Why donor coordination is so difficult

Donors don’t fail to coordinate out of stupidity or greed. Donors fail to coordinate because coordination is really hard.

First of all, donors give for a lot of reasons. Certainly they want to support international development, but they have secondary needs. Domestic constituencies need to support foreign aid, or the money to support it vanishes. A nation may have strategic goals in a particular country or region, and it may have laws governing what kind of aid it can provide. All of these factors mean that nations end up making their foreign assistance plans alone.

When the time comes for donors to coordinate, they can’t just make their plans together. Instead, they’re forced to take existing plans and somehow make their plans fit together. There is very little room to modify or change what’s been developed. More often than not, donors do one of two things. They claim regions of a country, one per donor, or they just make a big list of who’s doing what and where, and call that list coordination.

Everyone involved is making a good faith effort to do foreign aid better, but the institutional roadblocks are hard to overcome.

A lot of people have asked me to write about Accra. I’m not going to – that kind of high-level stuff is not my specialty, and there is an awful lot of good writing out there already. (CGD, whom you know I adore, has a good summary here.)

(photo credit Don Nunn)