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Category Archives: Accountability and transparency

Best and Worst of Official Aid 2011- new release

By Claudia Williamson, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Development Research Institute Rhetoric on “aid effectiveness” keeps escalating, is there anything to show for it? The past (almost) two years, Bill and I have been collecting data, combing through that data, and refining the numbers to ‘grade’ aid agencies and assess overall trends in aid practices. We waited until[…..]

Also posted in Academic research | 21 Comments

All Cups, No Tea

Another humanitarian hero has tumbled off his pedestal.

It remains to be seen whether Greg Mortenson, author of the best-selling “Three Cups of Tea,” will be able to avert a total reputation meltdown. But last Sunday’s 60 Minutes broadcast and a thorough exposé by Jon Krakauer provide convincing evidence for some serious allegations…

Also posted in Aid policies and approaches, In the news | Tagged , , , | 32 Comments

World Vision Super Bowl Shirts: the Final Chapter

Remember back in February when World Vision’s proud announcement that they were sending abroad 100,000 Super Bowl champion T-shirts emblazoned with the name of the losing team, as they have for the last 15 years, provoked aid blogger ire? We’ve been following the controversy—and occasionally piling on joining in—and here’s the latest. In an email[…..]

Also posted in Aid debates, Aid policies and approaches | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

State Department accountable through glossy photos

by Chris Coyne, F.A. Harper Professor of Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University Investors in the Kwality Kites Corporation gather to listen to the CEO’s ‘year in review’ presentation. “In 2010,” begins the CEO, “we coordinated plans to deliver kites while supporting sustainable operations” An investor raises her hand: “Can you tell[…..]


Why development history matters for the Millennium Villages Project

by Ed Carr, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of South Carolina A growing volume of critical writing on the Millennium Villages project (MVP) includes blog posts, journalistic pieces, scholarly works, and, recently, one partial social impact study. Nearly all point to project outcomes that could have been avoided had the project seriously[…..]

Also posted in Aid policies and approaches | Tagged | 12 Comments

Eternal sunshine of the useless charts

After all the blogging we’ve done on how hard it is to find complete and accurate information (as opposed to “success stories”) on USAID’s website, I think we’d be remiss not to mention a new US government site launched just before the holidays. The Foreign Assistance Dashboard is the first version of a site that[…..]

Also posted in Data and statistics | 12 Comments

A rare glimpse at censorship in action in real time on the Net

I was really pleased recently to get a link to a blog, which from the link description strongly agreed with me on my controversial Lennon vs. Bono piece in the Washington Post, also featured on Aid Watch. I mean really pleased — my roster of supporters just doubled! I dropped the neighbor’s baby that I[…..]


How should journalists cover aid?

Nick Kristof has one answer: Focus on the individuals in the story, leaving the aid bureaucracies just outside the frame. Make readers care about places and people they will probably never see by bringing them stories of hope and inspiration: the American woman who leaves behind her family to help rape survivors in the Congo; the orphan boy in Zimbabwe who dreams of and gets a bicycle.

Philip Gourevitch, writing in the New Yorker this week, has another:

…Surely at least we who work in journalism can do a public service by treating humanitarianism the same way we treat other powerful public interests that shape our world…Why should our coverage of them look so much like their own self-representation in fund-raising appeals? Why should we (as many photojournalists and print reporters do) work for humanitarian agencies between journalism jobs, helping them with their official reports and institutional appeals, in a way that we would never consider doing for corporations, political parties, or government agencies? Why should we not regard them as interested parties in the public realms in which they operate, as giant bureaucracies, as public trusts, with long records of getting it wrong with catastrophic consequences, as well as getting it right?

…[H]umanitarianism is an industry. So we should examine it and hold it to account as such. To treat humanitarian or human-rights organizations with automatic deference, as if they were disinterested higher authorities rather than activists and lobbyists with political and institutional interests and biases, and with uneven histories of reliability or success, is to do ourselves, and them, a disservice. That does not mean—as the many books I reviewed, and many more still, make clear—taking a hostile stance toward N.G.O.s. It simply means not accepting their hostility to critical scrutiny. It means not letting them claim to do our work for us. It means insisting on asking the questions for which they may have no good answers.

Also posted in In the news | 14 Comments

Can we get the World Bank to say the D- word?

UPDATE 10/12 1PM: we have a winner! (see end of post) UPDATE: No winnners yet, see end of post. Following last Friday’s post on the New Yorker profile of Justin Lin, I had this email exchange with the World Bank media officer David Theis, who kindly responded promptly to my inquiries. Original Inquiry Fri, Oct 8,[…..]

Also posted in Democracy and freedom, Organizational behavior | 23 Comments

TransparencyGate: the end of the road

by Till Bruckner, PhD candidate at the University of Bristol and former Transparency International Georgia aid monitoring coordinator. Sixteen months after I first filed a Freedom of Information Act request with USAID for the budgets of American-financed NGO projects in Georgia, I have reached the end of the road. Rejecting my appeal, USAID has confirmed that[…..]

Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments
  • About Aid Watch

    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

    "Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking." - H.L. Mencken

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