Full speed ahead for the final stage

ReCom—Research and Communication on Foreign Aid (2011-13), is coming into its final stage. We at UNU-WIDER are looking forward to a busy autumn working to deliver the final report on the project’s findings, and their relevance for development policy.

ReCom set itself some ambitious goals that are ahead of the field in terms of academic research on 'what works' in development policy. Finding out what works and could work in different contexts and on different levels is tricky in the very complex world of foreign aid. Studying social and political change involves forgetting any assumptions of a linear and simple relationship between a problem and a cure: change is more dependent on the internal structures of a society than external interventions. This is something we have tried to keep in mind during our work.

Involving policy makers has from the start been an essential part of the trans-disciplinary research design. In this sense ReCom is at the core of the ‘evidence influences policy, affects practice and leads to social change’ approach as it creates opportunities for learning how to handle complex challenges. ReCom also moves away from the notion that ‘somebody’ knows best: it is a collective, self-reflective, systemic and holistic learning effort where contributions add up to deliver the rich and deep base of knowledge that has been formed.

By the end of the year more than 200 WIDER working papers will have been published out of ReCom’s research, reflecting a broad variety of evidence that is compiled and explained in our position papers on the 5 ReCom themes.

The next opportunity for learning together will be on 23 October in the conference centre Charlottehaven in Copenhagen, Denmark where the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) will host the ReCom Results Meeting on Governance and Fragility. Evidence will be presented on development cooperation that helps to improve governance and reduce fragility. The aim is also to confront policy makers with dilemmas and inconsistencies in development cooperation.

Among others, Denmark’s Minister of Development Cooperation, Christian Friis Bach, is expected to attend. We are looking forward to an engaging discussion moderated by Verner Kristiansen who has 20 years’ of experience in strategic development communication.

One interesting presentation will deal with the question of how donors could help different groups to arrange money-transfers from migrants to their home countries in cheaper and more effective ways. It has been estimated that the average household in Somalia receives 40 per cent of its income from remittances. Our colleague in Copenhagen Jesper Heldgaard wrote a nice blog post (in Danish) about this research.

On 5 December the last Results Meeting will take place, again in Copenhagen. This time the topic will be how gender issues are connected to foreign aid. More information about these two events will be posted on the ReCom website.

It is also worth looking back at what we did before the summer break. On 4 June we arranged the ReCom results meeting on ‘Aid and our Changing Environment’ in Stockholm. The videos from this event are now on the UNU-WIDER YouTube channel. Read about the day as written by Roger Williamson here and Tony Addison’s concluding remarks can be found here.

ReCom results meeting: Aid and our changing environment

At the meeting we spoke to Wisdom Akpalu from Ghana about aid for education – he received his PhD after participating in a programme at University of Gothenburg sponsored by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida.

There is also material from a workshop for journalists that we arranged during the World Conference of Science Journalists in Helsinki. Here is a video where UNU-WIDER Director Finn Tarp explains why not just journalists, but also economists, often go wrong when they try to understand foreign aid.

We had Wycliffe Muga from the Star in Nairobi and Mićo Tatalović , news editor at in London give their contributions to the day’s debate that attracted some two dozen international journalists.


Carl-Gustav Lindén is Senior Communications Specialist, UNU-WIDER