Bringing politics into the aid effectiveness agenda

I just came across a recent ODI working paper by David Booth: “Aid effectiveness: bringing country ownership (and politics) back in.” Booth brings a critical eye to how the concept of “country ownership” influenced the Paris Declaration and other aspects of the aid effectiveness agenda. Interesting analysis throughout, leading to this conclusion:

If the international community is really interested in contributing to country ownership of development efforts, there should be much more discussion of how to promote a more sophisticated approach to such issues. For the aid business, this would mean first taking a more active stance on non-aid issues in development and next a different concept of what development cooperation is about, implying the acquisition of new skills. But the agencies that we support as taxpayers are not going to be able to transform themselves in the suggested way if there is not a new climate of opinion in donor countries about how development happens and how, at the margin, aid may help.

NGOs and public intellectuals who over the past period have helped to create the public assumption that development and poverty reduction are fundamentally about resource transfers from rich people to poor people have a particular obligation to help build a new consensus about the fundamental role of institutions and leadership in successful development. That the most promising kind of external contribution to development which outsiders can make is skill- and knowledge-intensive engagement with the collective-action problems at the heart of countries’ political systems is a hard message to get across. We need to find ways of doing this.

Hear, hear.