ReCom - Research and Communication on Foreign Aid, is a UNU-WIDER coordinated research programme implemented in partnership with Danida (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark International Development Cooperation) and Sida (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency). The Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) is also participating in ReCom. The aim is to research and communicate what works and what can be achieved through development assistance.
Foreign aid is a complex and multi-faceted issue, involving many countries, institutions, and people—researchers, aid officials, policy makers, NGOs and civil society. To better understand and improve its effectiveness requires a multi-disciplinary approach—bringing together the best from social science, in particular economics and political science, as well as other relevant disciplines. Better understanding can only come from mobilizing a global network of development researchers and practitioners to share their knowledge of what works or could work. No single actor can grasp all of the dimensions of aid, not least in the ways that aid now interacts with global public goods—for example, within the climate change and peace and security spheres. It is the power of the network that gives ReCom its credibility as a source of knowledge on aid.
Better understanding can only come from mobilizing a global network of development researchers and practitioners to share their knowledge of what works or could work. No single actor can grasp all of the dimensions of aid, not least in the ways that aid now interacts with global public goods—for example, within the climate change and peace and security spheres. It is the power of the network that gives ReCom its credibility as a source of knowledge on aid.
The new knowledge generated by research must be shared if it is to be of use. This can only be done by effective communication with national policy makers, aid officials, parliamentarians, and other practitioners in NGOs and social movements. Communication is as important to ReCom’s success as research.
A knowledge-sharing process therefore exchanges information and views. Knowledge creation and sharing interact—discussion of the research results bring about new questions for further investigation. Discussion also captures the insights of policy makers and practitioners, which then feed back into further rounds of knowledge creation and sharing. That is the core of ReCom.
The thematic focus of the research programme covers five key issues in international development assistance:
- Growth and Employment
- Governance and Fragility
- Gender Equality
- Environment and Climate Change
- Social Sectors
Poverty cuts across all these issues, for there can be no sustained poverty reduction without achievements for aid in each. By these means, ReCom will also help shape the debate on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly post-2015.
Research on the growth and employment theme began in 2011, with a particular focus on aid and growth (including the macroeconomic management of aid which is critical to its growth and employment benefits). Preliminary results were presented in 2012 on this theme as well as governance and fragility. Commissioning of papers and analytical work on the other 4 areas began in mid 2011 and continued through 2012 while the main findings are presented during four results meetings scheduled for 2013.
As well as using more established international researchers, there is a strong focus on using early- career researchers, including those from UNU-WIDER’s extensive network in the South. Strong partnerships has been built with selected southern-based institutions, notably the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), Nairobi, an Africa-wide network of economists. UNU-WIDER held its first ReCom conference with AERC in December 2011. UNU-WIDER also partners with other UN bodies such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), as well as international think-tanks such as the Brookings Institution. There will also be contributions from the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS).
An informed debate on aid and its potential can only be generated by a network, for no single actor can capture all of the dimensions of aid, nor its global reach. This must be based on high-quality research so that the messages are credible.
Communication must also capture our changing world. Current aid practice and policy is challenged by conflict, climate change, and the emergence of new aid donors. Moreover, many developing economies are growing, a success in part due to aid itself. Aid can still help these countries, but it must work more in partnership with private capital flows and help to mobilize more public revenue from growth itself. ReCom must communicate these new trends and challenges, and what they mean for aid practice and for achieving aid effectiveness.
ReCom aims to communicate with development agencies, parliamentarians, and national policy makers. Many of these also constitute transmission mechanisms for communication to larger audiences. Within development agencies, ReCom communicates with champions for the issues, who will spread the messages further into the practice and policy of the agency. ReCom also communicates knowledge on aid in ways that can be taken up by the media and the general public.
The process of knowledge transfer consists of both products and activities. The products include research publications, policy briefs, and a section of UNU-WIDER's website devoted to the communication of ReCom research. Social platforms (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Slide Share etc.), podcasts and videos are used to disseminate the knowledge produced through ReCom. People-to-people sharing of knowledge is achieved through results meetings, conferences and seminars.