Struggles in Paris: The DAC and the Purposes of Development Aid

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Struggles in Paris: The DAC and the Purposes of Development Aid
     A   U   T   H  O   R   C  O   P   Y Original ArticleStruggles in Paris: The DAC and the Purposes of Development Aid Rosalind Eyben University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.E-mail: Abstract  This article historicises the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and DevelopmentDevelopment Assistance Committee (DAC) as a site where the meanings of development and thepurposes of aid were contested and where gradually a more diverse set of actors were invited toengage in the argument. The author’s ethnographic approach examines the micro-level processes of ideological struggle in a ‘closed space’ that transformed into an ‘invited’ one. During this trans-formation, rights-based approaches to development rose and fell within a changing global landscapewherein the DAC seeks to sustain a foothold. The article concludes by considering the future of debates about development within the post-Busan Global Partnership in which the DAC is only oneof many stakeholders.Dans une perspective historique, cet article envisage le Comite ´ d’aide au de ´veloppement (CAD) del’OCDE comme un espace ou` les de´finitions du de´veloppement et les objectifs de l’aide ont e´te´conteste ´s et ou` un ensemble plus diversifie ´ d’acteurs ont progressivement e ´te ´ invite ´s a ` prendre part aude ´bat. S’inscrivant dans une approche ethnographique, l’auteur examine les microprocessus de lutteide ´ologique dans un  )  espace clos  *  qui s’est transforme ´ en un  )  espace d’invitation  * , transformationau cours de laquelle les approches du de ´veloppement fonde ´es sur les droits de l’homme ont progresse ´puis recule ´ dans un contexte global en mutation au sein duquel le CAD cherche a ` renforcer saposition. L’article conclut en s’interrogeant sur l’avenir des de ´bats concernant le de ´veloppement dansle cadre du Partenariat mondial de Busan, ou` le DAC n’est qu’une partie prenante parmi biend’autres European Journal of Development Research  (2013)  25,  78–91. doi:10.1057/ejdr.2012.49;published online 29 November 2012 Keywords:  Development; OECD; knowledge; policies; aid Introduction The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) comprises countries in the Organisationfor Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) providing Official DevelopmentAssistance (ODA). In 2011, the DAC celebrated its 50th anniversary as ‘a unique inter-national forum where donor governments and multilateral organisations y come togetherto help partner countries reduce poverty and achieve the Millennium DevelopmentGoals’. 1 Through the work of its subsidiary bodies, the DAC has sought to influence itsmembers’ policies and practices in relation to developing countries. The debates in theDAC have both contributed to and mirrored the fractures and contradictions in the widerworld of international development, a world that is today rapidly changing as part of atransforming global political economy. DAC members are losing their pre-eminent statusin defining development and how to achieve it. By the middle of the last decade, recipientcountries were looking beyond the DAC for ideas and policy models (Zimmerman andSmith, 2011). The rising powers – China, Brazil, India and others – are increasingly r 2012 European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 0957-8811 European Journal of Development Research  Vol. 25, 1, 78–     A   U   T   H  O   R   C  O   P   Y important development cooperation actors, influential in shaping international develop-ment policies at a time when economic crisis has led to many long-standing donors cuttingtheir aid budgets and taking less interest in development.These changes were reflected at the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, thelast of four such events organised by the DAC from 2003 to 2011. At Busan, ‘partnership’,hitherto a euphemism for bilateral aid relations of inequality and dependence, was dis-cursively transformed into a horizontal and complex set of relations wherein the languageof ‘aid’ and of ‘aid effectiveness’ was replaced by ‘development effectiveness’, a termsubject to so many possible interpretations that everyone could agree to the term, if not – as we shall see – to its content. On that basis, a Global Partnership for Effective Devel-opment Cooperation was agreed upon, involving donor and recipient governments, theprivate sector, philanthropic foundations and civil society (Eyben and Savage, 2012).Some months later in June 2012, the DAC’s Working Party on Aid Effectiveness (WP– EFF) met for the last time to confirm the new Partnership’s institutional arrangements.The OECD’s Development Cooperation Department (Development Cooperation Direc-torate (DCD) (the DAC’s