A quiet but notable shift has taken place in the way foreign aid is distributed in many countries. Donors are allowing citizens in recipient countries greater autonomy in making decisions and executing plans. Some say the change is long overdue, but others worry it cedes too much control. We consider accountability and transparency in foreign aid and get the view from the ground in Africa.


  • Paul O'Brien Vice President for Policy and Campaigns, Oxfam America
  • Neil Cole Executive Secretary, Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative
  • Martha Kwataine Executive Director, Malawi Health Equity Network.


  • 13:21:59

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWelcome back. It's tax day and you might be thinking about where exactly your dollars are going. If you're like most Americans, you might guess that oh maybe 10 to 20 percent of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid. The reality is that less than 1 percent is earmarked for that use. And speaking of earmarks, the latest thinking in the best way to distribute that money is to get rid of it, giving the recipients greater autonomy and empower them to decide where the money will be spent.

  • 13:22:31

    MR. KOJO NNAMDISome are skeptical but early results show that they just might be on to something. Here to talk about where disconnects persist and where progress is being made is Paul O'Brien. He is the vice-president of policy and campaigns for Oxfam America. Paul, good to see you again.

  • 13:22:46

    MR. PAUL O'BRIENGood to see you, Kojo.

  • 13:22:47

    NNAMDIAlso with us in studio is Martha Kwataine. She is the executive director of the Malawi Health Equity Network. Martha Kwataine, welcome.

  • 13:22:56


  • 13:22:57

    NNAMDIAnd also with us is Neil Cole, executive secretary of the Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative. Neil Cole, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:23:06

    MR. NEIL COLEThank you. It's an honor.

  • 13:23:07

    NNAMDIYou too can join this conversation by calling 800-433-8850. What changes would you like to see in the way the U.S. allocates and distributes foreign aid, 800-433-8850? You can also send email to kojo@wamu.org. Send us a Tweet at kojoshow or go to our website kojoshow.org, join the conversation there. Paul, in the year 2010, President Obama signed a policy directive on global development, which may seem routine enough but it was the first of its kind. What guided U.S. foreign aid prior to that point?

  • 13:23:41

    O'BRIENWell, honestly we weren't so sure. The first time I had the chance to be on this show with you, Kojo, we'd just published a report that said the U.S. government should seriously consider shutting down the U.S. Agency for International Development or USAID and build a new agency. And we go from that which was 2008, 2009 to President Obama in his State of the Union saying, within 20 years we can end extreme poverty. We can get 850 million people out of poverty.

  • 13:24:18

    O'BRIENWell, that was just a truly remarkable thing. And here's the thing. You know, Oxfam, we don't take U.S. government funding. We work in all these countries, 92 countries and we saw what was going on with USA. We were really worried. And so when President Obama issued that directive, when Dr. Rajiv Shah launched USAID Forward, we were skeptical. Would this be enough to deliver on the kind of promise that President Obama just made.

  • 13:24:44

    O'BRIENAnd here's the thing that we think was their epiphany. They didn't say, if we're going to get 850 million people out of poverty, we're going to take all this stuff from the United States, all this food, all this wealth and we're going to find out where the poor people are and give it to them. What they said was, in the end of the day if you're going to get people out of poverty or if they are going to get out of poverty it's going to be the businesses in those countries, the local organizations in those countries, even the governments in those countries that get cleaner, less corrupt and more effective.

  • 13:25:15

    O'BRIENAnd so what they did with USAID Forward is they said, we need in the U.S. government to have the flexibility to invest in local institutions when they are capable of doing the work. We've got to stop thinking that we have all the answers, stop exclusively using our machinery and have the flexibility to use theirs. Oxfam went out in the field, we took a look at how it's going. And in an early show of findings -- and it is early -- we got a really good thumbs up that the direction is right. That's not to say they're all the way there. We want them to go a lot further. I can give you some numbers later if you'd like. But 83 percent said this is the right direction.

