12 March 2010

The Today Programme and Duncan Green

So Duncan Green (Oxfam) and I were on the Today show this morning (BBC Radio 4) for our 60 second conversation with Jim Naughtie, talking about how much aid makes it to where it is supposed to go.

My 3 points were:

1. Aid has a track record of transforming the lives of hundreds of millions of people via immunizations, schooling, microfinance start-ups, famine aversion, crops that are drought tolerant, cash transfers that protect the poorest against shocks…the list goes on.

2. Diversion of aid is unacceptable and must be minimized, but diversion is not confined to aid—Roger Riddell cites a study that concludes that 16% of the money for the Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims in the US was siphoned off.

3. Diversion can be reduced through transparency and commitment infrastructure. A study found that only about 20% of the resources allocated to 250 schools in Uganda were getting through to them. Publication and notification of how much the schools should receive helped change the dynamic (although was not sufficient on its own) -- much more of the funding got through just a few years later.

Commitment mechanisms such as participatory budgeting, community scorecards, stakeholder audits, constituent feedback, publication of spending data, and impact evaluations hold a lot of promise for fixing the broken feedback loop in international development, and we need more scaling up of successful pilots.

Duncan noted that the exchange with the usually tough Today interviewers was not exactly gladiatorial. I say be careful what you wish for.

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