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Another Call for COD Aid Pilots

This is a joint post with William Savedoff and Ayah Mahgoub.

Shout-out to Duncan Green and Oxfam for commenting on our new book and calling, like Nicholas Kristof, for pilots of COD Aid. Best of all, Duncan noted (as have several others such as Owen Barder in this note among others) that many of the usual concerns about COD Aid (see our FAQs for some) apply as much or more to other forms of aid.

But on one big point we disagree: It’s not true that COD Aid has been tried before.

Pressure to Improve UK Aid – How COD Aid Could Help

This is a joint post with William Savedoff and Ayah Mahgoub.

Lawrence Haddad is the Director of the Institute for Development Studies at The University of Sussex in the UK. In a recent blog post, he poses several challenges for the new UK government on development.

Here’s my take on how Cash on Delivery Aid (COD Aid), an approach the UK Conservatives endorsed in their international development green paper, might address some of Lawrence’s challenges to the new government (using his numbering):

Kristof on Cash on Delivery: Bravo, But It's About Us, Not Them

This is a joint post with William Savedoff.

Of course we agree with NYTimes development columnist par excellence Nicholas Kristof that our proposal for Cash on Delivery Aid should be tried. So we are sorry to quibble, but on a couple of points cannot resist.

First Kristof wrote: “The basic truth of foreign aid is that helping people is far, far harder than it looks.” And he’s right. But a big part of the difficulty is with us, not them.

Cash on Delivery Aid…The Book!

Last week was a busy time in Washington for those interested in results-focused approaches to foreign aid, with two major events, one here at CGD and one at the World Bank.

COD Aid, Maternal Mortality, and the G-8—A Good Recipe?

This is a joint post with Katherine Douglas.

One of the exciting things about the Cash on Delivery Initiative is that once people understand the concept, they frequently come up with all kinds of new ideas for applying it. This happened most recently at the CGD-hosted book launch for Cash on Delivery: A New Approach to Aid this week. Within the course of an hour, the conversation shifted from skeptical questions to prospective applications of COD Aid. While the book outlines a proposal for channeling aid to countries that accelerate their progress toward accomplishing the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary completion, people have asked about applying it to water, deforestation, malaria and to another Millennium Development Goal: reducing maternal mortality.

Cash on Delivery Aid: Ayah Mahgoub on COD in Education

I'm joined this week by Ayah Mahgoub, a program coordinator here at the Center for Global Development who works on issues related to the effectiveness of foreign aid. Along with Nancy Birdsall and Bill Savedoff, Ayah is working on designing a new form of development assistance called Cash on Delivery Aid that would pay for progress on specific development outcomes.

Nancy summed up the basic idea of the Cash on Delivery approach on a Wonkcast last month—read that post or go here for a short introduction to the idea of COD Aid. While discussions are underway to develop COD aid mechanisms for a number of sectors (including water and health), the initial application is in education. In this sector,  a Cash on Delivery contract would pay recipient governments a fixed amount for each additional student who completes primary school and take a standardized test. Ayah is helping to match aid donors and recipient governments who are interested in supporting a pilot of this innovative approach. I asked Ayah to tell us about the countries where the first COD Aid programs might happen: Malawi, Ethiopia, and Liberia.

Nancy Birdsall on Cash on Delivery Aid

Can aid donors find a better way to deliver aid? My guest this week is Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development. Along with William Savedoff and Ayah Mahgoub, Nancy is working on a potential new way of disbursing foreign assistance called Cash on Delivery Aid. COD Aid seeks to devise simple, results-based contracts that reward developing countries for making progress towards previously agreed goals—such as increased primary school completion rates, vaccination coverage, or access to clean water.

In the podcast, Nancy explains that the traditional mode of giving aid, in which donors often take an active role in prescribing which actions recipient governments should take, can undermine incentives for governments to identify problems and design and implement locally appropriate solutions. "We have to create a system in which outside resources actually help the developing country governments find out what works in their particular setting," says Nancy.

Out of the Tranches

Proposition #1: Details matter

Proposition #2: People hear what they expect to hear

Lemma #1: People often misunderstand details

Theorem: Foreign aid agencies continue to use tranched operations even when a small modification would work better.

I leave the proof to the reader, but this theorem came to mind during recent discussions about Cash on Delivery Aid (COD Aid) as it would apply to financing primary education.

Linking Aid to Results: Why Are Some Development Workers Anxious? (Guest post by Owen Barder)

I am pleased to share with our readers at Owen’s request this discussion of Cash on Delivery Aid, which appeared yesterday on his blog, Owen Abroad.

Linking Aid to Results: Why Are Some Development Workers Anxious?

By Owen Barder

The Center for Global Development is working on an idea which they call Cash on Delivery aid, in which donors make a binding commitment to developing country governments to provide aid according to the outputs that the government delivers. I think this is a good idea in principle, and hope that it can be tested to see whether and how it could work in practice. The UK Conservative party have said in their Green Paper that if they are elected they will use Cash on Delivery to link aid to results.

Linking aid more closely to results is attractive from many different perspectives. My own view is that linking aid directly to results will help to change the politics of aid for donors. Many of the most egregiously ineffective behaviours in aid are a direct result of donors’ (very proper) need to show to their taxpayers how money has been used. Because traditional aid is not directly linked to results, donors end up focusing on inputs and micromanaging how aid is spent instead, with all the obvious consequences for transactions costs, poor alignment with developing countries systems and priorities and lack of harmonisation. If we could link aid more directly to results, I think donors will be freed from many of the political pressures they currently face to deliver aid badly; and it would be politically easier to defend large increases in aid budgets.

Major NGOs Comment on COD Aid

This is a joint post with Nancy Birdsall and Bill Savedoff.

During a panel discussion we hosted at the World Bank and IMF annual meetings in Istanbul last month on mutual accountability and outcomes in aid, Max Lawson from Oxfam, in referring to COD Aid, said that CGD appears to have more effective publicity strategies and reach than the European Commission. While we do have a (small but) stellar communications team, our ideas spread far primarily because other organizations are seriously engaged in exploring and debating new ideas like the ones we have proposed (otherwise our tiny team would be sleepless, to say the least!).

One case in point is the recent COD Aid briefing paper issued by the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) – a large international development organization based in the UK which raises about 75% of its funds from individual supporters.

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