If you only read one thing this week…

International NGO transparency by Nick
September 29, 2010, 12:25 pm
Filed under: accountability, Articles, If you only have 15 mins

Till Bruckner writes a fascinating article on Aid Watch on his freedom of information request to USAID to disclose how taxpayer money is spent on aid operations in Georgia. After 14 months of argument, he finally got a response, with the budgets of 19 organizations receiving US government grants. Unfortunately, most were massively redacted. Except three… Take a look here and find out how Mercy Corps responded!


Too much bureaucracy? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
September 23, 2010, 11:19 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Andrew Natsios, former Administrator for USAID, has written this essay entitled, The Clash of the Counter-bureaucracy and Development which lays out what he sees as many of the reasons for ineffectiveness and inefficiency within USAID, through bureaucracy gone bad. He lays much of the blame on the types of audits that are conducted as well as the monitoring systems that have been put in place which value outputs over outcomes. This is an interesting history of the bureaucracy within USAID,  and contains many fascinating and quirky references to past historical events as well.

An insight into the tone of the essay comes from the following quote,

” The question remains whether under sustained ressure from the counter-bureaucracy and the Congress, SUAID is now spending as much money on oversight and control as on implementation of the aid program itself. What is more, the staff time needed to comply with all of these paperwork requirements has crowded out any remaining available time for the actual implementation of programs in the field offices.  A point can be reached when compliance becomes counterproductive. I believe we are well past that point.

What happened, why it happened, and how it happened is a disturbing, but also fascinating, story of good intentions – accountability and transparency – gone bad. “

State-building and peace-building – Do they go hand-in-hand? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
September 16, 2010, 11:28 am
Filed under: conflict

This ODI briefing paper provides nice definitions of peace-building, state-building and political settlements. It talks about how the two approaches can complement each other but also how they can undermine each other. It is a useful and brief analysis, my only frustration is that the recommendations are the ones that you see at the end of many briefing papers (don’t create false expectations, understand the context more, commit long-term). While these are all good, solid recommendations it would be nice to see a little more sophistication and nuance.

Post conflict recovery in Africa. by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
September 9, 2010, 11:45 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

This paper by Chris Blattman at Yale University surveys what we do and do not know about the impact of conflict on the economic and social drivers of development in Africa, and discusses the relevance for post-conflict aid policy.