of paper, and decided which issues to spend aid money on based on two criteria – a) how much death and destruction does a given issue cause in developing countries, and b) do the rich countries actually know how to reduce the damage? That second bit is important – remember Charles Kenny’s book ‘Getting Better‘, which argues powerfully that since we understand how to improve health and education much better than how to generate jobs and growth, aid should concentrate on the former.

Evidence and Results Wonkwar Final Salvo (for now): Eyben and Roche Respond to Whitty and Dercon + Your Chance to Vote

Duncan Green's picture

In this final post (Chris Whitty and Stefan Dercon have opted not to write a second installment), Rosalind Eyben and Chris Roche reply to their critics. And now is your chance to vote – but only if you’ve read all three posts, please.The comments on this have been brilliant, and I may well repost some next week, when I’ve had a chance to process.

Let’s start with what we seem to agree upon:

  • Unhappiness with ‘experts’ – or at least the kind that pat you patronizingly on the arm,
  • The importance of understanding context and politics,
  • Power and political institutions are generally biased against the poor,
  • We don’t know much about the ability of aid agencies to influence transformational change,
  • Mixed methods approaches to producing ‘evidence’ are important. And, importantly,
  • We are all often wrong!

We suggest the principal difference between us seems to concern our assumptions about: how different kinds of change happen; what we can know about change processes; if how and when evidence from one intervention can practically be taken and sensibly used in another; and how institutional and political contexts then determine how evidence is then used in practice. This set of assumptions has fundamental importance for international development practice.

Why Don’t People in Power Do the Right Thing - Supply, Demand or Collective Action Problem? And What Do We Do about It?

Duncan Green's picture

My last few days have been dominated by conversations around ‘convening and brokering’, including an exchange between assorted ODI wonks and a bunch of NGOs on the findings of the Africa Power and Politics Programme, and a ‘webinar’ (ugh), with our Latin American staff on the nature of ‘leverage’ (a closely associated development fuzzword). Last week, I set out the best example of this approach that I’ve found to date, the Tajikistan water and sanitation network. Today it’s some overall conclusions from the various discussions.

David Booth from ODI described the question he is trying to answer as ‘why don’t people in power do the right thing?’ He thinks aid agencies (both official and NGOs) have moved from thinking that the answer is building capacity in government (supply side) to strengthening the voice of citizens to demand better services (demand side), but argues that both approaches are wrong.

The mistake, he argues is seeing power as a zero sum game, whereas often the barrier to progress is better seen as a collective action problem: ‘doing the right thing involves cooperating with others and people aren’t prepared to take risks and bear the costs of working with others, unless they believe that everyone else will do so too.’

That requires a different approach, getting everyone into a room to build trust and find joint solutions to a common problem.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Center for Global Development
Development and the Death of Aaron Swartz

“Aaron Swartz, who died on January 11th, worked and fought for key freedoms of our time: the right to information, to share knowledge and ideas, and to speak freely.  He did not just campaign: he built  the RSS standard which enables blogs and websites to share information, the Web site framework web.py, the architecture for the Open Library, the link sharing platform Reddit, and he helped to design the Creative Commons licence. He co-founded the online group Demand Progress — known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). He died, apparently by killing himself, aged just 26. Aaron Swartz faced 13 felony charges for having downloaded millions of academic journal articles from the online repository, JSTOR, allegedly with the intention of publishing them freely online.

The death of Aaron Swartz has made me think about how important it is for development that we continue to fight his fights, and continue to build what he began.” READ MORE

Civil Society, Public Action and Accountability in Africa

Duncan Green's picture

An important new paper from some big development names – Shanta Devarajan and Stuti Khemani from the World Bank, and Michael Walton (ex Bank, now at Harvard Kennedy School) – directs a slightly fierce (but welcome) political economy gaze at donor efforts to strengthen civil society (one of the more recent developmental fads). As with most such papers, after a monumental literature review, one of the striking conclusions is how little we really know, but it gropes gamely through the fog of ignorance and confusion and arrives at some interesting conclusions.

First, the authors find that something significant is going on among Africa’s citizens: “a large shift in Africa in organization among citizens. Village-level group formation in Africa increased dramatically over the 1990s when participatory approaches were emphasized in international development paradigms, promoted through aid, and adopted deliberately by country governments to deliver projects to communities.” Interestingly, that increased participation applies to both democratic and less democratic systems. The question is in what situations that upsurge in civil society has impact, and how (if at all) aid agencies can help.

The paper adds its support to the growing demand that aid interventions abandon futile searches for ‘best practice’ in favour of understanding what are the ‘best fits’ for any given context:


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