Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Let's build the aid architecture

A few years back, when I was taking a post-graduate course at university, one of my fellow students managed to confuse himself in the most bizarre way. We had just had a seminar on the different agencies which donate, manage and deliver aid - something often referred to, in typically opaque language, as the "architecture of aid". He must have got completely the wrong end of the stick because he seemed to think this "architecture" was something you could actually build. In all seriousness he then attempted to persuade the rest of the group that it would be a worthwhile exercise to actually construct a 3-dimensional model of the "architecture of aid". No-one knew quite what to say.

But anyway, I thought I would point readers towards an article written by Donald Kaberuka, the President of the African Development Bank Group. He writes about the "aid architecture" and notes that:
aid to developing countries is delivered via more than 150 multilateral agencies, 33 bilateral members of the OECD/DAC, at least 10 non-DAC governments and a growing number of global Vertical Funds. The number of donors per country has multiplied threefold in two decades. Some developing countries have more than 700 active (sometimes very small) projects and receive more than 400 missions a year, each with its own specific requirements...

The question that is challenging to all of us and is urgent is - how do we find the right kind of framework that accommodates the increased generosity by the foundations, the significant role likely to be increasingly played by the new official players within the context of real additionality, best practices, innovation and accountability to those who give and those who receive by ensuring we are effective and get sustainable results.
I suspect the answer, perhaps counter-intuitively, is not more aid co-ordination. Instead, we need more aid competition. The "architecture of aid" needs to become significantly more transparent about 1) who is funding what and 2) how effective it is. Improved aid will be the result.

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