Does foreign aid really work?

Roger Riddell

April 23, 2014

By Roger Riddell, Associate of Oxford Policy Management (OPM) and Principal of The Policy Practice, in the UK.

I have worked on aid and development issues for some 40 years, and have tried to engage as a ‘critical friend’ of aid, perhaps–inevitably–drawing fire from both aid’s supporters and critics.

I am particularly concerned that the priority given to short-term, tangible and measurable results has meant paying less attention to using aid to help address long-term development problems.

So does foreign aid really work? Not as well as it could, and not as well as it should. But against often far too high expectations of what it might achieve, much aid has had a positive impact.

Donors need to learn and do more to address some of the systemic problems that aid risks creating or perpetuating, and which they have only recently begun to start more fully appreciating.

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Depth in Africa’s Transformation

Homi Kharas

Comments icon 1 comments April 16, 2014

By Homi Kharas, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Global Economy and Development, Development Assistance and Governance Initiative, The Brookings Institution;

with Julie Biau, Research Assistant.

Africa is growing fast but transforming slowly. The structure of most sub-Saharan African economies has evolved little in the past 40 years. This is the message of the 2014 African Transformation Report.

Manufacturing—the lead sector for rapid development in East Asia—is declining as a share of Africa’s GDP. The worry is that without a major transformation Africa’s recent growth may soon run out of steam.

The report argues that for growth to continue, Africa needs to invest in “DEPTH”–diversification, export competitiveness, productivity, and technological upgrading, all for the purposes of human well-being.

There is a new narrative for Africa. Gone is the continent of poverty and desperation, and in its place is a continent of promise and opportunity—but only if economic transformation takes place.

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Can liberation movements like the ANC ensure a strong democracy?

HM Kyed

April 11, 2014

By Helene Maria Kyed, Senior Researcher, Danish Institute for International Studies

During Nelson Mandela’s reign, South Africa was the exception. In the rest of Southern Africa, liberation has not led to genuine democratization and reconciliation.

The liberation movements, which took over the government after the colonial era, are still in power and severely compromise political diversity. Will the same happen to the ANC?

There is a continuity of political practices and discourses that leave meager room for genuine political opposition. It is only the liberation fighters who can legitimately lead the countries.

It is important to keep in mind that liberation and elections are not synonymous with the development of a strong democracy.

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Don’t cut the throat of aid!

mats wingborg

April 8, 2014

By Mats Wingborg, consultant and communicator at Context, Stockholm.

The philosophical principle of ‘Ockham’s razor’ can be applied to development aid: too complex interventions risk getting stuck somewhere in a long chain of change factors.

A new Norwegian book is sceptical of aid interventions that presume complex causal chains; there is a greater probability that something goes wrong – often without our even knowing what.

It also criticizes the ambitions of aid evaluations; it is extremely rare to find aid interventions which have been monitored several years after their completion, although this is actually key.

It would be a mistake to cut the throat of anti-corruption, gender equality and human rights. But such aspirations may take different forms, and perhaps not always according to Western blueprints.

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Decriminalization of Mass Murders, Rape and Sexual Violence

A critique of President Mbeki and Prof Mamdani


Comments icon 2 comments April 4, 2014

By Alex Obote-Odora, Consultant in International Criminal Law and Policy, Stockholm.

In an opinion article in the New York Times, Mbeki-Mamdani argue that civil wars can only be ended by peace talks where former foes sit together and hammer out political settlements.

They suggest suspending questions of criminal accountability until the underlying political problems are resolved. The argument fails to address the issues of the rights of victims and of fair trial.

They ignore successful examples of the use of courts alongside reconciliation, for example in Rwanda. The lumping of victims alongside perpetrators is particularly disturbing for victims of rape and sexual violence.

To decriminalize politically motivated crimes is to give a new lease of life to impunity. It is wrong to advocate for decriminalization of mass murder, rape and sexual violence based on political motivation.

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Will the Africa-EU summit revitalise the partnership?

Don’t ignore the elephants in the room

Geert Laporte

Comments icon 2 comments March 31, 2014

By Geert Laporte, Deputy Director, European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM).

To make the summit a success strong leadership will be needed on both sides of the partnership to sort out the differences and get on with making the EU-Africa relationship a success.

There needs to be a fundamental change in the mind-set of both parties to shape the relationship. It’s time for the influential African and European leaders to stand up and make this work!

There is an urgent need to change the culture of dialogue and partnership between both continents. Co-responsibility holds a greater potential for success than conditionality and unilateral sanctions.

At the same time, to ensure strong and long lasting EU-Africa relations, influential leaders on both sides also need to stand up and to make this summit work.

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On recent terror attacks in Kenya

Civil society statement

Al-Amin Kimathi

Comments icon 1 comments March 28, 2014

By Al-Amin Kimathi, Co-Convenor, Civil Society Working Group on Counter-terrorism and Human Rights (TETEA), Kenya

Six people were killed and several others injured in Mombasa in the latest terror attack on 23 March. Police have announced a shoot-to-kill order against terror suspects, a decision civil society rejects.

Civil society condemn terror attacks; they pose a threat to us all. We call for long-term engagement with local communities to address the root causes of marginalization and radicalization.

We support legitimate efforts to combat terrorism and crime undertaken with due regard for the rights of the innocent, as protected by the constitution, and without victimisation of entire communities.

We urgently demand that the order given by the Police Commissioner be declared to have no basis in law and that security agencies be instructed to disregard it.

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What´s going on in Africa these days?

Some Swedish views


March 25, 2014

By Inge Gerremo, Consultant on Global Agricultural Issues, Stockholm.

When, if ever, have we heard a Swedish Finance Minister say that Africa has fantastic possibilities for development?

A TV journalist covering Africa, in a book published at the end of last year, described how she also could see another Africa emerge, a continent full of development potentials.

And a new book by a Swedish ambassador with long experience from Africa highlights the great potential for development in many African countries.

It all starts with agriculture, they say. Sustainable farming systems must be developed and adapted to all the different local ecological conditions of the African countryside.

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Does aid make economic sense?


Comments icon 4 comments March 22, 2014

by Finn Tarp, Director, United Nations University – World Institute for Development Economics Research, UNU-WIDER

Foreign aid is often seen as different from other forms of investment, and some argue that rather than having a positive effect it tends to distort economies and may potentially slow growth and development.

UNU-WIDER research shows that foreign aid has had a positive effect on growth in the long run. Furthermore aid has been crucial in supporting the broader human development process.

Aid also has a positive effect on a number of intermediate factors which are seen as drivers of growth and development, as well as facilitating transitions to democracy.

Aid is a public resource which can do things private business typically will not do. The issue in financing development is therefore not ‘Trade-not-aid’ as sometimes argued. It is ‘Trade-and-Aid.

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GMOs: The frequently asked questions

Duke Tagoe

March 18, 2014

By Duke Tagoe, Deputy Chairperson, Food Sovereignty Ghana

Ghana has adopted a new law on Biosafety, even though few Ghanaians know what a GMO is, and what health and environmental risks these might entail.

What are the facts? The Non-GMO Shopping Guide has put together a list of FAQs, and the answers to those questions, based on information from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM).

The science supporting genetically modified foods is outdated. Animal studies indicate serious health problems resulting from GMOs in the diet. The AAEM calls for a moratorium on all GMOs .

No testing has been done regarding GMO effects on humans or in the human diet. Commercial interests, rather than health and scientific interests, are driving the push for GMOs.

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