Which donors give aid well and which need to improve? These (and many more specific) questions are addressed in a new report issued by the Center for Global Development and the Brookings Institution's Global Economy and Development Program. The report is authored by Nancy Birdsall and Homi Kharas and is designed to be updated and published annually. For data nerds there is plenty to get excited about. For starters they use information from the AidData database in order to construct many of their aid quality indicators!
More importantly, the report is packed with interesting descriptive and comparative statistics on donor agencies, which will have researchers and practitioners debating data, methods, and indicator weightings for a long time. Unlike some previous efforts to rank donor effectiveness, the authors are explicit about their assumptions and remarkably transparent about their methods, data, and justifications for the decisions they have made. As a result, they have opened themselves up to criticism, but have dramatically increased the probability that we will actually learn something about development. As important, their own transparency makes it more likely that the authors will improve upon their methods and data in future iterations of this project. KUDOS.
The report ranks both donors and donor agencies in terms of four broad categories -- Maximizing Efficiency; Fostering Institutions; Reducing Burden; and (my favorite) Transparency and Learning. These broad categories are broken down into 30 different specific indicators and the authors do a very clear job of unpacking the broader categories so that you can focus on the indicators you really care about. The report ranks 31 donors and 152 different development agencies.
While the first edition of this report will be accessible to policy wonks and researchers, QuODA also has a related interactive web tool that allows the user to select the donors, agencies, or variables that he or she wants to analyze or graph. Readers beware. I just flushed 90 minutes playing with this thing instead of writing mid-term exam essay questions. It is very cool. If you have other work that you need to do today, do not click on this link.
OK, I really do have to go write an exam, so here are my last few comments on this for tonight.
1. I'd love to see the authors add more donors going forward. The report does not analyze the quality of Non-DAC Bilateral donors and only includes a handful of multilateral donors. Of course, this is easy for me to say since I will not be producing this massive report for years to come.
3. It is nice to see evidence-based advocacy. Too often development discourse is characterized by doctrinaire advocacy or sterile social science published in journals that few people read. The authors of this report and the associated web tool are explicit about their goals: "We hope that public scrutiny and discussion will help us improve our methods and contribute to healthy pressure on official and private aid funders to make information on their aid practices and policies better and more accessible." Me too.