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The UN Has Lost the Aid-Effectiveness Race: What Is to Be Done?


A UN-supported market in Lebanon.
Mohamad Hajj Staify, a Syrian, works in his tented kiosk selling produce at the Marj market in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. The market was renovated with support from the United Nations Development Program.

Recent events have confirmed that the United Nations has a deep reservoir of good will worldwide. But its reputation is undermined by the ineffectiveness of its development assistance. UN agencies could improve their performance by implementing effective evaluations. However, the UN cannot be judged solely on the basis of its development assistance because the organization plays a key role in ensuring security, operating humanitarian missions and setting global norms.

The current focus on aid results came to the center stage of development cooperation when the first High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness was held in Rome in 2003. By then the optimism of the “can do” post-war era had evaporated, and the international community of states was searching for a new consensus to sustain public support for development assistance. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were unveiled in Monterrey in 2002. They provided a fresh vision for global poverty reduction.

In parallel throughout the past decade, effectiveness in aid delivery remained a dominant policy concern. The Paris Declaration of 2005 issued in the wake of the Second High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness addressed the donor side of the aid-partnership compact. It focused on high transaction costs, lack of coordination, misalignment and neglect of results orientation that had prevented aid from achieving its full development potential.

To continue reading the briefing, published by FUNDS, a research project of the City University of New York’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, click here.

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Robert Picciotto is a visiting professor in the Department of Political Economy at King’s College, London. He previously worked at the World Bank, where he held several senior management positions. For the last decade, he has advised several UN organizations as well as the Rockefeller Foundation, the North-South Institute and Wilton Park. Picciotto is a graduate of the Ecole Nationale Superieure de l’Aeronautique in France and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

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