28 November 2010

From Russia, With Love

This week we are hosting a study visit from an elite group of Russian analysts and researchers working on international development. Kick-started by holding the G8 Presidency in 2006 and by a need for consistency in working with Former Soviet Union countries, Russia is on track to become a $1bn a year aid donor. The study visit is supported by the World Bank.

There are many questions that new aid donors need to decide on. To work in line with ODA good practice or not? If yes, to make a firm commitment to the Paris principles or not? To make the aid programme subservient or equal to other levers of foreign relations and other arms of government? To allocate aid by need or by neighbourhood relationships? To tie aid or not? To favour bilateral or multilateral aid? To focus on key gaps in the aid portfolio? To align themselves with the OECD or a new BRICS aid club? Where to locate the balance between cash and technical assistance?

It seems to me that energy, relations to Europe and the role of remittances can be lead areas for Russia in aid thinking. It will also be a lead player in addressing the needs of the strategically important Central Asian Republics, some of which are very fragile, many of which have high incidences of poverty.

We will be working alongside these Russian scholars for the next two weeks to learn from them and to share our experiences on the above issues. Marc Berenson, a Fellow at IDS, is leading the collaboration from the IDS side. m.berenson@ids.ac.uk


Alex Shakow said...

A small point - while I guess in
current terms Russia is a "new" donor, of course in Soviet times they were a very big donor with many billions of aid committed to South and Southeast Asian countries (as well as to the Eastern European Bloc). They should have learned a lot of lessons from that period.

Alex Shakow

Nick Costello said...

True, but will the lessons be welcome. I heard this year from a Romanian researcher who was writing on interesting things Romania had done in Africa in Ceaucescu's time (e.g. the guiding doctrines are apparently reminiscent avant la lettre of the Paris Declaration in their stress on ownership). But the researcher described how colleagues would call any positive observation about that experience 'nostalgic', which is the kiss of death in Romania.