BANGKOK - Emma Wakpi has presented an excellent summary of factors underpinning the success or otherwise of development aid. So, is this the recipe for success? And what might it mean in practice?
A question for practitioners on both sides of the donor-recipient equation is who gets to decide development priorities and strategies? And possibly more importantly, who gets to own the outcomes? The intended recipients - or someone else?
No one would challenge the notion that it is recipient governments that decides its priorities. But I would argue that, even under the most auspicious circumstances, these priorities generally translate into precious little sustainable benefit for people at community level.
If we are concerned about alleviating poverty, creating economic opportunity, addressing health or education indicators we are invariably talking about people who live in rural or peri-urban communities.
In my view the real test of a development assistance model is to deliver the enablers both from the perspective of these communities and which benefit them and their children sufficiently to own the outcomes and sustain the activities.
Much too often aid is owned by someone sitting in an office far removed from its intended actions. Whether that person is a citizen of the recipient country or not, the program will invariably fail its objective.
And too often the objective is narrow and the delivery deeply embedded in a top-down methodology when, at the bare minimum, a robust bottom-up component is required.
There is a place for central agency-driven interventions but in Papua New Guinea I would argue there is a significant role for more holistic community focussed and owned interventions.
These are usually unglamorous, hard work, focussed on the long term, not bankable and rarely the stuff of headlines.
However appropriately designed community owned and driven initiatives across health, education, access to energy, clean water and small enterprise are enablers to sustainable improvements in wellness, empowerment of both sexes and greater ongoing economic opportunity.
Such initiatives don’t happen in a vacuum. They need support from funders with a sense of vision about how recent and emerging technologies might be applied, how existing resources might value add without disenfranchising people or despoiling the environment and how social enterprise coupled with mobile money might have a valuable a role to play alongside established services.
With reference to the excellent advice offered by Emma, if any development partners are looking to refocus their assistance I would recommend they take a serious look at community driven, multi-sectoral models that empower people, address indicators, create opportunity and in so doing support the national development goals.