Can Aid Work? Written Testimony Submitted to the House of Lords

July 11, 2011

The main body of this short essay comprises written testimony that Owen Barder submitted to Britain’s House of Lords in response to a question about the effectiveness of foreign aid. In a brief introduction Barder draws upon his recent experience living in Ethiopia for three years to shed light on how he thinks about the question of aid effectiveness.

In the written testimony, he argues that the first step in considering aid effectiveness is to identify the aims of foreign aid. He enumerates three: sustained economic growth, improved quality of life, and the alleviation of suffering. Aid often demonstrably improves lives and alleviates suffering, he contends, but its effect on economic growth is ambiguous. It is perhaps better to ask not whether aid is effective, but which aid is effective, he writes. He argues that foreign aid, done well, does good, and offers ten recommendations to avoid common pitfalls and improve how aid is delivered.

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