In praise of hand-wringing

Let’s not give Libya an anti-corruption commission, says Nathaniel Heller.* (Not, of course, that we’d be actually ‘giving’ it …)

I could give my own reasons to go alongside Nathaniel’s. (How do you stop the anti-corruption guys themselves being corrupted? Is the political will really there to eliminate graft wholesale, or only those bits which are politically convenient to attack?) Anti-corruption commissions are surely ideal candidates for falling into the trap of isomorphic mimicry.

But the bigger point here is that an anti-corruption commission strikes me as a classic donor response to the need to do something, or, more to the point, fund something. I’m no hand-wringing defeatist, but I do question donors’ pathological need to dish out money in response to every problem they see. It’s bad enough, but understandable, when amateur Aid DIYers feel the need to just “do something”, but professional aid agencies really ought to know better.

I suspect part of the problem is the need for donors to put aid donations into various different pots, one of which is probably labelled ‘governance’. Since poor governance is such a big problem throughout much of the developing world, any good donor worth their salt should surely be investing heavily in improving it, right? Except how does a bilateral donor improve governance standards in a developing country when most of their money is supposed to go to the host country government (rather than civil society)?

There are some genuine solutions out there, I’m sure – Twaweza sounds pretty promising – but in a choice between hand-wringing and window-dressing, I prefer the hand-wringing.

* H/T Swahili Street

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