Waylaid Dialectic

August 17, 2010

Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone…

Filed under: Aid — terence @ 9:31 am
Tags: ,

Via, Aidthoughts, a Guardian article which, amongst other revelations, indicates that under the new Conservative/Lib-Dem government, there will be no further commitment from the UK government to the Paris Declaration.

Ranil writes that:

This is a massive blow. The PD (as it’s known)  is very imperfect, and even the refinements we made in Accra in 2008 left plenty to be desired. But it’s the only real commitment the international community has made to improving donor systems for the management of aid – to making it easier to use, receive, negotiate. What’s worse, it’s one of the few places where recipient Governments are tied down to improvements in the way they themselves manage aid and their domestic resources.

DfID have been one of the biggest motors behind improving the PD and getting the simplification of access to and usage of aid money improved.

I’ve been critical of the Paris Dec in the past (here, here and here) and yet, assuming the Guardian’s report is correct, I pretty much agree with Ranil. Why?

1. The Paris Dec principle of Harmonisation was more or less unambiguously good. Loosing this will be a real loss.

2. For all my concerns with Partnership and Ownership in practice, the underlying ethos – that aid ought to be about the needs and capacities of recipient countries, not the politics and self-interest of donors – was absolutely correct. And if that were to become an international norm, ‘binding’ in an informal way donor countries, it would represent a huge gain in the struggle to improve aid.

3. And while the practical application of the Partnership and Ownership principles stuck me as very problematic, and likely to lead to cookie-cutter thinking which ignored the primacy of context, nevertheless, these shortcomings could have been improved over time (see my last post on the PD for an example of this).

More generally the Guardian article shows, I think, the difficulty of achieving cross party consensus on aid. My own experience is that when government changes hands the new folks, for ideological reasons, and simply because this has what they’ve been shouting for the last X number of years, simply know that the old folks was wrong. And that everything must be changed. And this impulse overrides any more abstract belief that they might have had about the need for aid policy consistency. Which is real pity – particularly in the DfID case.

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