A Massive Blow

DfID have gone all Anderson Silva on the fight for more effective aid management.

A leaked memo reveals that DfID will be dropping its commitment to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

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. This is not insignificant. Anyone who has spent time in a developing country Government can see how much of the recipient Government’s time is spent on managing, applying for and reporting on aid – not to mention following up on problems in its access, flow and predictability, all of which are covered by the PD. A conservative estimate for a heavily aid dependent country like Malawi is about 60% of Ministry of Finance time. Probably as much in the most aid dependent sectors, too. (To clarify – dropping the PD does not mean that DfID are abandoning the fight for better aid – but they are dropping their biggest weapon in the fight for better aid management.)

Dropping the PD means DfID have just lost a massive amount of moral authority in the fight to improve the way aid is used, and equally in the fight to improve the way Governments manage their own resources.

I’ll collect my thoughts for a more detailed post.