Monday, May 17, 2010

Clinton Lauds DG Haiti Partnership

In a recent speech at New York University, former U.S. President Bill Clinton referenced Haiti’s new aid tracking system which partially adapts Aid Management Platform technology. The system, which is the result of a partnership between Development Gateway and others technology companies, will track financial commitments by public sources as well as national and international donors. Clinton stressed the importance of eliminating unnecessary overlap while ensuring that funding is used to maximum benefit. He implored donors to make use of the system, asserting that “there’s going to be at least a billion dollars of NGO money flowing through Haiti and probably more before we finish.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Intern blog: Earth Day's 40th anniversary

In celebration of the 40th Earth Day, I thought I'd blog about climate change and development. Climate change has clearly been a hot topic in the last couple of years and given Snowmageddon this past winter in D.C., I'm convinced that global warming has resulted in some undesirable consequences.

Rich countries have the capacity to do their part in climate mitigation and adaptation. But what about developing countries? Reducing debt burden, dealing with balance-of-payments, as well as managing numerous aid projects among many other problems, it is difficult and costly for these countries to also tackle climate change.

Of course, since environmentalism is such a concern now, donors have been helping developing countries deal with these issues. To learn more, watch this video on East Asia, climate mitigation, and economic growth. Also, check out the World Bank's blog on sustainable development. Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Intern blog: On fungibility of aid

Laura Freschi at Aid Watch blogged about a recent study showing that health aid was correlated to lower government expenditures in the sector. Fungibility of aid is an issue that policymakers and aid workers have debated for years. Studies have shown that ownership makes aid more effective, but how do donors address the fact that sometimes their aid is adding to the country's coffers and not necessarily towards its stated objective, such as improvements in health and education? Since impact evaluations and other methods of measuring results from aid are already difficult to conduct and access, it is sometimes nearly impossible to trace aid flows from donors to impacts.

Tools like Aid Management Platform can help countries track where the money is coming from and what the aid is meant forprimarily by assisting in the management of funds. While where the aid should go and how funds should be allocated is of course left entirely in the hands of the donors and partner countries, AMP can help both parties keep track of and classify the aid money coming into the country.

The tension between donor and recipient needs is without a doubt an extremely important issue in development aid. However, establishing donor-recipient partnerships and improving transparency on both fronts can help with these issues. The important thing to keep in mind is that in most cases the donor and recipients do have common interestsdevelopment.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Good Neighbor Policies

In the wake of the tragic crash on Saturday that killed key members of the Polish government, I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the Polish people and the friends and families of those involved. But because this is a blog about development, I also wanted to take this opportunity to share some insights on a topic that is all too often overlooked---Polish development assistance. Although popular perception often portrays Poland as a country in transition just barely overcoming the shadow of Soviet rule, in the aid world at least quite the opposite is true. The AidData project shows that despite the economic hardships of the 1990s, Poland began giving money away as early as 2004 (and likely earlier). According to the information in AidData, Poland funded or partially funded almost 1,000 aid activities between 2004 and 2007.
One of the most interesting things to note about Polish aid is where the money goes. Far more so than much larger donors like the United States, Poland seems to be keeping its funds in the neighborhood. The vast majority of Polish development assistance goes to Eastern European countries, an indication perhaps of Poland’s interest in assisting countries with a similar history to its own.

However, Poland also appears to look after its own citizens abroad. AidData reveals how Poland consistently funds activities in countries where Polish troops or peacekeepers are stationed.
In fact, Eastern Europe now boasts a number of donors who just a decade or two ago were still receiving large amounts of aid. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Slovak Republic all now give development assistance, most of it within the region.

As foreign assistance shifts farther and farther away from traditional lending from large Western countries, it will be interesting to keep an eye on Poland and other smaller donors. After all, everyone has to start somewhere.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Where Have the Cows Gone?

This week Development Gateway attended the first meeting of the advisory committee for InterAction's Mapping Initiative. InterAction, for those who don't know, is an umbrella organization that represents hundreds of U.S. non-governmental organizations. Together with FortiusOne (the organization behind the incredibly cool Geocommons online mapping tool), InterAction is working with a small group of their member organizations to create a standard output format for NGO development projects so they can be easily compared and, of course, mapped. Although the location of aid projects will likely be aggregated at the provincial level to protect the privacy of the recipients, this tool could in theory create a map that displayed where each cow that Heifer International donated had gone. It could probably even make the points spotted.

The implications for aid transparency are enormous. Thousands of NGOs are involved in international development, and at the moment there is no systematic way for stakeholders to look at where these organizations are operating and what is being funded. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, imagine a map that could overlay the work of 1,000 organizations against indicators like child malnutrition or climate vulnerability to show areas where help is still needed. Knowledge is a powerful tool.