Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt has warned recipient governments that they face cuts in UK aid if they don’t “put their hands in their pockets”. Her warning is grounded on a claim of public concern: “Nagging doubts persist for many people, about what we are doing, why we are doing it … especially when there are domestic needs and a national debt to address.” It is a compelling point but, as it turns out, one for which there is actually very little evidence.
The most recent YouGov/Times survey poll asked Britons what issues they considered most important among those facing the country: Brexit, health and the economy topped the list. The potential misuse of foreign aid funds, as one would expect, did not even register.
Slowly but surely, Why We Lie About Aid is moving along the production track, going into copy-editing. But what has me particularly excited is the fact that I now have two endorsements from people I deeply admire and respect:
‘One of the most exciting books about development aid in many years: original and timely, closely argued and evidenced, and beautifully written.’ David Booth, Overseas Development Institute
‘Elegantly written and passionately argued, Yanguas has provided us with an authoritative guide to current debates within the aid business, and, more importantly, to the crucial political struggles that have always defined the development process.’ Nicolas van de Walle, Cornell University
It turns out there are some things in life that will limit your online presence. Here are my excuses:
Having a second child
Getting more job responsibilities
Writing a book
I want to write at some point about 2 in some detail. But right now I wanted to offer a little teaser about 3.
Earlier this year I finally submitted the full manuscript of my potential book Why We Lie About Aid: Development and the Messy Politics of Change to Zed Books. Then two months ago I received a really positive set of reviews and comments, including an actual endorsement for the back cover. I won’t reveal who wrote this just yet, but I will shamelessly copy here the reviewer’s opening words:
This is one of the most exciting books about development aid in many years: original and timely, closely argued and evidenced, and beautifully written.
I have finally managed to complete the revisions, and it is now up to the editor to give it a final green light. If everything goes well, we are talking about a February 2018 release date in paperback. Both ESID and GDI are super excited about it, so expect a bit of promotional work in the second half of this year.
As time goes by I will post here particularly juicy excerpts from the manuscript. For now I will only copy here the table of contents:
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The theatrics of aid debates
Chapter 3: The banality of certainty
Chapter 4: The ugly politics of change
Chapter 5: The limits of donor influence
Chapter 6: The paradoxes of development diplomacy
Chapter 7: The struggle of thinking politically
Chapter 8: Understanding the messy politics of change
Chapter 9: Conclusion
It is now official: I am writing a book under contract with a publisher. Until the end of the year I will be posting updates and excerpts as I write it. But I can start today with the initial pitch:
Donor publics have been misled about the nature of development: for decades they have been told that it is about charity and technical fixes, when in fact it is as much about fights as our own policy-making is at home. Aid practitioners work in a world of struggles for reform, but they are forced to misrepresent and obfuscate the reality of development in order to comply with very restrictive and selective interpretations of principles like accountability, transparency, ownership or harmonisation. That is the dysfunctional aid system that we in donor countries have built, and then shackled with a discourse that mistakes short-term results for long-term transformation. A different approach is possible, and indeed has been quietly applied by innovative development practitioners around the world who provide political coverage for reformers or build coalitions that open up spaces for change. With real stories from aid practitioners in Britain, the US, Spain, Uganda, Honduras, Nigeria, Liberia, Rwanda and Ghana, this book explains what lies behind the much-criticized pathologies of aid, and challenges us to have a more honest conversation about development assistance.