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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Memo to Aid World: Drop “Capacity Building”

I have always chafed at the idea of “capacity building” – a donor fallback in developing countries whenever progress on a donor-financed project is slow. Too much of what donors mean by capacity building has turned out to be training sessions, workshops, and nice trips of mid-level technical staff from low-income countries to Paris, London and Washington.

A Critical Moment for COD Aid or “The Trouble with Targets”

As mentioned in our last post, aid agencies are experimenting with programs that incorporate the main features of COD Aid: paying for outputs and outcomes, giving the recipient greater discretion to spend as they see fit, independent verification, and transparency. Once these results-based programs are up and running, they face a critical test when the first results are reported. In particular, most programs create expectations by setting annual targets and are then judged relative to those targets rather than to their baseline. And this means that even successful programs will be viewed as failures (a point also made in an earlier blog). By refusing to set targets, a results-based program can avoid this pitfall. How is it that targets can create such a problem?

Linking Aid to Results: Why Are Some Development Workers Anxious? (Guest post by Owen Barder)

I am pleased to share with our readers at Owen’s request this discussion of Cash on Delivery Aid, which appeared yesterday on his blog, Owen Abroad.

Linking Aid to Results: Why Are Some Development Workers Anxious?

By Owen Barder

The Center for Global Development is working on an idea which they call Cash on Delivery aid, in which donors make a binding commitment to developing country governments to provide aid according to the outputs that the government delivers. I think this is a good idea in principle, and hope that it can be tested to see whether and how it could work in practice. The UK Conservative party have said in their Green Paper that if they are elected they will use Cash on Delivery to link aid to results.

Linking aid more closely to results is attractive from many different perspectives. My own view is that linking aid directly to results will help to change the politics of aid for donors. Many of the most egregiously ineffective behaviours in aid are a direct result of donors’ (very proper) need to show to their taxpayers how money has been used. Because traditional aid is not directly linked to results, donors end up focusing on inputs and micromanaging how aid is spent instead, with all the obvious consequences for transactions costs, poor alignment with developing countries systems and priorities and lack of harmonisation. If we could link aid more directly to results, I think donors will be freed from many of the political pressures they currently face to deliver aid badly; and it would be politically easier to defend large increases in aid budgets.

Poverty and the Social Sectors: The World Bank in Pakistan 1990-2003

This report by Nancy Birdsall, Adeel Malik and Milan Vaishnav was prepared for the World Bank's Operations Evaluation Department. The report focuses on the role of the World Bank in support of poverty reduction during the period beginning in 1990 and concluding in 2003. It reviews and discusses the Bank's analytic work and its efforts to bring change through policy dialogue and lending programs.