Donors are keen to play their part in improving governance in developing countries and see the inclusion of governance on the aid effectiveness agenda as an important entry point in this regard. But the role that donors can play in directly shaping the landscape of politics and governance in developing countries is – and should be – limited, for reasons of leverage, understanding and legitimacy. The most helpful thing that donors can do is to nurture an environment of transparency and accountability within which locally-appropriate solutions can emerge.
In the aftermath of the election in Ethiopia – elections that resulted in a landslide victory for the ruling EPRDF party – outsiders such as the UK Government or Human Rights Watch are being told, on the one hand, by the EPRDF, to keep their uninformed opinions to themselves, and, on the other, by the opposition parties, and no doubt by citizens in the developed world, to say what they think about the elections/electoral process.
There are lots of problems with development assistance. One of them is that people like me don’t really know what we’re doing, but pretend that we do. Or more specifically, that we rarely make explicit why we think that what we are doing will lead to the results that are hoped for.
My thinking on this has been stimulated by David Roodman of the Center for Global Development. David is in the process of writing a book about micro-finance and posed a question about definitions of development.
Challenging the borders-up mentality prevalent in many developed countries certainly gets my vote (although the benefits of immigration in the rich world do tend to go to rich people, which complicates matters). And it’s good to question the conventional wisdom that the out-migration of skilled people is always bad for developing countries. But …. Continue reading