Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 12:18 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 12:18 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Aid and the technocrats

This post is part of the Promoting foreign aid debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

9 August 2010 08:36

This post is part of the Promoting foreign aid debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

Chris Roche from Oxfam Australia writes:

I think Danielle Cave raises a number of important points, particularly regarding the critical need to get the Australian public involved in the debate.

A recent review of the Paris Declaration noted that there is a real danger of the aid effectiveness debate becoming limited to the domain of aid technocrats. They suggest that if there is not broader dialogue involving parliamentarians and citizens then support for aid can be subject to political reversals, or other more high profile issues.

I think, for that reason, Danielle is correct in arguing for the government investing in greater public awareness on this issue. However, I also think we need to be starting to explore the potential for greater citizen-to-citizen dialogue and exchange.

Arguably, shortening the accountability chain between the 'taxpayer' and those people that aid seeks to ultimately benefit might put all sorts of interesting new pressures on the system, as well as promote a more honest dialogue. We already know that when citizens can hold service provider to account more directly, through social accountability processes, this makes a real difference.

Potentially, the growing use of social accountability mechanisms combined with the imaginative use of social networking tools, and the generation of peer-to-peer communications could play a transformative role in developing a new future for aid. Not least because this approach offers the potential to build more effective linkages between civil society organisations and community groups in both 'donor' and 'recipient' countries. 

There are an increasing number of examples, such as the work of Global Voices Online, Witness, and Ushahidi which illustrate the possibilities of providing groups and communities with the ability to tell and communicate their stories, provide feedback on elections, publish evidence of human rights abuses, empower female activists, debate how they might act as part of a diaspora, or monitor the performance of  governments and aid agencies, through participatory processes and on public forums such as the web.

This, in some contexts, can provide men and women who are often the 'objects' of development with the ability to become its subjects and to publicly sanction poor behaviour and performance of aid organisations and their governments. Their story needs to become more prominent in these debates.