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Aiding Governance in Developing Countries: Progress Amid Uncertainties

Dec. 5, 2011, 3:32 p.m.


The Carnegie Endowment published a new paper on governance support projects.  The paper, written by Thomas Carothers and Diane de Gramon, reviews the major lessons learned and the difficulty practicioners have had in incorporating these lessons into their current practices. 

Since emerging as a new donor enthusiasm in the 1990s, governance support has become a major area of aid to developing countries. The idea that remedying debilitating patterns of inefficient, corrupt, and unaccountable governance will unlock developmental progress appeals not just to aid providers but also to ordinary people throughout the developing world who are angry at unresponsive and poorly functioning states. Yet despite the natural appeal of improving governance, it has proved challenging in practice. Many initial assumptions about the task have run aground on the shoals of countervailing realities. As a result, aid practitioners have begun accumulating important insights about how to improve governance aid:

  • Governance deficiencies are often primarily political and cannot be resolved through technical assistance alone.
     

  • Fostering citizen demand for better governance is as important as topdown efforts aimed at improving the “supply” of governance.
     

  • Governance aid may be more effective at the local level than at the national level.
     

  • Despite the intuitive appeal of governance best practices, concentrating on locally determined “best fit” may be more productive.
     

  • Informal institutions are a central part of the governance puzzle and cannot be treated as developmental marginalia.
     

  • Governance concerns should be integrated into the full range of assistance programming.
     

  • Donor countries should address international drivers of poor governance.
     

  • Aiding governance effectively requires development agencies to rethink their own internal governance.


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