Debate

Incoherence and lack of criteria for concealing political decisions

It is clear that there are political reasons behind Sida's proposal to close bilateral aid to Colombia, Bolivia and Guatemala. That is the opinion of Jocke Nyberg, an independent evaluation consultant

The reasons given by Sida's director general and board for "pointing to the possibility" of shutting down bilateral aid to Colombia, Bolivia and Guatemala pretend to be based on facts and criteria but are only politically controlled. This is obvious when examining the writings' relationship to current criteria and budget structures.

The cost-effectiveness argument: There are many ways to measure cost-effectiveness. Most are about the cost-profit ratio. But despite the fact that results are the government's biggest demand for Sida - the Minister for Development Aid's flagship branch - Sida's Director General chooses a completely different measure: the number of development aid kroner paid out per administrative krona. This is evident both from Sida's budget documentation, her article in SvD and from the State Treasury's new report on the framework agreement system.

In terms of reference for Sida-ordered / ordered evaluations of partner programs and projects, cost-effectiveness is almost always a relationship between the effort's costs and the effort's results. Right now, for example, Swedish non-governmental organizations are bleeding their foreheads to meet Sida's requirements for measuring the cost of information efforts' goal fulfillment, for example the development of the target group's knowledge of a theme, country or Sweden's development assistance. These projects, mediated by, among others, Forum Syd, are small in terms of money. NOTE It is Sida's instruction that cost efficiency shall be measured in this way for this budget item.

What Sida's management is thus doing is separating efforts to combat poverty from efforts for democracy and human rights. This approach does not even agree with Sida's own definition of poverty, namely the absence of the opportunity to influence its situation.

The argument about concentrating and releasing resources to poor countries: Here, too, Charlotte Petri Gornitzska's inconsistent. In addition to the obvious fact that it is social and economic gaps that threaten the world's stability, she and the board avoid mentioning the other extensive Sida-managed resources that go to middle-income countries. This assistance is on other budget lines: "Reform cooperation in Eastern Europe", "Selective cooperation", "Democracy and human rights in alternative forms", "Regional development cooperation", to name a few. (Source: Table 2 in Sida's annual report 2012, recently published),

What Sida's management is thus doing is separating efforts to combat poverty from efforts for democracy and human rights. This approach does not even agree with Sida's own definition of poverty, namely the absence of the opportunity to influence its situation.

Again an inconsistency in the argument.

Finally, something about results: Since its inception in the 1970s, Latin American aid has been characterized by innovation, commitment and important results. Some examples:

  • Thanks to Swedish aid, Brazil's Lula Ignacio da Silva was able to leave prison in the 1970s and continue his union work, which was the basis of his political career, crowned with eight years as president when he successfully fought poverty. Sida's DG has officials in its vicinity who can tell you how it happened.
  • Swedish aid combined with diplomatic footwork contributed to the start of peace negotiations around 1990 in El Salvador and Guatemala and ended two internal armed conflicts that caused millions of internally and externally displaced persons and serious human rights abuses. There are sources of verification both inside and outside the Sida building.
  • Swedish aid was of great importance for the victory of the no side in the 1988 referendum when the Chileans stopped dictator Pinochet's continued hold on power. Verification sources are located outside the Sida building.
  • A fresher example: Thanks to Swedish aid, 300 poor Mayan women entered Guatemala's poll in 000. It increased by 2011 percent and turnout by the same amount. Verification can be done through contacts with the Guatemalan Electoral Authority.

These results, at the societal impact level, were effective in relation to their costs. They occurred before the New Public Management theory broke through with its formal aid grant + management cost = efficiency and other oddities that Sida now applies.

The new version of Sida at Work - a handbook for effort management - states, for example, that Sida's staff shall not carry out any follow-up (“monitoring”) in the field, but instead ensure that partners ensure quality follow-up, including results. This is also how Sida's new monstrous project management system is designed, little contact with reality (for example with the target groups) without development managers and administrators having to sit in their room and check boxes in Excelark. Is that why the efficiency measure is the number of development assistance kroner paid out per management krona?

Jock Nyberg

Independent evaluator

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

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