I have just finished supervising a master’s thesis at the University of Manchester which compares the extent of internal reforms in DFID and the Spanish Development Co-operation Agency, AECID. The student – an AECID civil servant – wanted to know why her organization failed so miserably to reform internally in accordance with its international commitments to principles of aid effectiveness, in particular when one could find in the European vicinity other agencies like DFID that did so much better on all indicators. What emerges is a story of politics and institutional infighting: a socialist prime minister who symbolically boosted the foreign aid budget through the roof without actually planning how it would be managed, a tenuous balance of institutional power where only a few key individuals tried to make a semi-autonomous agency work, and a cadre of jaded civil servants headed by political appointees for whom development co-operation was often a stepping stone in their political careers. This is as much as I can spoil right now; for the whole picture you will have to wait a while. Continue reading Why is researching donors so hard?
I came across a post at CGD today commenting on the new site ForeignAssistance.gov 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 ForeignAssistance.gov 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: ForeignAssistance.gov