It’s that time of year again. In just a few weeks, CGD will release the 2012 results of its annual Commitment to Development Index (CDI) – a product that measures the extent to which wealthy nations are supporting poorer countries’ development efforts in seven policy areas: aid, trade, investment, migration, environment, security, and technology.
CGD Policy Blogs
In the last of a series of three blog posts looking at the implications of complexity theory for development, Owen Barder and Ben Ramalingam look at the implications of complexity for the trend towards results-based management in development cooperation. They argue that is a common mistake to see a contradiction between recognising complexity and focusing on results: on the contrary, complexity provides a powerful reason for pursuing the results agenda, but it has to be done in ways which reflect the context. In the 2012 Kapuscinski lecture Owen argued that economic and political systems can best be thought of as complex adaptive systems, and that development should be understood as an emergent property of those systems. As explained in detail in Ben’s forthcoming book, these interactive systems are made up of adaptive actors, whose actions are a self-organised search for fitness on a shifting landscape. Systems like this undergo change in dynamic, non-linear ways; characterised by explosive surprises and tipping points as well as periods of relative stability. If development arises from the interactions of a dynamic and unpredictable system, you might draw the conclusion that it makes no sense to try to assess or measure the results of particular development interventions. That would be the wrong conclusion to reach. While the complexity of development implies a different way of thinking about evaluation, accountability and results, it also means that the ‘results agenda’ is more important than ever.
On Friday evening, the governors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) selected a new president: British civil servant Sir Suma Chakrabarti. The decision is important because the EBRD has recently taken on a major global challenge: assisting the countries of the Arab Spring. It also matters because the selection process raised the bar for open, transparent and merit-based leadership selection at other international institutions, including the World Bank, IMF and the other regional development banks.
Owen Barder unpacks the results agenda, now so much discussed in the aid and development community, here. It’s brilliant. He sets out four different motivations of various parties in the community for their recent focus on the “results agenda”. I asked myself which motivation has driven my devotion to the idea of Cash on Delivery Aid (COD Aid). (If you are new to COD Aid, see this short video for a start.)
Amartya Sen invokes David Hume in The New Republic (December 29) to explain the case for seeking justice for distant people and future generations.
From Hume writing in 1651: