Debate

The arbitrary attacks of DN and SVD are poorly substantiated

Two lead writers have taken the lead in the development aid debate recently. DN's Carl Johan Von Seth asked the question whether the government and the opposition really want to know what development aid leads to and Minister for Development Aid Gunilla Carlsson's turn in the question of the one percent target was criticized by SVD's Siri Steijer. Kajsa Johansson is now replying to the Swedish Afghanistan Committee with two counter-questions: Why would we not want to know what the aid leads to and are there occasions when SVD's employees are also prepared to change their minds?

The other day wrote Carl Johan von Seth on DN's leader page: "But the ten thousand kronor question is: Does the government and the opposition really want to know what the aid leads to?" This is due to the alleged reluctance to know this based on the costs and organization of the aid evaluations. According to von Seth, we will get a "conclusion on politics" by "tracking the white elephants". A few days later, Siri Steijer wrote on SvD an editor that Minister for Development Aid Gunilla Carlsson "has thrown in the towel".

In a blog post, I asked a couple of questions to von Seth and the editorial staff (some with prize money and some without reward). First, von Seth should prepare a number of payments on this small amount because we are many who have the answer to the question above. And besides, we have already answered but he does not seem to notice. The answer is, of course, that the government, the opposition and quite a few others of us also want to know what the aid leads to. My question (without prize money) to von Seth is, why would we not want to know?

Is there any evidence to say that many of us, including the government and the opposition, want to know what the aid has led to?

Firstly so it seems strange to "measure" the evaluations in how much of the budget they make up, which is one of von Seth's arguments for the inadequacy of the evaluations. That is probably not the case costs for the evaluations that determine whether we know or want to know what the aid leads to? That, von Seth, would not hold as an indicator in an aid performance matrix.

Second then the costs for the evaluations are not only the costs that can be directly attributed to the evaluation activity itself, for example for evaluation consultants. The large (if not bombastic) cost is all the time spent in the recipient countries, with institutions, local authorities, aid workers, embassies, villagers in focus groups and more to handle these evaluations. The cost of this, however, I doubt we want to know.

For the third evaluations are not the only method of finding out what the aid has led to. While evaluations are usually carried out at half-time and after the development assistance project has been completed (of course, depending on how long it lasts), follow-up takes place continuously, as does reporting of this follow-up. The most common are that the projects are reported annually and in many cases even semi-annually. Add to this annual financial audits and additional system audits. It is thus, to say the least, wrong to equate what the aid has led to with the evaluations that are made.

For the fourth Of course, it is important to have a realistic view of how changes in a society can be traced to a specific development assistance effort, because in the recipient countries (as in all other countries on the globe) there is a complex network of factors that affect development. To make it easy for us, we can take something as concrete as development assistance-financed infrastructure investments. We demand from the development assistance that we be able to measure how it has contributed to social and economic (and preferably also cultural) development in the immediate area. If it is a major road, we expect results at national and regional level. Everything must have a gender and rights perspective, and if the road is in Southern Africa, we must be able to say what impact it, in the long and short term, has had on the spread of HIV. If the road is here in Afghanistan, we should be able to trace its impact, negative and positive, on the war and any contradictions. We should be able to say that it is precisely this path (and not, for example, investments in rural electrification, expansion of the telephone network, streamlining of agriculture and expansion of the education system) that has led to this very change. So, von Seth, take these performance requirements to Sweden and try to find out this information for the construction of the Göta tunnel at the opera in Gothenburg. Once you have found evaluations that answer the above questions for the tunnel, then proceed to the current upgrade of the E6 in Tanum. Now that you have a clear idea of ​​what these final and mid-term evaluations will lead to conclusions about the results of these two investments, proceed to a socio-economic feasibility study for possible upgrading of the Älvsborg Bridge. And for God's sake, don't forget the gender perspective!

Please note that none of the above reasoning is about defending the possible positive effects of development assistance - only that there is in fact a genuine interest in finding out the development assistance's results, positive and negative.

We can all see the unreasonableness in the exercise of carrying out the evaluations of the Göta tunnel and the E6 as well as a socio-economic study for the Älsvborg bridge and expect a sensible result.

We can all see the unreasonableness in the exercise of carrying out the evaluations of the Göta tunnel and the E6 as well as a socio-economic study for the Älsvborg bridge and expect a sensible result. Nor is development always the most relevant way of understanding or measuring development in development aid. As Göran Hydén wrote on bistandsdebatten.se on 21 August, evaluations often give rise to an incorrect or single-track picture of how development and change take place.

So unfortunately, we will probably have to inform von Seth that there will be no conclusion by tracking elephants.

Yesterday, it was time for another editorial board to criticize the aid. This time it was Siri Steijer at SvD who claimed that Gunilla Carlsson was doing a "patchwork of development aid" - this because the Minister may have changed his opinion on the one percent target for development aid. Herein lies a perspective on politics and democracy that is worth thinking about.

I wonder if Steijer wants politicians who, during seven years of experience, cannot (or should not) change their minds about anything?

Carlsson has been Minister for Development Aid since 2006. If she has changed her mind about a couple of things in her policy area during this time (if we now assume that she has actually done so) based on discussions with the other parties in the alliance and officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - is this really a problem? I wonder if Steijer wants politicians who, during seven years of experience, cannot (or should not) change their minds about anything?

One of Steijer's arguments against the change of opinion is that it could be traced to other alliance parties' "strong ties to the aid industry and several large aid organizations". Yes for woe and horror! What if it were the case that a minister not only changed her mind but to top it all did so because she was impressed by people with long experience and knowledge in her field? Yes you Siri, what would it look like if Minister of Rural Affairs Eskil Erlandsson had a dialogue and was impressed by LRF as representatives of Sweden's farmers !?

According to Steijer, Carlsson's possibly changed opinion means that she has thrown in the towel. Is it perhaps the case that the Minister for Development Aid, according to the development assistance-critical professionals on certain leadership sites and think tanks, has slipped over to the hateful "development industry side" - a site where according to the professionals you are disqualified (basically regardless of relevant knowledge) from expressing yourself about development all you are supposed to be looking for is to confirm your own position).

So, here we have editorial writers on two of Sweden's largest newspapers who take the development aid debate to new heights through a complete reversal on skis (ie patch throws), tracking white elephants and throwing towels.

Honestly.

Many of us are interested and engaged in a discussion on how development aid can be improved - but it is not through this type of (unfortunately quite common) arbitrary and poorly substantiated onslaught on development that this comes about.

My ten thousand kronor question to DN remains; Is there any at DN's editorial staff who really want to know what the development assistance leads to? The follow-up question (reasonably at the same price level in the name of justice) to SvD will be; If it were the case that you came across convincing facts and arguments for a different view of, for example, the XNUMX% target, is there any small chance that you can consider changing your mind?

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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