  • 13:25:51

    NNAMDIAnd what we're talking about this being the right direction is the U.S. in fact allowing the recipient countries and the NGOs in those recipient countries to take the lead on the ground. Whenever money is given to a country, the country or group giving it is seeding at least some control. And there's been a notable shift toward giving over more control than usual to citizens of that country when allocating aid. Why should the U.S., both government and NGOs do that? And why might they be reluctant to do that?

  • 13:26:27

    O'BRIENWell, Kojo, we all know it's tax day, right? What happens with these dollars is fundamentally important to American citizens. We've tried the old way. We've tried taking precious U.S. tax dollars and translating it into American food or only going through American organizations and trying to lift people out of poverty by basically supplying the right ideas. And what we've realized is that sometimes that is the way to do it. But sometimes it's not.

  • 13:26:56

    O'BRIENSometimes if you're going to leave a lasting impact, you don't just want to invest in a local organization because they can do it more cost effectively. They can save U.S. taxpayer dollars. But also if you go through that local institution, that institution becomes more responsible overtime and one day will no longer need our tax dollars. And that's the real goal.

  • 13:27:17

    NNAMDIMartha Kwataine, though your main mission is access to health care, it seems that a lot of your job involves helping your fellow Malawians and foreign governments and NGOs better understand one another. Where have you see progress in this regard?

  • 13:27:37

    KWATAINEYes. I would like to agree with Oxfam that the way U.S. government handles its aid has actually improved overtime. We have seen better reforms. They might not have been as fast as you'd have wanted, but at least there has been that commitment to ensure that they move towards aligning their priorities to the country, priorities which is very important. As somebody coming from the civil society, we believe that it is just a catalyst, I mean, just to fast track the process.

  • 13:28:11

    KWATAINEIt is the locals, the citizens that can actually steer development using the aid that actually comes. For us as a civil society our role has been to link policymakers to the reality on the ground. And we have actually seen these citizens getting empowered and beginning to hold their governments accountable, even at the local level.

  • 13:28:34

    KWATAINEI'll give you an example of a local community that had a clinic. This clinic had everything. It had the whole -- it had the beds, the -- everything, the houses for the health care workers, but there was no health care workers. They had the facility, simply because it was rural, nobody was willing. We had to train the community at that community level to say, these are your rights and responsibilities. You've got a right to development. Because this clinic is not functional, you're therefore being denied access.

  • 13:29:05

    KWATAINEAfter empowering that community, they went and demanded from the district health officer to post health care workers to that clinic. As I'm speaking, it's up and running. So the community's no longer walking like 30, 40 kilometers. It didn't need (word?) to go and talk to the district head officer. It needed the community. They just had to do the (word?).

  • 13:29:26

    KWATAINESo what we're trying to say is that if the people own the processes and they've been given the powers to demand, that's what is going to bring development. So even the issues we are talking about, people fearing about corruption and whatever, if the U.S. government, for example -- I mean, the aid from the U.S. government goes through the national budget, that's the most transparent way of handling national funds because they are subjected to scrutiny by different (word?). And the civil society, that's our role.

  • 13:29:57

    KWATAINESo those fears will no longer exist if the funds are channeled through, I mean, the national budget and the civil society is empowered to give the supports to continue providing checks and balances.

  • 13:30:09

    NNAMDIYou raise several questions. And before I get Neil Cole to talk about transparency, I want to go back to you for a second first, Paul O'Brien, because one of the things that Martha is talking about is empowering people on the ground. And I couldn't help noticing that this morning when the Washington Post had a report about aid to Syria and that aid, if Syrians are made more aware of it, then it will help them to appreciate the U.S. more. And you said, no it's not really about appreciating the U.S. more.

  • 13:30:38

    NNAMDIIt seems to me there are two things I'd like you to talk about in that regard. One is that it seems that it's more important to empower people on the ground than to give them the impression that you quote unquote "helping" them. And two, there's a relation here between what you call the three Ds, development, diplomacy and defense that's very important. So can you talk about that?

