Maybe donors should not settle for Mr Right-Now

I am off to New Orleans in a few days for the International Studies Association, armed with a fun little paper which – as usual –  I uploaded past the official deadline (it would not be a proper conference experience otherwise): “The influence and responsibility of aid in transnational political settlements”, part of a panel on “Fostering inclusive political settlements” which will convene at the ungodly hour of 8:15am on Saturday (expected N: audience < panelists). Forget the cumbersome title: the paper could easily be titled “What works ain’t necesarily what’s right”, or “Why donors should not settle for Mr Right-Now”. Here’s the gist of it. Continue reading Maybe donors should not settle for Mr Right-Now

Para Español, pulse 2

Meses después de haber tomado la decisión de bloguear principalmente en inglés, de repente me llega la oportunidad de escribir para un público español. Ironías de la vida. Y esto viene a cuento de una iniciativa encomiable de la gente de ISGlobal y el editor del blog 3500 Millones., quien la semana pasada orquestró una visita de parlamentarios españoles a Londres para comprobar de primera mano cuán diferente es la política de desarrollo aquí: el nivel de compromiso político entre los principales partidos, la audacia e independencia del ministerio de cooperación al desarrollo (DFID), y los considerables fondos públicos que se dedican a la investigación independiente para mejorar la calidad de la ayuda.

Yo ya he escrito en otras ocasiones sobre las limitaciones del sistema español, aparentes incluso para un observador distante como yo. Pero es que cada encuentro personal con trabajadores de la AECID confirma esta impresión, hasta tal punto que la comparación entre Reino Unido y España resulta francamente deprimente. Lo interesante – casi podría decir, lo esperanzador – de la reunión de la semana pasada fue constatar que estas limitaciones no resultan invisibles a todos nuestros políticos, y que las ganas de hacer las cosas mejor quizás creen un espacio para el debate e incluso la reforma.

Hay muchas cosas que me gustaría aportar a este debate, como investigador en un centro independiente financiado con dinero público, como académico que intenta ayudar a los practicantes, y como participantes ocasional en varios debates punteros sobre el futuro de la ayuda (Doing Development Differently, Thinking and Working Politically…). Pero si todo va bien, mis contribuciones sobre estos temas no serán ya aquí, sino en el blog 3500 millones. Porque lo verdaderamente interesante de la investigación aplicada no es gritar a la nada como un eremita en el desierto, sino sumar otra voz más a una insurgencia intelectual en ciernes.

For English, press 1; para Español, pulse 2.

What comes after all the shouting about politics and aid?

[Re-posted from the ESID blog]

Last week DFID’s research team hosted representatives from four research programme consortia on development, including ESID, for a debate and set of presentations on what we have found so far and what – if anything – DFID can do about it. Without going into details – there were surveys, concepts, migrants, onions, and even vampires – it was yet another interesting opportunity to witness that uncomfortable interface between academic and practitioner frustrations. In a very polite and reasoned way, researchers shouted to DFID staff that “context matters, reality is complex, and you’d better take politics into account!”, while DFID staff in turn shouted back that “we too are subject to a political context, and you’d better show us how what you are suggesting would work in practice!” Of course, this being a professional event in the UK, there wasn’t any actual shouting; but one could sense the deep-seated frustration, misunderstanding, even recrimination underlying the entire event. Eventually, we ended up where all these meetings seem to end: with the realization that everyone needs to do more to facilitate stronger researcher-practitioner linkages. Which is not a bad message at all. But it still makes me wonder what comes next. Continue reading What comes after all the shouting about politics and aid?

You say potato, I say political settlement

Last week I had a chance to cath up with some friends from gradschool in the US, all of them trained as political scientists. And as I expected, none of them had ever heard the term “political settlement”, which features so prominently in development debates this side of the Atlantic (to be honest, I myself first heard the term when applying for my current position in ESID). Why is the central concept in British development politics absent from American academia? And, is there a way to bridge the gap so that we stop talking past each other?

Continue reading You say potato, I say political settlement

Aid Counterbureaucracy 2.0:

I came across a post at CGD today commenting on the new site set up by the US government, of which I was completely unaware. When you click on the site you find a seemingly revolutionary web portal containing data on where and with what aims American foreign aid is spent. It is not too different – although a bit more comprehensive and accessible – than DFID‘s own new website. However, I hesitate to celebrate as a success: while it does increase the transparency of aid data, it tells citizens disappointingly little about the aid process, much less the actual challenges of development. Continue reading Aid Counterbureaucracy 2.0:

Leader of the 0.7 percenters

According to the latest OECD data, there are only 5 wealthy industrialized democracies who meet the gabled target of 0.7% of national income contributed as development assistance: Norway (1.07%), Sweden (1.05%), Luxembourg (1.00%), Denmark (%0.85) and the United Kingdom (%0.72). In absolute terms, the UK contributes more foreign aid than the other four 0.7 percenters combined, making it the most important donor in Europe. Continue reading Leader of the 0.7 percenters

Listen to my Presentation on Political Economy Analysis @ Birmingham

Last month I gave a presentation on ESID‘s project on political economy analysis at the workshop “Making Politics Practical II: Development Politics and the Changing Aid Environment“, which was held at the University of Birmingham. The presentation introduced my work with David Hulme on the organizational challenges that the World Bank and the UK Department for International Development face in introducing political analysis into their operational work. Thanks to the folks at Birmingham you can listen to it right here:

You can find the other presentations here.