Does Foreign Aid Really Work?

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Foreign aid is now a $100bn business and is expanding more rapidly today than it has for a generation. But does it work? Indeed, is it needed at all?

Other attempts to answer these important questions have been dominated by a focus on the impact of official aid provided by governments. But today possibly as much as 30 percent of aid is provided by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and over 10 percent is provided as emergency assistance.

In this first-ever attempt to provide an overall assessment of aid, Roger Riddell presents a rigorous but highly readable account of aid, warts and all. oes Foreign Aid Really Work? sets out the evidence and exposes the instances where aid has failed and explains why. The book also examines the way that politics distorts aid, and disentangles the moral and ethical assumptions that lie behind the belief that aid does good. The book concludes by detailing the practical ways that aid needs to change if it is to be the effective force for good that its providers claim it is.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Roger Riddell's text provides the single best introduction to the history and range of contemporary debates associated with foreign aid, including the rise of international NGOs as major actors and the centrality of domestic politics to shaping aid practice."--Foreign Affairs

"An excellent and significant book"--Alex De Waal, Times Literary Supplement

"Essential reading for anyone interested in the subject of aid and wishing to be informed about the issues involved."--Times Higher Education Supplement

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199544462
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/15/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 536
  • Sales rank: 703,840
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Roger Riddell is a Non-Executive Director of Oxford Policy Management and a Principle of The Policy Practice. He was Chair of the first Presidential Economic Commission of Independent Zimbabwe in 1980, and Chief Economist of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries from 1981-83. From 1984 to 1998, he was a senior Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, London and for five years to 2004 was International Director of Christian Aid.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures     xi
List of Tables     xii
List of Boxes     xiii
Preface     xv
List of Abbreviations     xxi
'A good thing?'     1
The aid revival     2
A different book on aid     4
Outline of the book     9
The Complex Worlds of Foreign Aid     15
The origins and early decades of aid-giving     17
Defining aid     17
A snapshot of the history of aid     21
The origins of aid: the pre-1949 era     24
The 1950s to the 1960s     26
Aid-giving from the 1970s to the present     31
The 1970s and 1980s     31
From the 1990s to today     38
The growing web of bilateral aid donors     51
The ever-increasing number of donors     51
The explosion in the numbers of non-governmental organizations     53
The main bilateral donors     55
The smaller bilateral donors     69
The complexities of multilateral aid     77
What is multilateral aid and how much of it is there?     77
The international financial institutions     81
The United Nations, development and aid     82
Other multilateral agencies     85
Systemic issues     86
Why is Aid Given?     89
The political and commercial dimensions of aid     91
Why governments give aid     91
Politics and national self-interest in aid-giving     94
Commercial interests in aid-giving     98
The overall impact of political and commercial influences on aid     101
Concluding comments     105
Public support for aid     107
Trends in public support     107
The reliability of public opinion surveys     113
Public support for aid and public perception of its effectiveness     114
Charity or duty? The moral case for aid     119
Facts on the ground     120
Ethical theories and approaches     129
The moral case for governments and individuals to provide aid     139
Donor governments: current and evolving views     139
Aid and the nature of governments' moral obligations     142
Ethics, voluntary aid-giving and the world of NGOs     154
Does Aid Really Work?     163
Assessing and measuring the impact of aid     165
Methodological challenges and data-gaps     166
Judging the impact and performance of aid: what questions need to be asked?     170
Understanding how aid contributes to growth and development     173
Expectations about the impact of aid     175
The impact of official development aid projects     179
Project aid: an overview     180
Detailed project performance     183
Data quality and the sustainability of official aid projects     186
The wider picture     187
Summing up     192
The impact of programme aid, technical assistance and aid for capacity development     195
Programme aid     195
Technical assistance     202
Aid for capacity building     207
The impact of aid at the country and cross-country level     213
The country-level impact of aid     213
The impact of official development aid across countries     222
Assessing the impact of aid conditionality     231
Aggregate aid impact and the policy environment     231
Official donor conditionality and recipient response     235
Does policy conditionality produce the results intended?     241
Summing up     251
Does official development aid really work? A summing up     253
The search for sustainability     253
Effectiveness does matter     256
NGOs in development and the impact of discrete NGO development interventions     259
NGOs: an overview     259
Methodological challenges     265
The impact of NGO development projects and programmes     269
Cost-effectiveness, quality, innovation and replication     276
Capacity development and institutional strengthening     282
The wider impact of non-governmental and civil society organizations     287
NGO advocacy, lobbying, awareness-raising and campaigning     288
Strengthening NGOs and strengthening civil society     301
The contribution of NGOs to development: a summing up     306
The growth of emergencies and the humanitarian response     311
Emergencies and disasters: an overview     311
The humanitarian aid response     315
The impact of emergency and humanitarian aid     325
Assessing humanitarian aid     325
The impact of humanitarian action and humanitarian aid     336
Advocacy in humanitarian action     349
Emergency and humanitarian aid: a summing up     352
Towards a Different Future for Aid     355
Why aid isn't working      357
Systematic impediments to aid effectiveness: problems caused by donors     358
Problems at the recipient end: aid dilemmas     369
Conclusion     379
Making aid work better by implementing agreed reforms     381
The discrete individual-donor approach     382
The step-change international cooperative approach     383
Taking stock     385
Making aid work better by recasting aid relationships     389
Confronting the politics of aid-giving     390
Recasting aid relationships     391
Making aid work better: addressing five key problem areas     398
Bridging the divide between ideas and implementation     411
Notes     415
References     457
Index     489
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