  • 13:30:58

    O'BRIENAbsolutely, Kojo. Couldn't agree with you more on the first part. When I read that story in the paper this morning, I just held my breath and I said, oh no, please don't let this lead to a conversation of we've got to get more credit from the Syrian people for all the stuff we're giving them. The one...

  • 13:31:15

    NNAMDIBecause people don't appreciate handouts.

  • 13:31:17

    O'BRIENThey don't like handouts. Nobody likes to be reminded that the only reason they're doing a little better in life is somebody's come along and given them something. People like to feel -- and really effective development always happens when people lift themselves from poverty. Now we can create the environment in which they do that. And the real thing we want people to think about the United States is that we're serious about this stuff. We're not looking for some short term credit or some PR. We have a set of values, a way of doing things that, yes, it's worth exporting. But you don't do that with PR. You do it by being really serious about what you do.

  • 13:31:52

    O'BRIENOn your second question, absolutely we aspired. And you asked me, you know, what did I think of the global development strategy of the present. It was great but was it everything we wanted? No because U.S. national interests are served by defense diplomacy and development working together. But if it wasn't for the incredible leadership, I think, that Dr. Shah has shown and Secretary Clinton also being committed to this area, I think development would've stayed a poor second tier member of that three-part relationship.

  • 13:32:24

    O'BRIENThey are at the table now but it's not locked in. And congress is looking at this whole situation and saying what do we do now either to hold aid accountable or to make sure that it's elevated in a structural way. And who know what happens once this administration moves on. We'd like to see congress lock in the elevated power of development to sit alongside diplomacy and defense.

  • 13:32:46

    NNAMDINeil Cole, one of the other things that Martha Kwataine said is that when you give us that money it goes into our budget. And when it goes into our budget, I heard her say at a forum last week, it is therefore now our money. And if it is therefore now their money, when we're talking about trying to follow that money things can get murky pretty quickly. How do you build transparency into budgets and ensure that it's something that both sides are committed to?

  • 13:33:15

    COLEThanks, Kojo. Great question and the point that Martha made is certainly something that I think is going to stick. And many development workers are going to speak about it for some time.

  • 13:33:27

    NNAMDII think we have one on the line already. We'll get to that call later though, but go ahead.

  • 13:33:32

    COLEThere's a lot that African countries are doing, and countries that are the recipients of aid, to improve their systems. The systems in the way that funds all manage, not only the funds that they raise through their own sources, but also funds that are received through development assistance. There are several initiatives besides my organization that has done quite a bit of work in improving transparency, improving accountability, helping African countries to improve their systems in the way that they formulate budgets and also in the way that that money is spent for services.

  • 13:34:18

    COLEThere's also -- this being tax day, there's an important (word?) initiative called the African Tax Administrators Forum and they're working with African governments to improve at the policy side, and also the administration and the collection of taxes. And then an important initiative called African supreme audit institution, helping African countries to improve the auditing of both the funds that they raise themselves and also the funds that they receive from development partners.

  • 13:34:58

    COLEAnd there's lots of other similar initiatives that are taking place, especially initiatives that are don't collaboratively between the various partners and also quite a lot of support that is being given to improve public financial management.

  • 13:35:18

    NNAMDIPlease don your headsets and we'll go to the telephone to speak with Frank in Washington, D.C. Frank, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:35:26

    FRANKGood afternoon, Kojo. I am the co-founder of two major global anticorruption organizations, Transparency International and the (word?) of Transparency Fund. And the latter one has done over 200 projects supporting civil society in very poor countries. We've never got any money from USAID. The reason primarily is it's incredibly difficult to deal with them. We find that the far greater understanding of the corruption issues by the British Aid Agency, by the Canadians, by the Australians, by the Norwegians and many others.

  • 13:36:04

    FRANKWe find that USAID, by contrast, is enormously bureaucratic, very, very close to recipient governments and very often the rhetoric is far, far short of the reality in the field. So I disagree a little -- rather shall we say overly praise-worthy comments that a couple of your guests have made already this morning.

