Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? The Practical Limits to International Development Cooperation

Laurence Chandy and
Laurence Chandy Former Brookings Expert, Director of Data, Research and Policy - UNICEF
Homi Kharas

July 20, 2011


This paper seeks to explain the factors that inhibit greater collaboration between Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donors and non-DAC donors, arguing that the problem is less about divergent values than about incentives that derive from the politics of today’s aid system and architecture, and from different development experiences. It argues that even among like-minded DAC members, progress on aid coordination and cooperation has been disappointing. This augurs badly for advocates of a more harmonious aid system encompassing a broader group of development partners.

On this basis, the aid community would be better off defining differential and flexible standards, which permit DAC and non-DAC donors to adhere to those elements most applicable to them. We identify two areas where more collaboration may be feasible. The first is for partner countries to push for greater transparency among donors, which would allow for greater coordination at the recipient country level. The second is to formalise and build on existing triangular cooperation initiatives, which would test the potential for inter-agency trust and learning. Although these areas are narrow, they are concrete ways of taking the first steps towards broader donor collaboration.

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