secretariat) and the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) are to share the administrative duties. Oversight is the responsibility of a multi-stakeholder steering group (on which the DAC has three out of fifteen seats) presided overby three ministerial co-chairs, only one of whom represents the DAC. It would appearthat the DAC has lost any claims it might have had to leading the coordination of theinstitutional arrangements for development co-operation.Although too early to judge the implications of these changes for its broader influenceon development policy and practice, it is timely to examine the DAC as a historicallyimportant space for constructing and contesting ideas about development. I followLefebvre (1991) in using spatial imagery to understand the DAC as a bounded sociallyconstructed site of face-to-face encounters between differently positioned social actors thatin turn are variously located in other overlapping spaces, as in shifting patterns of over-lapping diagrams. The dynamics of this ‘host of social relationships’ (Lefebvre, 1991,p. 88) was a process through which the DAC recursively influenced the politics of aid andinternational development, including thorough discussions on the meanings of develop-ment and hence the purposes of aid, which is the focus of the present article. I considerhow participants at DAC meetings were subject to the DAC’s spatial tactics of power andcontrol (Low and Lawrence-Zuniga, 2003) within a ‘closed space’. For much of the DAC’slife, many official aid agency staff and consultants – let alone aid recipients – knew littleabout what was happening behind closed doors in Paris. However, in the last decade, theDAC’s ‘closed space’ (Gaventa, 2006) gradually transformed into an ‘invited’ space, andtoday through the Global Partnership the DAC seeks to maintain its legitimacy throughconstructing a separate autonomous space in which it is just one of many stakeholders.Compared with the study of power and knowledge practices in other institutions of theinternational aid system, particularly of the Bretton Woods organisations (for example,Bebbington  et al  , 2004; Toye and Toye, 2005; Broad, 2006; Mosse, 2011), remarkably littlehas been published about the DAC. Masujima (2004) provides an insider’s perspectiveon why the DAC lost ground to the World Bank in framing the governance agenda,and Ruckert (2008) offers a sophisticated analysis of the DAC’s discursive influence inthe evolution of what he refers to as an ‘inclusive neo-liberal world order’. His neo-Gramscian approach usefully emphasises the tensions and contradictions within theDAC. Suggesting that the DAC should be conceived as ‘a social relation, a moment of crystallisation and condensation of antagonistic social forces’ (2008, p. 111), he calls forStruggles in Paris 79 r 2012 European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 0957-8811 European Journal of Development Research  Vol. 25, 1, 78–91     A   U   T   H  O   R   C  O   P   Y a historical approach to better understand the dynamics at work in such internationalorganisations. The present article attempts to do this through a micro-level, actor-or-iented perspective on the dialectic evolution of discourses and values (Suddaby andGreenwood, 2009) within the wider international aid system that the DAC influencedand was influenced by. This focus on the spaces of knowledge practice means that thereis much about the DAC as an institution that is not considered and that merits attentionfrom others.The srcinal empirical data in this article are derived primarily from an anthropologist’sobserving participation (Mosse, 2011) that places the author in the text as a reflexive actor,one who is both a committed participant and a critical observer. As a participant,I identify myself among those that Ruckert (2008) describes as trying to get social in-clusion on the agenda. My analysis in that respect is based on long acquaintance with theDAC since 1987, when I represented the UK aid ministry in meetings of what was thencalled the Expert Group on Women in Development (now known as GENDERNET). Ialso participated occasionally in meetings of other Expert Groups. Thereafter, my interestsin power and relations in international aid led me to accept invitations to DAC meetingsand conferences, as well as occasional consultancy assignments. I interviewed OECD staff in 2007 and 2008 for research projects; findings from these interviews, as well as from morerecent ones in relation to Busan, are also included.The present article makes no claims to being comprehensive. My knowledge as areflexive practitioner comes primarily from some of the thematic expert groups and of WP–EFF. Moreover, my epistemological approach considers that any account of socialrelations is shaped by positionality and thus is unavoidably subject to selection andinterpretation. 