2008: Volume 39
Aid effectiveness has long been disputed, after decades of inconclusive macroeconomic analysis. Now there is a growing body of evidence from detailed, field level, microeconomic impact evaluations.
The articles in this IDS Bulletin show how the design of these studies increasingly address the various sources of bias for which previous projects were criticised. These later evaluations provide a firm basis on which to draw conclusions on aid effectiveness. Generalisations – bearing in mind specific contexts in which interventions have or have not worked – will come from further evaluations. This volume presents examples of these studies from a number of agencies: AFD, ADB, IDB, JBIC, the Netherlands Ministry for Foreign Affairs, USAID and the World Bank.
Challenges – such as enlarging study scale and technical skill, and resistance to new techniques – remain. While the situation is changing, deliberate action is required, specifically greater understanding of the scope and limitations of quantitative impact evaluation. Greater use of well-designed, theory-based, rigorous impact evaluations will enhance the likelihood of achieving international poverty reduction targets.
Impact evaluation design should ensure policy relevance and be able to answer not only what works but why, or why not. Qualitative fieldwork can lead to further quantitative analysis, resulting in clear and focused policy conclusions. While impact evaluations can be perceived as more expensive, within tight budgets the money must be best spent to ensure most effective learning and accountability. Local stakeholder involvement is another ingredient for the desired aim of policy impact.
2007: Volume 38
This IDS Bulletin focuses on the role of civil society actors in the design of sectoral reforms and the possibilities of social accountability resulting from this role. In addition to large institutional reforms in social assistance and health, the articles cover education reform in India as well. They are compiled from the first year fieldwork findings of the study called 'Modes of Service Delivery, Collective Action and Social Accountability in Brazil, India, and Mexico'.
Begun in 2005, the study assesses whether sector-wide reforms of public services, involving forms of decentralisation, pluralisation of service providers, or user/citizen participation, could enable greater accountability from below. 'Critical cases' focus on the large urban centres of countries where reforms have been extensive and varied: São Paulo, Delhi and Mexico City. They have relatively more active civil societies, a substantial history of service delivery by public agencies, and are focal points for public policy. Here national reforms can be expected to lead to changes in the pattern of state-society interactions. Political processes can increase social accountability, and expand and improve coverage of public services for those in poverty, acknowledging the severe constraints that exist on the agency of poor individuals.
Potential tension between different governance roles defines an important research frontier as knowledge of social accountability advances. These contributions are a first at developing a more nuanced and empirically grounded understanding of the mutually reinforcing or exclusive nature of these civil society governance roles, and of the new governance institutions that attempt to combine these roles in innovative but possibly contradictory ways.
Science and technology need society. But does society need science and technology? This is one of the questions posed in this issue of the IDS Bulletin, which brings together insights from Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Development Studies (DS).
Research proposals and technological planning have little chance of success without anticipating their effects on society. They gain wider acceptance by engaging citizens in debates on potentially controversial developments such as nanotechnology. This acceptance may be guided by norms or ethical principles, or may also be commercially viable.
The participatory agenda for science and technology is pushed by global supra-national networks, with programmes across all continents. So how does participation relate to science and technology? What are the power relations between scientists, policymakers and members of the public? What types of scientific and technological decisions can be influenced through participation?
Science and technology is everywhere and taken for granted in our daily lives - drinking water from a tap, buying food from a supermarket - and are implicit in development assumptions about modernisation and economic growth. Nonetheless, this is a changing world where questions of risk, safety and innovation are paramount. Scientific expertise can no longer rely on its assumed inherent authority.
News headlines broadcast controversies about how people mobilise around topics like climate change or GMO crops. Innovative new measures - such as consensus conferences, citizens' juries and community-based environmental audits - have been adopted to encourage public participation, and now frequently characterise science and policy processes both North and South.
Much of Asia, and especially East Asia, is growing at an impressive rate, though less than before the East Asian crisis. This allows for a very significant reduction in poverty. Continued high growth in this area is crucial as it has a large proportion of the world's poor.
Dynamism and growth in Asia is important for growth in the rest of the world, and for meeting the MDGs. A financial crisis could undermine this progress - the financial and development costs from the 1997/8 East Asian crisis were massive.
Over the last 25 years currency and banking crises have reduced incomes of developing countries by around 25 per cent, emphasising the importance of minimising the risk of crises occurring as much as possible. Sustaining high rates of growth is the challenge for East Asian policymakers. East and South-east Asian countries are increasingly dependent on exports; adjustment of global imbalances leading to a global economic slowdown could hit these countries hard.
Also the low-income countries analysed here have a narrow export base (though very dynamic), which make them even more vulnerable. Several articles in this IDS Bulletin highlight a shift in the banking system. If in the past it was good for supporting growth but weak for risk management, since the crisis it has moved towards better risk management but also towards weaker support for corporate activity. Credit is shifting from producers to consumers and the mortgage sector (following a worldwide trend in bank lending). Of concern is whether these trends could undermine the high growth of East Asia.
The rapid rise of social protection up the development policy agenda has been startling: it can achieve bigger development objectives, such as economic growth and the MDGs. Its predecessor 'social safety nets' was disparaged and attacked during the 1990s, and was then reborn as 'social protection' at the turn of the millennium.
The new agenda comes with a fresh array of conceptual frameworks, analytical tools, empirical evidence, national policy processes, heavyweight agencies and big names in development studies behind it. It is amenable to the 'right' and 'left', and prioritises moving people productive livelihoods. Advocates for social protection fall into two broad camps - the 'instrumentalists' and the 'activists'.
For instrumentalists social protection is about putting in place risk management mechanisms that will compensate for incomplete insurance (and other) markets, until poverty reduction and market deepening allow private insurance to play a more prominent role. Activists view the persistence of extreme poverty, inequality and vulnerability as symptoms of social injustice and structural inequity, and campaign for social protection as an inviolable right of citizenship.
These issues are debated in this IDS Bulletin. Commentators were encouraged to be provocative and pithy - and the protagonists are given a 'right to reply' to their critics. Some stirring encounters result. This overview highlights how rapidly thinking and practice have moved forward in a few short years, but it has also revealed that a range of conceptual, empirical and policy issues remain unresolved.