The Financial Times ran an interview with Tony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF on 19th May: How Aid Got Smarter. Three cheers for three good comments:
“Often aid does work, he says. More children are getting vaccines and clean water. Aids, malaria and measles are finally in retreat. Life expectancy is soaring. But, he adds, “Of course aid often fails.” Then the question becomes: which aid works?”
First hurrah! Not all aid works; so we should measure & manage performance better. I’d just extend the question to: which aid works in which circumstances? We know blueprint approaches don’t work. So we need to consider local politics, causality and the view from the bottom up. More focus on management and participation, less on randomised control trials.
“All those who work in the international community on development tend to overstate the impact of what we’re doing. What’s far more important is the performance of governments.”
Hurrah again! Get this straight, and we can focus on measuring the right thing, which is: how much value are we adding – not did we solve all the problems of poverty.
Finally: “You won’t see those dead or dying children in Unicef’s campaigns.” And that gets my third cheer. Let’s hope it stays true, unlike Save the Children’s shocking new poster campaign in the UK.
It’s great to see more open debate about improving how aid agencies measure and report their performance.