2 I hope my analysis will stimulate other perspectives of the history, prac-tices and ideological dynamics of the DAC as a site for defining and contesting thepurposes of development aid.The article’s two interconnected threads are the DAC’s role in shaping the purposes of aid, and how gradually its conversations about these purposes became more inclusive. TheDAC’s srcins and ways of working set the context for an analysis of the thematic workinggroups or networks as sites of struggle for counter-hegemonic interests. Next, how andwhy the DAC opened up and the causes, challenges and consequences of its efforts tobecome a more inclusive and participatory space are explored through an analysis of debates about development effectiveness. The Donors’ Club The DAC, as a constituent part of the OECD, seeks to influence how the world thinks andacts by identifying and finding good practice solutions to problems; these become stan-dards against which member states’ actions are scrutinised through peer review (Mahonand McBride, 2009). The colloquial sobriquet of ‘the donors’ club’ 3 describes the first40 years of the DAC’s history, when the struggles about how the world should think tookplace behind closed doors. The attention accorded to these by the bilateral agencies’ headoffices depended on the subject under discussion, on the political stance of the adminis-tration in power and, perhaps most importantly, on the internal politics within headoffices. This was the case at least in relation to the thematic expert groups, whose historyof discursive contestation is relevant for understanding contemporary struggles over thedevelopment effectiveness discourse.Eyben 80  r 2012 European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 0957-8811 European Journal of Development Research  Vol. 25, 1, 78–91     A   U   T   H  O   R   C  O   P   Y Origins and Process The DAC started in 1960 in Paris as the Development Assistance Group (DAG), whosepurpose was to increase the resources for aid to the least developed countries and ‘toimprove their effectiveness’ (Fuhrer, 1994, p. 14). It was serviced by a small secretariat thatwas to become the DCD. The US Government seconded and covered the costs of a full-time chairman – a tradition that remained unbroken until 1999 when the chairman wasprovided by France, and since then by Britain and Germany, before reverting to theUnited States with the current post holder. In 1961, the DAG became the DAC when itwas incorporated into the OECD, founded in 1961 as a successor to the Organisation forEuropean Economic Co-operation – usually referred to as the Marshall Plan 4  – con-stituted after World War II for European recipients of US foreign aid and designed tocreate a post-war new triangular economic order: the United States would export itsproducts to a Europe grown prosperous through foreign aid, and Europe would providethe United States access to the raw materials from its colonies (Wood, 1986). ‘Thirty fiveyears later, one can still trace the basic elements of the aid regime to the complex srcinsand history of the Marshall Plan’ (Wood, 1986, p. 31).Not everyone welcomed the DAC. The UN Secretary General Hammarskjold protestedagainst such a focal point for international development policy that would be led by theUnited States and other Western powers and independent of the United Nations (Jones,2011). Its creation at the beginning of the UN Development Decade coincided with thefounding in the same year of the German and French development cooperation Ministries,USAID, Sida, the Japanese OECF (for soft credit) and the external-aid office of Canadathat later became CIDA (Fuhrer, 1994). OECD member states saw the DAC as a usefulforum for the burgeoning number of bilateral aid donors. The DAC, starting with11 members, has grown to 24, joined most recently (in 2010) by South Korea. UNDP, theWorld Bank and the International Monetary Fund are official observers. Every year,the DAC has one high-level meeting involving Ministers of Development from memberstates and one senior-level meeting of directors-general or their equivalents. In 2011, thesenior-level meeting was attended for the first time by representatives of some non-OECDdonors, namely, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia and South Africa. Other regular meetingsof the DAC involve the work of its subsidiary bodies, discussed later.The DCD – often referred to as ‘the Secretariat’ – does not have ‘field offices’; staff’sdevelopment knowledge comes either from previous experience as bilateral aid officials orfrom what they hear discussed at DAC meetings and conferences, as well as possibly fromoccasional trips to recipient countries to participate in a DAC peer review or workshop.The old hands place value on being ‘process experts’ whose task is to secure consensusamong DAC members. Secondees may feel that their possibly deeper knowledge of development is