‘Developing them’ fails. Long live country-led development!(?)

» Posted by on Jan 24, 2014 in Accountability, Africa, Bilateral organizations, Caribbean, International aid, Results, Sustainability, Transparency, USAID | 2 comments

'Developing them' fails (Haiti). Long live country-led development! (?)

 

I am tired of inefficiency and waste of tax dollars and human capacity and time. Some organizations use images of Africans, Asians, Latin Americans and Caribbean people suffering without permission to further their mission to get funds to do programming. United for Sight says it "evokes the idea that the poor are helpless and incapable of helping themselves, thereby cultivating a culture of paternalism." And that's what I am the very most tired of, our paternalism; this is the antithesis of country-led development.  

 

Maybe we've gone about it a bit wrong. A case in point is a recent report on Haiti, that the US spent $2.8 billion and that there is little to show for it. Now, emergency response is truly a different kettle of fish – it is very expensive to intervene and restore even basic services and many nations have low aid-absorptive capacity. Nonetheless, it opens the door to unbridled waste, low capacity building and little sustainability as well.   As Global Post and AP found, only 5% of 2012 US government spending went through Haitian organizations (and 95% through US and others) so the following dismal results are on our plate:  

 

* "The number of people still living in grim encampments of quake survivors is now at 170,000" and while "The US promised to build 15,000 permanent homes but completed only 2,649 of them before ending its housing construction program, deciding instead to extend financing to Haitians directly for them to build their own homes." (I think at least we've tried to let people get in debt and find their own way to house themselves :), like us)

 

* The US is spending $170 million "to attract manufacturing to the new Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti’s North. But the massive investment was to have created 65, 000 jobs but has created fewer than 3,000 jobs, and the project may not have the funds to construct the port needed to export the industrial goods." Further, a US 2013 GAO audit found that there remained a deficit of over $100 million to complete it, with questionable prospects of success. (Not the best Return on Investment)

 

* “If the dismal record of USAID’s most trusted contractor is any indication, these entities are unreliable to say the least. A government audit of Haiti projects performed by USAID’s largest contractor, Chemonics, shows the company routinely failed to implement its aid projects correctly. In 2012, GlobalPost discovered that a $2-million, US-taxpayer funded USAID/Chemonics project constructed a building for Haiti’s parliament that was unfinished and unusable.”

  

As one Haitian professional said, "“There have been aid programs for such a long time here, but when you evaluate it, they don’t have durable impacts… [it] isn’t really helping the people with these problems be released from their problems, it only keeps them stuck in poverty.”

So this is what can happen when we know best. Again and again, with great hubris and waste, we know better than the country's nationals. I have worked in "international development" for 25 years and the title has always irked me. Are international development projects named aptly? Isn't it instead a matter of national development projects supported by international expertise and funding instead?!   

tugofwar

There is good news. USAID recently launched its Forward Progress program, which aims to increase the amount of money it sends directly to local companies and NGOs (Congress permitting). "we have to support the institutions, private sector partners and civil society organizations that serve as engines of growth and progress for their own nations. USAID Forward is helping us to do that through new models for public-private partnerships and increased investment directly to partner governments and local organizations." The jury's still out about tangible results locally, but this sounds hopeful.  

 

A delightful prospect of real country-led development potentially comes from a collaborative international donor-country partnership, CAADP. Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme's (CAADP) goal is to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture by addressing "policy and capacity issues across the entire agricultural sector and African continent. CAADP is entirely African-led and African-owned and represents African leaders' collective vision for agriculture in Africa." Notably, putting their money where their mouths are, "African governments have agreed to increase public investment in agriculture by a minimum of 10 per cent of their national budgets and to raise agricultural productivity by at least 6 per cent."  

 

So how are is CAADP doing after 10 years? The results are mixed. A 2013 IFPRI evaluation found that 

* "Unlike programs that are largely driven by donor priorities, undermining local institutions in the process, CAADP  is a product of the locally-sourced development goals of participating countries. This approach has resulted in a sense of ownership and better development outcomes" [yet] 

* “The countries with the 10 largest agricultural sectors on the continent… have spent less than 5 percent of their total budget"

But while these results are mixed, so too are donor commitments. The 2011 midterm evaluation found that while there were compacts created in 22 countries, and 6 countries have been awarded GASFP funding totaling $270million, another 8 countries across West Africa (plus Ethiopia) received less than 50% of the funds promised to promote agriculture.

So what will it take for the poor to get the help they need from any of us? Do we value their voices? Is our international aid really helping them? You tell me.

 

29 years of listening to participants in Africa, Latin America, the Balkans, Europe and the US. I Value their Voices. Let’s have sustained impact!

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2 Comments

  1. Jindra: As I was reading your post, I could not help but superimpose it on a very similar argument in this country about Welfare Programs and the role of the federal government. The point you are making is uncomfortably like that of the conservative factions in this country who want to bring aid programs down to the local level (State) or to faith-based organizations.

    Just an observation.

    • Stuart – fascinating perspective! I wonder how much our programs are designed by the folks we think we’re serving… Hmmmm. I think I wouldn’t be bothered as much if these were designed by their country’s policy makers for their own people, as I am strangers who aren’t going to live with these projects doing it for poor communities worldwide.  

      Imagine Guatemala’s policy makers creating welfare programs for Detroit, hey it might work! :). Thanks for joining the conversation!

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