Bi-weekly roundup: fragile states and US foreign aid

In case you don’t know it already, CGD’s  Rethinking US Foreign Assistance Blog is a good resource for news and commentary on US foreign aid – from the QDDR to the US aid budgeting and management process to the current budget cuts. Speaking of which, the implications of the cuts to foreign aid (and to diplomacy) are bemoaned by various commenters, for undermining US “soft power” while  leaving the defense budget largely untouched. However, other commenters are pointing out that the budget deal reached wasn’t as bad as it could have been and that potentially there is room for increasing “value for money” in US foreign aid.

Given that the debate around foreign aid lately revolves mostly around its importance for national security, you need to be aware that there are also drawbacks from linking (or subordinating) foreign aid too closely to national security. There seems to be little debate about this in the US for now. Beyond questioning the impact of linking aid to military interventions on aid worker security, some voices question the effectiveness of soft power or caution that most fragile states do not pose immediate and critical threats to the US. This could be an example of how “overstating” an argument can be ultimately self-defeating.

More critical voices can be heard in the the UK, where some authors point out the drawbacks of the securitization of aid. Finally commenters are starting to realize the tension between channeling more aid to fragile states and “value for money”. Fragile states are inherently more risky and have weaker governance and higher corruption than non-fragile states, which makes achieving results much more difficult.

And if you want to read more about the difficulties of programming in fragile states and the dangers of wanting to achieve too much too soon, here is another article about it. On the bright side, the World Bank’s WDR 2011 on Fragile States is out, and if you are really really interested in the topic and want to read a really really long report about it, you can find it here. Otherwise, you can also read quickly ODI’s take on it.

In other news:

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