  • 13:36:29

    NNAMDIWell, the basic premise of their comments is that if USAID is to be more effective than it has to do more with recipient governments and recipient NGOs on the ground. Is that a premise with which you disagree?

  • 13:36:44

    FRANKWell, I'm not sure about doing more with recipient governments. I find that USAID very often is hand in glove with the recipient governments who are opposed to working with civil society on the ground. What there needs to be is a certain distance from the recipient governments if you really want to get accountability and transparency into governmental procedures. Many of those procedures deny the very, very poorest people in communities of their basic civil and human rights. And that's what anticorruption work with civil society is all about.

  • 13:37:21

    FRANKAnd too often USAID is far too close to the recipient governments. Sometimes it works with very big NGOs but it doesn't work enough with NGOs who are directly engaged in fighting corruption.

  • 13:37:37


  • 13:37:37

    FRANKAnd a book about this recently...

  • 13:37:38

    NNAMDI...each one of our guests would have something to say about it.

  • 13:37:41

    FRANK...their attitude.

  • 13:37:43

    NNAMDII'll start with -- stay on the line, Frank, because I'd like to start with Martha Kwataine who says that corruption is something that no government is immune from. And we know that well in D.C. but Martha, you say that we're doing everyone a disservice if we go into a situation assuming that corruption exists. What tools do you have at your disposal in Malawi to identify it and root it out where it does exist?

  • 13:38:10

    KWATAINEThank you very much. At first, I would like to agree with the caller that the observations he's made about USAID are very varied and that's very true. But what we're trying to say is that over late of recent we've seen the U.S. government, through USAID, trying to change their way of doing things. One, they are now to begin to work with local civil society organizations, but also channeling their resources through the national budget, which was not the case before.

  • 13:38:42

    KWATAINEAnd that led to a lot of -- I mean, the duplicity, if not multiplicity in reporting. And as a civil society, but also lobbying government, we have actually been saying this is not the best way to go. If this money is going to be well accounted for, let them go through the national budget because the national budget is the most transparent way of handling national resources.

  • 13:39:09

    KWATAINEBut also the moment it goes through the national assembly -- as I said earlier, on, any money that comes to my country, whether it's USAID or different, the moment it goes to our account, account number one, it is seen as being anybody's money. It becomes our money. And therefore, as citizens we have a responsibility to ensure that there are checks and balances.

  • 13:39:32

    KWATAINEAnd as a civil society, our first entry point is when the budget estimates are presented in parliament we do a quick analysis of what is there, how much is coming from donors, how much is coming from our taxes. What is there to budget, like what are the priorities and the development -- I mean, project that'll be there to raise awareness, not only to the general public, but also even to help our members of Parliament to ably articulate. You know, budget documents, they are quite voluminous, so big and very technical. Not every member of Parliament understands that.

  • 13:40:07

    KWATAINESo as a civil society, that is our role to help members of Parliament and understand it. But also, we have local structures at that level. That's why we are going flat out to train the local government structures (unintelligible) where now the budget is going to be executed so that they can actually provide checks and balances, take part in the decision-making processes, monitor even the action (word?). If a bridge is being constructed, they have to make sure (unintelligible), and therefore they can take the issues before it.

  • 13:40:44

    NNAMDIWell, Paul O'Brien, I guess what our caller, Frank, is implying is that USAID in the past has been too close to governments that have been identified as kleptocracies, and that if you give money to such a government, it disappears into a black hole someplace. We know all the development jokes we've heard about. What would you say to our caller, Frank?

  • 13:41:06

    O'BRIENWell, I think there's a lot of truth in it. I mean, the reason that President Kennedy rewrote the Foreign Assistance Act in 1963 was precisely because said, money given to buy friends doesn't get you anywhere in the end of the day, and it was for these kinds of purposes. So USAID gets set up in order to do better, more thoughtful, long term development, and honestly, I think the caller is right. Just -- let's say five years ago, we had legislation that was 2,000 pages long, 50 different agencies, all working across purposes on development, really unclear purposes.

