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DFID Still Serious about Results: DfID's Aid Review

This is a joint post with Nancy Birdsall.

Last week UK Secretary of International Development Andrew Mitchell released the outcomes of DFID’s bilateral and multilateral aid reviews.

We were glad to see that the published documents on the bilateral aid review included country summaries that list the funds allocated to each of 27 countries and three regional programs where DFID plans to work in the next 4 years, and the key results these funds are expected to produce. These are likely the highlights of the “results offers” that country and regional teams submitted at the end of last year (as we discussed in this blog).

Development Policy of the Future… And Why We Aren’t Ready

This post originally appeared on devpolicy.org and devex and is based loosely on a February 10th talk at the Development Policy Center at Australian National University’s Crawford School and a March 1st speech at The International Development Research Centre in Ottawa..

The maxim that armies are always fighting the last war might just as aptly apply to development agencies: they are too often tackling yesterday’s problems with an outdated set of tools. If our development policies and agencies are to serve our interests, then we need them to both live in the present and prepare for the future. So, what then might development policy look like, say, a decade from now? What should we be thinking about now to get ready? Here are three big trends I think will be shaping the development future:

COD Aid Called Radical and Refreshing

In a refreshing discussion of COD Aid that’s what Andrew Rogerson calls our idea.  Rogerson is an experienced player in aid delivery, having been at DfID and the OECD/Development Assistance Committee.  His smart summary covers the latest news, including a pilot of COD Aid for Ethiopia being planned at DfID.  It is smartly presented (as in COD implies for the recipient “no free lunch”), with an eye on the practical questions sponsors of COD Aid face.

What Can Development Agencies Learn from Venture Capital Firms?

I recently participated in a conference of Engineers Without Borders Canada which was one of the most thought-provoking events that I’ve attended in a long time. One of the speakers was Vernon Lobo who is with a venture capital firm, Mosaic Venture Partners. For years, I’ve been promoting the idea that aid agencies should behave more like venture capital firms. Like venture capital firms, I’ve argued, aid agencies should not expect every project to be successful.

Wow: Will This Results-Based Approach Change DfID Country Allocations?

This is a joint post with Rita Perakis.

The UK Department for International Development is getting down to real business on adopting results-based approaches to aid. It will allocate future resources across country and regional programs on the basis of “results offers”, as explained here. (DFID spends annually almost 3 billion pounds, about $4.5 billion, on these programs – exclusive of its allocations for humanitarian assistance and for support of multilateral programs.) DFID recently wrapped up one step of the process, in which all country and regional teams set out their “results offers” for the period 2011/12 – 2014/5 (“indicative results teams proposed to deliver” ) for review and evaluation (and some sort of ranking we assume) by internal advisers and a panel including external experts. The reviews were asked to assess the extent to which the results offers are “realistic and evidence-based”. Now ministers will consider them as they determine their aid allocations for the next four years. According to an earlier press release the results offers will cover about 90 countries.

On Not Being Cavalier about Results

The Guardian’s Madeleine Bunting recently slammed Andrew Mitchell’s (Secretary of State for International Development, UK) commitment to results-based aid.  Here’s what I had to say about her somewhat cavalier critique:  (See also Mitchell’s response, where my comment is posted.)

What Is the Counterfactual for COD Aid?

This is a joint post with Nancy Birdsall.

We often hear criticism of the COD Aid approach from people who question whether a high-level incentive would really alter the behavior of recipient countries. Paolo de Renzio raised this issue in a recent blog, saying that COD Aid is unlikely to work because recipient “[g]overnments have not only insufficient capacity, but also limited political interest in using available resources to maximize development impact.” The question this raises, though, is not whether COD Aid is worth trying. Rather it is questioning whether any foreign assistance can make a difference. The appropriate counterfactuals for COD Aid are existing aid modalities which rely on extensive engagement between funders and recipients on inputs, planning and implementation. The assumption of current aid modalities is that imposing the funder’s views of planning, institutional structures, training, and technical assistance from abroad can achieve progress even when a recipient country is less than enthusiastic about a program. That is the counterfactual against which to consider COD Aid.

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