11 April 2011

The aid in Spain falls mainly within development’s frame

OK, so it’s a bit of a laboured blog heading, but behind it is an interesting paper by an IDS Visiting Fellow Manuel del al Iglesia-Caruncho, “The Politics and Policy of Aid in Spain”.
The paper analyses the evolution of aid in Spain over the past 6-7 years. After much inertia, the 2004-08 period saw a real upturn in Spain’s aid programme, with the author playing a key role as the Director of the Cabinet of the Secretary of State for International Cooperation.
During that period, Spanish aid doubled. As a percent of Gross National Income, aid was at similar levels to the UK. The increase was driven by the Spanish electorate’s backlash against the Iraq war and the Americanisation of Spain’s approach to aid. The Socialist party, in opposition, strove to exploit this gap, especially with young people, with Zapatero playing a key role. In addition to the sharp increase in aid flows, the percent to social infrastructure and health increased substantially. Also, the percent of ODA flowing through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs—the intellectual centre of gravity of the aid effort—increased from 20% to 50% from 2004-2008.
The evolution is particularly interesting at this time, for at least two reasons. First, Spain is teetering–Spain, Greece and Iceland were the only Eurozone economies to shrink last year--and while the IMF says it does not think Spain is another Portugal, the pressure to cut aid is immense. Which path will Spain take? Reduce the number of countries it focuses on (still a very large number)? Will it focus less on social infrastructure and more on trade and commerce? Will it spend less through multilaterals and more on bilateral trade promotion? Will it spread ODA among more ministries as pre-2004 to help out other government departments suffering cuts? These choices will all affect aid effectiveness.
Second, there are parallels with USAID and its recently completed Quadrennial Development and Diplomacy Review (QDDR). The headline here is that the QDDR is being promoted as a blueprint for elevating and joining up “American civilian power” –across government and civil society. Some commentators are skeptical of the ability of the US government to pull together this disparate set of organizations into one, and accuse the QDDR of making function follow form, rather than the other way around. (A breaking headline is that the State Department is facing the prospect of a 30% cut in funding as a result of the budget deal struck in Washington last week. Negotiations are on-going but the prospects look bleak.)
So the US is trying to join up its disparate organizations to better deliver development and diplomacy, while Spain has achieved this in the last 6 years by increasing the percent of ODA captured by the core development institution within government—something the US does not seem set to do.
Needless to say, we don’t know much about what the most effective institutional set up is for delivering aid. Perhaps there is no one model, but the lack of research and evidence in this area is striking.

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