The Chicken or the Egg…Accountability and Outcomes in Aid Relationships

October 23, 2009
Earlier this week, Ruth Levine called for aid to be unbranded as a further step to rebrand America. Nancy Birdsall, Bill Savedoff and I have heard the same plea during conversations we’ve had with government officials about Cash on Delivery Aid. One particular story shared by a government official in a post-conflict country comes to mind:
"When we came to power after years of war, donors had become accustomed to providing services for our people within a power vacuum. They continued to provide invaluable assistance during our reconstruction years, but one particular aspect of their assistance had been very problematic. They displayed signs on schools, clinics, roads, etc attributing these structures and services to the assistance of their countries and agencies. Our people questioned our legitimacy when it appeared that basic services were being provided by foreign governments and agencies. We approached our donor partners and asked that they make a slight change – that they re-label their signs to read “A project of our government, supported by X agency”. This change, modest as it may seem, made a significant difference in the manner in which our citizens viewed our government."
This issue inspired a panel discussion we hosted this month at the World Bank and IMF meetings in Istanbul. Nancy Birdsall was joined by Hilde Johnson, the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Donald Kaberuka, the President of the African Development Bank, Max Lawson, the Head of Development Finance and Public Services of Oxfam Great Britain, Sam Worthington, the President of Interaction as moderator, and an excellent audience to discuss how aid can help foster, rather than undermine, linkages between governments and their people.During the panel, and the discussion that followed, we shared ideas on how to make development assistance more effective. These ideas include providing aid that is more focused on measurable outcomes, less limiting and onerous, and more engaging of civil society to hold governments to account. You can read more about the event, and the specific proposals we shared here.


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