Putting Relationships First for Aid Effectiveness
20 July 2009
IDS researcher, Rosalind Eyben responded to the call from the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Debt, Aid and Trade for evidence on aid effectiveness.
The submission responds to the five areas of the APPG’s terms of reference for its inquiry: the impact of aid and gaps in our knowledge, The Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action, aid conditions, increasing accountability and aid predictability.
Eyben’s overarching message is that effective aid requires as much investing in relationships as in managing money. Development organisations, including the UK Department for International Development, need to change the way they work to manage better the multiple partnerships that the Accra Agenda for Action recognises is at the core of the aid business.
In relation to the focus areas of the Inquiry, the implications of Eyben’s submission of evidence include the following:
Impact of aid
- There is no evidence that spending more money with less staff will deliver better results. Because achieving impact requires investing in relationships, development organisations need to support their staff to do this. At the moment, the opposite is happening.
- In multiple sets of relationships there will be different ideas about what success is and how to achieve it and this should be reflected in methodologies for defining and assessing the impact of aid. While there are some arguments for better co-ordination and more efficient use of resources, a balance has to be struck with encouraging diverse points of view for solving complex problems.
- In addition to measuring results, donors need to assess the quality of relations at project/programme, country and international levels against indicators agreed with partners that could be regularly reviewed and widely commented upon.
- Helpful procedural harmonisation should not mean assuming there is only a single diagnosis and solution to any complex problem, an assumption that would hamper innovation and squeeze out alternative perspectives, particularly in contexts of unequal power relations.
- On aid conditionality, decisions need to be made on a case by case basis on the advice of well-informed country offices whose staff regularly get out of the capital city and listen to different points of view, particularly of people living in poverty.
- Accountable states depend on empowered citizens. When selecting the aid instruments they use, what they fund and how they deploy staff, donors should always be mindful of the implications for strengthening active citizenship.
- Development organisations also need to be more accountable to UK citizens through encouraging an intelligent conversation as to the real challenges and limitations of aid.
Read the full submission of evidence: Evidence Submission to the APPG Inquiry on Aid Effectiveness
Rosalind Eyben is an IDS Research Fellow. Her submission is based on a long career in international development, including as Chief Social Development Adviser at the UK Department for International Development. Among her publications is ‘Relationships for Aid.
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