Ton Dietz: Five points for discussion (out of many more…)

Development Policy05 Feb 2010Ton Dietz

1. I agree with the WRR report that there is an obvious need to shift the balance of Dutch (and international) aid from the current extreme focus onthe social sector to the economic sector (and for the Netherlands, particularly the productive use of water and land, crops and animals – as the suggested focus for Dutch development aid – new style – in the WRR report). However, education and health care could be seen as global public goods, under global responsibility. Shouldn’t there be scale-specificity? For example, as far as the Netherlands supports multilateral and multi-donor initiatives, the support goes to the social sector (mainly as part of basket funding); as far as the Netherlands has its own bilateral policy, it goes to those selected parts of the economic sector in selected countries/regions. Is that what they envisage?

2. Economic growth gets major attention, but if it succeeds that has obvious consequences for global ecological and resource sustainability. Attention for a ‘green new deal’, linking development and the environment, is rather limited in the report. Why is that and how could it be strengthened?

3. If Africa is to become the core area for Dutch bilateral aid, the country level is not the adequate level of scale in many cases. In the report, it is proposed that NLAID should select ten countries. But in the recent interview in Internationale Samenwerking, the WRR team rightly states that it is not countries that should be selected but economic hubs with potential regional spread effects. So which is it: countries or hubs (metropoles; economic core regions)? And then: how to drag the remaining marginal zones along? By the way, the report seems to be contradictory as it rightly stresses the global interlinkages but at the same time stresses the need for each country (or even lower regions of scale) to be ‘zelfredzaam’. How can that be possible?

4. Economic growth support should go together with support for the fair distribution of the results of growth, and it is here that the report is weak. If the Netherlands were to concentrate its support to, say, ten ‘hubs of development’, it should support the strengthening of the state, and of the legal system, to better enable the provision of public goods and ‘catalysts for development’ by the state. But at the same time, it should support the strengthening of a strong civil society, well linked to global civil society networks, a.o. in the Netherlands. The report is too state-oriented and the important countervailing roles of non-state agencies (NGOs, CBOs, religious agencies, the private sector and their organizations) does not get enough attention. Shouldn’t there be two policies for (Dutch) support for the civil society: (a) in the Dutch hubs through the NLAID offices, and with an important ‘watchdog’ function; and (b) outside the Dutch hubs – and at the global scale/in the Netherlands itself, as a continuation of the co-financing agency approach with a variety of functions, but with an emphasis on ‘linking and learning’ and on providing emergency aid?

5. NLAID is a good idea, and as far as I am concerned, a break away from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would even be better. This would be under a NL Council for Global Development, Environment and Security as the coordinator of coherence, directly under the prime minister and with a minister for Global Sustainable Development as its political head, coordinating 10 or so hub agencies under a professional head and with country heads, and combining all the Cabinet’s money on non-European affairs and global issues. This Rijksdienst needs its own personnel management, but might need the protection of the Netherlands embassies abroad – as long as there is a break away from using diplomats as development experts. However, don’t we need a proper assessment of the pros and cons of existing arrangements elsewhere before further decision making?

Other questions

  • Why has that not been included in the report?
  • Is it an option to develop NLAID as a public-private partnership?
  • Why is there no assessment of the way SNV has worked as a pseudo NLAID (at a much smaller scale)?