  • 13:41:43

    O'BRIENSome of that hasn't been solved. In fact, a lot of it hasn't been fully solved. But what we did get with this administration was a commitment to be more honest and forthright about where USAID was starting from, which was not a very good place, and instead of just doing what other presidents have had the -- basically the fortune to be able to do because they had money, which was set up whole new structures, the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Great corporation set up by President Bush, but President Obama couldn't do that.

  • 13:42:09

    O'BRIENHe basically said we need to save money by making our investments more cost effective, and if that means investing through local actors, then we should do so. Two quick bits of data that are relevant to the caller. First, when we went out and asked 250 people, is USAID doing a better job, they basically said going in the right direction, but 65 percent of them said pretty much what the caller said. We don't exercise more influence over the decisions of USAID. It's still really hard to change their minds.

  • 13:42:41

    O'BRIENYes, they're going in the right direction but still too much is being decided in Washington. Not enough discretion in the field. And on the specific question of transparency, the USAID has gone from being a bottom third most transparent donor to a top third most transparent donor if you got to Publish What You Fund's website. But for the United States to be the 27th most transparent donor in the world, considering the values that it has, that's just not good enough.

  • 13:43:10

    O'BRIENDr. Shah should commit USAID to being a top five donor in the -- before he leaves, and it can be done.

  • 13:43:17

    NNAMDINeil, are there governments, as I said, that some people would describe as kleptocracies, that it becomes very difficult to make even the budget process transparent enough for a donor such as USAID to be able to partner with that government, and if so, what do you do in such cases?

  • 13:43:35

    COLEI think that reality does exist, and that's why partnerships need to be smart. Partnerships cannot be partnerships that are the same with every country. You know, there's a saying in the development world that says that one size does not fit all. What we need to be looking out for in this partnerships, whether it is with a government, or with an NGO, is to ensure that those partnerships lead to development effectiveness, and this is in the way the aid is going to be managed, and also in the type of partnerships that are developed.

  • 13:44:17

    COLESo where there are kleptocratic governments and democratic governments, governments that may or may not be under sanction, I think that it would not be smart to work with those governments, and it would be doing a disservice to the populations of those countries. And in those cases, maybe the way that aid flows to a country should be done in a somewhat different way.

  • 13:44:40

    NNAMDIFrank, we've got to take a short break. Anything you'd like to say before that?

  • 13:44:44

    FRANKYeah. Just very briefly. I obviously agree with most of what your contributors are saying. I would just make one point. We receive requests from civil society organizations in countries for specific projects that are anti-corruption in nature that they want to do. So this is the (unintelligible) driven, and that's the way many more projects should be done. The proportion of money that aid agencies, and all of them, really, are giving to civil society to work in this area, is tiny compared to the money that they give to governments. That balance has to change if we're going to help people on the ground beyond the levels that we are today.

  • 13:45:29

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Frank. Got to take a short break. There's agreement around the table about that. When we come back we'll continue this conversation on USAID and how it should best be administered. You can call us at 800-433-8850. If you're from a country that has been a recipient of USAID, give us a call. Share your experience on how those funds were used. 800-433-8850, or send email to kojo@wamu.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:47:40

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about USAID with Martha Kwataine, executive director of the Malawi Health Equity Network. Neil Cole is the executive secretary of the Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative, and Paul O'Brien is the vice president of policy and campaigns for Oxfam America. And if you'd like to join the conversation, call us at 800-433-8850 or send email to kojo@wamu.org.

  • 13:48:08

    NNAMDIPaul, shortly after the earthquake in Haiti, the show spent a week there, and we've recently talked to several reporters and scholar about the breakdown in connecting the flood of money that was sent or promised to that country the people on the ground. What lessons have you and your colleagues taken from what unfolded in Haiti?