disregarded. One of them told the author how her field experienceapparently counted for nothing with the old hands – for whom, she alleged, ‘consensus’involved in practice supporting the most conservative position among the member states.Governments commonly second staff to influence a multilateral organisation’s policies orknowledge base; but whereas in the World Bank or UNDP, for example, there are explicitpolicies and knowledge to influence, the DCD is more challenging because its official lineis that it serves its members and does not itself do any thinking.Although the OECD – especially the DAC – was largely a creation of the United States,its location in Paris has influenced how business is done. The OECD’s main site is theChateau de la Muette. Once the residence of Baron Rothschild, during the occupationStruggles in Paris 81 r 2012 European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 0957-8811 European Journal of Development Research  Vol. 25, 1, 78–91     A   U   T   H  O   R   C  O   P   Y of Paris it became the German army headquarters, and with the liberation US armyheadquarters and thereafter the offices of the Marshall Plan. The Chateau and the mannerof doing business therein can be viewed as a spatial tactic of the OECD for socialisingmember state delegates. DAC meetings could be alien and daunting for people postedto head office after years in ‘the field’. The Chateau’s splendid panelled rooms areintimidating arrangements of great tables organised in a hollow square, around which thedelegates sit behind their countries’ name plates. As put to me in an e-mail from a bilateralaid agency, ‘its combination [of] hierarchical structure and flash meeting rooms/set-out of tables and desks was reminiscent of yesterday’s male board rooms’. It was challenging,my correspondent added, to talk about ‘poverty, gender, power and rights’ in such anenvironment. Sites of Struggle: The DAC Thematic Network Most of the DAC’s work is conducted through subsidiary bodies – working groups or net-works. Delegates from member states and from multilateral organisations with observerstatus meet once or twice a year in a formal plenary to discuss the implementation of theirbiennial work plans that have previously been approved by the Senior-Level Meeting. Inaddition to the long-established evaluation network and the working group on statistics,there are thematic networks on different policy areas that agree on principles andguidelines for DAC members’ practice. 5 Contributing to such guidelines through active participation in the DAC’s thematicwork attracted the smaller member states, whose voice in other international developmentspaces – such as the World Bank Board where they had to share an Executive Directorship – risked not being heard. The dominance of the Washington Consensus in the 1980s andmuch of the 1990s among most of the larger DAC members (Zimmerman and Smith,2011) meant that the DAC was also a useful space for bilateral agency staff antagonistic tothe Consensus. They sought to construct DAC guidance that they could then use toinfluence their own organisations, including by using them as basis for discreetly briefingtheir counterparts in the two bilateral agencies undertaking the biannual peer-reviewprocess that uses DAC’s principles and guidance for judging performance. Even if theirsuperiors back home were largely dismissive of the DAC’s thematic work, in a policyworld dominated by economists (neo-liberal or otherwise) non-economists such as an-thropologists and human rights lawyers, appointed in response to concerns from domesticconstituencies, found in the DAC thematic groups solidarity- and morale-building spaces.Not everyone who participated had a radical agenda. In the 1980s, the British presenceat GENDERNET meetings was a gesture to the domestic lobby rather than an initiativefor gender equality. The radicals in the group were initially hostile when I became the UKdelegate to the network. The United Kingdom was perceived as a blocker, as was theSecretariat (dominated by the long-time Director, Helmut Fuhrer), which resisted theradicals’ struggles to strengthen the DAC’s position on gender equality. The breakthrough came when the USAID representative, a Republican political appointee andardent feminist, assumed the Chair of GENDERNET and enlisted the support of the USChair of the DAC to secure approval for the 1989 Guiding Principles on Women inDevelopment.Once the environment, gender equality and (later) human rights became legitimatesubjects for expert groups, the Secretariat tried to control their disruptive potential byframing them as ‘cross-cutting issues’ to be addressed in donor policies, rather than seenEyben 82  r 2012 European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 0957-8811 European Journal of Development Research  Vol. 25, 1, 78–91
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