Doing development in a downturn: Highlights from a seminar
On Monday 26 May, 2008, DIIS hosted a seminar on the challenges of development and aid in 2008.
The seminar took its point of departure in the current credit crunch, rising oil and food prices, possible economic recession, unfulfilled aid increase promises, etc. and discussed what think-tanks and the like may offer in terms of suggestions for how a concern with development and aid can be maintained. Some of the major points from the seminar are:
Simon Maxwell’s presentation: PowerPoint 911 KB.
- There is too little international discussion of the aid architecture. Three quarters of all aid is bilateral while only one quarter is multilateral. This accounts for a multiplicity of donor agencies rarely being very coordinated. A much stronger use of multilateral institutions for channelling aid could reduce the problems of harmonisation and coordination, the high levels of transaction costs and probably also the significant numbers of donor concerns undermining alignment to the policies of recipient countries and their ownership.
- The interaction between development and global public goods, such as security, environmental sustainability, mutually beneficial trade, useful exchange of labour, etc. is only beginning to be realised. Aid and development cannot be addressed in isolation from these other issues, but to what extent are donor agencies prepared and equipped for this task?
- Policy makers and development practitioners have a strong need for information and suggestions with respect to the changing context for aid and how to respond to it. But do they get the necessary support from research institutions, universities and think-tanks, and what does it require to provide useful knowledge and ideas? Timing is essential and researchers are typically neither concerned about the day-to-day agenda of politicians and media, nor about developing interesting inputs to future events where the public opinion is bound to relate to significant issues.
- Unless otherwise convinced, politicians will make use of development assistance to further their political agendas. Separate initiatives, particular concerns, specific measures, etc. will proliferate and undermine harmonisation, coordination and aid effectiveness particularly in a downturn where politicians are in a dire need of demonstrating action and results. They are rarely constrained by the public opinion since public support for aid is typically wide, but shallow: Aid is believed to be a good thing, but does not rank high on people’s list of priorities. But people are nervous about how poor countries may threaten their livelihoods: Refugees from poor countries may burden the welfare state, fragile states may breed security threats, migrants may take the jobs, poor countries may not be able to control the spreading of global diseases, etc.
- The answer may be to create a narrative based on global social justice and inclusion. The problems are increasingly common to everyone in the world, and therefore we need a common, collective response.
Maxwell, Simon. 2008. Doing Development in a Downturn. Paper presented at the seminar.