  • 13:48:26

    O'BRIENHaiti presents a whole range of difficult questions for us. You know, if we are all increasingly agreeing that it's got to be about strong institutions on the ground, strong government, strong civil society holding that government accountable, and the beginning of business sector, Haiti has been through all kinds of difficulties. We hosted the Prime Minister of Haiti in our office at one point, and he said, don't get too used to me, because it may well be that if I have to meet again with you in six weeks' time, I'll have a different job, and we all laughed, and it came to pass.

  • 13:49:03

    O'BRIENWe met literally two-and-a-half months later with another Prime Minister of Haiti, and if that's the kind of circumstance that local leadership is facing, the idea that we can, no matter how generous we are, supply enough funding and good to help the people of Haiti recover is perhaps just too optimistic. You've got to help build strong institutions. That's why we're on the ground now trying to create more accountability of the Haitian government by Haitian civil society, and working with the strong Haitian Diaspora here in the United States to promote that effort.

  • 13:49:37

    NNAMDII'm glad you brought that up because, Neil, leadership changes within any government can mean that program that were working are suddenly abandoned, and new priorities emerge. Is it possible to build instability and consistency that will weather those changes? First you, and then I'd like to go Martha's specific example of Malawi.

  • 13:49:56

    COLEYeah. I mean, this is a challenge that we face in the work that we are doing. When they -- what we do find in many administrations is that the way governments do change, through free and fair elections, that some of the changes are quite deep right into the administration. And that does have an impact on consistent application and implementation of reforms, especially reforms to improve public financial management, organization like CABRI, like the other two organizations that I've mentioned, are working quite hard on several programs to build those institutions, and here we're speaking, not only institutions that are linked to the government wing of the state, but also speaking about the legislature -- strengthening the legislature, strengthening other institutions, constitutional institutions in many countries that provide that oversight role, and also an important institution within the public financial management cycle being the auditor.

  • 13:51:11

    COLEIn many African countries it's called the auditor general who provides that important auditing function so that the legislature is able to hold government to account.

  • 13:51:24

    NNAMDIAnd in Malawi, Martha, you were talking about how citizens began to feel empowered about a health clinic. What happens if there is a change in government? Does the empowerment of those citizens transcend, if you will, the political changes that take place because once citizens feel empowered they're going to challenge whoever is in government?

  • 13:51:45

    KWATAINEYes. I must tell you, Kojo, that this time around it's actually very tough being a president of my country. I mean, and I'm not going to talk about America because I have always told people that if it's difficult for my country for the president, it must be maybe 10 times for President Obama because your commitment is quite high in terms of literacy. Once you empower the community, this is a matter of principle. You want them to implicate their principles of accountability to appreciate that they have the right to development.

  • 13:52:20

    KWATAINEDevelopment is not a privilege. So it's no longer about singing songs when a member of parliament has initiated development in the area, because he is actually their employee, and they have the right to demand accountability. And that's the whole reason why it is important for the U.S. government to work with the local civil society organizations that are in advocacy-empowering communities. Because governments come, governments go, but the citizens remain forever.

  • 13:52:48

    KWATAINESo whoever comes into power will be assured it's not going to be easy because they have a community that asks questions why things are happening this way, or why this hasn't happened, and that's the direction that we need to take if we are to experience sustainable development.

  • 13:53:04

    NNAMDIBack to the telephones. Here is Tarima (sp?) in Bethesda, Md. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:53:10

    TARIMAYes, hello. I was going to tell about a book called "So Much Aid, So Little Development" by Samia Altaf.

  • 13:53:17


  • 13:53:18

    TARIMAI don't know if I have the whole name, but it's about Pakistan where I am from originally, and it's - since I have many members of my family in NGOs and in development world, I know how true that book is. It's written in a very humorous manner, but gives a lot of statistics, and from somebody's who's worked in the health sector for many years. And one of the things that she really brings out is all these training courses and things that are done through the World Bank or through the USAID in countries like Pakistan, where people coming from abroad come to give the training who have no idea of the culture and whether what they're doing is appropriate or not, and they haven't looked at the trainings done before, and they continue to do these trainings despite the fact the government has no place to put all these people who have been trained, and, therefore, it creates this glut of semi-trained or half-trained people who then have nowhere to put their skills and start doing things illegally, you know, like running illegal clinics and things like that.

