A little less conversation … a little more action please

Nancy Birdsall and Kate Vyborny at the Center for Global Development suggest six concrete steps for the Accra meeting on aid effectiveness:

  • Untie all aid, including technical assistance, and publish information on which providers get contracts in practice.
  • Tell recipients what donors are spending through a concrete set of standards for transparency.
  • Make all evaluations public, regardless of their results, by entering them into a prospective registry.
  • Pay for outcomes not inputs, by piloting a Cash on Delivery aid contract with interested recipients.
  • Let recipients use technical assistance to buy what they need by piloting with interested recipient(s) an arrangement giving recipients full flexibility in what consulting and training to buy, and financing a platform for recipients to give and see each other’s feedback on the services offered by multiple providers.
  • Give recipients ironclad predictability of the future aid flows to which they commit by allowing recipients to arrange with an intermediary to receive a guaranteed cash flow, and sign over the donor’s actual flows over some agreed period to the intermediary.

I like these suggestions partly because they are each sensible in themselves. But the main reason I like them is that too much of the discussion about Accra has focused on rather narrow and technocratic measures to address particular items in the Paris Declaration. These ideas from CGD are more far-reaching: proposals such as greater aid transparency (which is what I spend most of my time working on) or on paying for outcomes (instead of micromanaging how money is spent) are ways to change the whole nature of the relationship between donor and recipient in the way that Paris envisages.

My only complaint is that they should have called the paper “a little less conversation”. After all, as Elvis said:

A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark
Close your mouth and open up your heart and baby satisfy me
Satisfy me baby

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