IDS held their latest ‘Dangerous Ideas in Development’ Seminar in the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday evening. It was titled Handle with Care: Delivering Aid in Volatile Environments.
During the discussion Dan Smith, Secretary General of International Alert, talked about the importance of trust between governments and their citizens. In 2000 government officials warned communities in Mozambique of the coming floods. However those communities who did not have trust in the government did not leave – meaning they could not reach higher ground when the waters did come.
Joanna Wheeler of IDS also talked about the relationship between states and citizens. She noted how all too often this dynamic got lost when we think about fragile states. They are not blank slates for state building but have many forms of civil society – and it is this relationship between the citizen and the state that is important. She also stressed how, given the chaotic and complex nature of fragile states, there will tend to be setbacks in any route to development. Helping to strengthen civil society structures to weather this will be important.
Trust came up again when the discussion turned to the decision by the British government to ring-fence the aid budget. The success of fundraising events such as Comic Relief show the public’s support for development but in order to maintain support for aid it is vital to maintain the public’s trust that their money is being well spent.
One solution may be a more in-depth discussion with the public. NGOs and government alike need to get across the reality of the situation – the difficulties of achieving change and forces that may work against it. Without this, the trust of the public could be tested if the changes fail to happen.
In volatile environments it is unlikely that we will see a smooth path to progress. How will we deal with the bumps in the road if the stage has been set for judgement via a simple set of results?