Value for Money? The overall record of technical assistance for institutional and governance reform.

‘Technical assistance’ in the form of international experts and advisors, and loans and grants for ‘institutional reform’ constitute a huge share of official development assistance. Yet a growing body of comparative and cumulative evaluations, further bolstered by academic research, show that its overall effectiveness in terms of better functioning governments, is limited at best. There is a whole range of reasons for these, with the bulk of the blame often laid on the recipient countries. But there are also well-known problems with the quality of the ‘experts’ and ‘advisers’ being deployed, and long-standing and deep-seated problems generated by the predominant bureaucratic cultures of the ‘donor’ agencies. Based on reflection and learning from experience, there is strong convergence among many different sources about what are more productive ways of engaging for the purpose of sustained improvements in public sector capacities and performance. Part of this lies with the recipient actors who can be more assertive in maintaining control of their own agendas and strategies. But under any given scenario, it requires from ‘experts’ and ‘advisers’ a much broader range of competencies, and from the ‘donors’ a change in actual practices, that would bring these more in line with their professed policy principles.

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