  • 13:54:20


  • 13:54:21

    TARIMAAnd it's something that's happened for many, many years, and continues.

  • 13:54:25

    NNAMDISamia Altaf is the author of that book, S-A-M-I-A A-L-T-A-F. Paul O'Brien, care to comment?

  • 13:54:31

    O'BRIENSure. You know, I think one of the big ah-has that the development community had was get out of giving people fish, and I'd love to say a bit about that because the president just announced a huge new initiative to stop giving people fish which I'll tell you about if you have time.

  • 13:54:45

    NNAMDIOh, yeah. You might as well tell us about it now because the president's budget went to Congress last week?

  • 13:54:51


  • 13:54:51

    NNAMDIAnd in it there's a proposal that would bring about a fundamental shift in the way food aid is carried out.

  • 13:54:57

    O'BRIENThat's exactly right, Kojo. Using the same amount of taxpayer money, not simply taking all this food and shipping it at huge expense across the oceans and then storing it for weeks on end only to sell it in these countries flooding local markets, the president is proposing to create much more flexibility in the system, and with the same amount of money, they think they can reach two to four million more people and do it 11 to 14 weeks more quickly and have a lot more flexibility in their system while also still doing some things to protect American farmers.

  • 13:55:31

    O'BRIENBut that's what you call giving people fish. What the caller was saying is we all fell in love with teaching people how to fish. So it was all about the fact that we assume people actually didn't know how to do development and we needed to go over there with our capacity building workshops and our trainings and just teach them all this stuff, and then somehow they would go from being ignorant to being knowledgeable.

  • 13:55:50

    O'BRIENWell, that's actually not enough in itself. Of course there's some role for training and capacity building, but the problem isn't their lack of knowledge. It's that often the reason people aren't fishing is that somebody's making it really hard for them to fish. Somebody's stealing the fish out of their water. Somebody's taken the land rights on the shoreline so they can't even get there to do fishing in the first place. And the new one that really scares me right now is this word innovation.

  • 13:56:17

    O'BRIENEverybody thinks if we just get them high-tech fishing rods, we'll have solved the problem. That isn't it either. This is about -- that's why all of us around the table today are talking about more simple things like accountability, transparency, cleaning up corruption, dealing with power dynamics, helping people help themselves do the ordinary stuff of lifting themselves out of poverty.

  • 13:56:38

    NNAMDITarima, thank you very much for your call. So far we have been talking mostly about food and health. Are there other areas that you would like to see a focus on, Neil?

  • 13:56:49

    COLECan I also just mention a wonderful book that I read...

  • 13:56:52

    NNAMDIPlease do.

  • 13:56:52

    COLE...many, many years ago called "Everyone Loves Good Drought." And the common thread that comes through appears to be that if development assistance is only about being supply driven when local knowledge and involvement is ignored, that invariably it's going to lead to failure, and that's what comes out quite strongly in what the previous caller has said, and also what his -- what comes out quite strongly in this book that I'm speaking about.

  • 13:57:23

    COLEI think that a lot more -- if it needs to go into what we've been speaking about, building institutions, building institutions of accountability, less than two percent of development assistance is spent on public financial management reforms, which I think is far too little. If we are speaking about strengthening accountability and transparency, this is certainly an area where a lot more investment should happen.

  • 13:57:52

    NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Neil Cole is the executive secretary of the Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative. Neil, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:58:00

    COLEThank you.

  • 13:58:01

    NNAMDIPaul O'Brien is the vice president of policy and campaigns for Oxfam America. Paul, good to see you again.

  • 13:58:06

    O'BRIENThanks, Kojo.

  • 13:58:07

    NNAMDIMartha Kwataine is the executive director of the Malawi Health Equity Network. Martha, thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.

  • 13:58:14

    KWATAINEThank you, Kojo.

  • 13:58:15

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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