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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.


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?

A Critical Moment for COD Aid or “How to Be Patient When It Matters”

An increasing number of aid agencies are experimenting with programs that incorporate the main features of COD Aid: paying for outputs, giving the recipient greater discretion to spend as they see fit, independent verification, and transparency. (See our brief and book for more details). We’ve argued that the design of COD Aid programs can be rather easy, though the quality of the indicators chosen and the verification process are certainly critical to success. We have spent less time talking about what happens once the program is up and running. In particular, what happens when you find out how much progress actually occurred?

What If You Could Invest in Development?

This is a joint post with Rita Perakis

Last week, CGD and Social Finance launched a new high-level Working Group to consider Development Impact Bonds, a new mechanism to enable private investment in development outcomes. Owen Barder and Rita Perakis explain.

There is nothing new about the idea that development assistance is an investment: spending money today in the hope of future benefits. Putting money into immunizing kids or giving them an education is an excellent investment in the future well-being of those people. But if there are financial returns they are often far in the future and cannot be directly linked back to the investment. For many development investments the returns are mainly social, not financial. And the absence of financial returns on a reasonable timescale could be why there is no market for investing in development. There is a small pool of investors who are willing to be paid in good karma; but most would rather be paid in dollars, sterling or euros.

P4R: Looking to the Pilot Phase

This is a joint post with Rita Perakis.

After many stages of drafting, debates, and consultations, the World Bank´s proposed results-based financing instrument, Program-for-Results is going for approval to the Bank´s Board on January 24. The latest draft of the policy can be found here; we´re pleased to see that Bank staff listened to comments at a CGD roundtable and many other consultation meetings and incorporated changes to previous drafts. CGD hosted a final discussion of P4R on Thursday January 19, with a presentation by World Bank VP for operations, Joachim von Amsberg, and a panel that included Anne Perrault of the Center for International Environmental Law, Marta Garcia Jauregui, who represents Spain, Mexico and several Latin American countries on the World Bank board, and CGD president Nancy Birdsall (see event video here).

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.

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.