No rest until New Year’s Eve

Silence reigns in the office these days. Doors are closed, discussions are short, and faces look strained. The reason is that we are in the process of wrapping up the three-year-long research project ReCom–Research and Communication on Foreign Aid. This involves the delivery of five position papers that synthesize more than 250 working papers and all the debate that has gone into ReCom by the end of the year.

This review will be a valuable source of information about aid impact for years to come. The most economical way to get acquainted with the material is to read the accompanying policy briefs.

In addition to this we are also preparing a final ReCom results meeting, ‘Aid for Gender Equality’ (follow #ReComGender for updates on this), that will bring together an impressive group of gender experts together in Copenhagen on 16 December 2013. The venue is the beautiful old warehouse Eigtveds Pakhus which is exclusively used by the Danish government, and the conference website is found here.

The event is public, and free to everyone. We especially welcome experts in the field, as well as policy makers, researchers, students, and practitioners interested in gender equality. Please keep an eye on the programme since we are continually updating it.

The most recent additions to the already authoritative list of contributors are three policy makers from Asia. We will have Dr Attiya Inayatullah who is a former Pakistani Minister for Women’s Development, Population Planning, Social Welfare and Special Education, as well as Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury who is Speaker at the Bangladesh Parliament and a well-known lawyer defending human rights. From Cambodia we will be joined by Dr Khieu Serey Vuthea who is responsible for social development in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. 

There are encouraging signs that foreign aid has reduced gender inequality and benefitted women and girls. More girls are attending school, and in some countries they outnumber boys. In their working paper Lynda Pickbourn and Léonce Ndikumana also associate an increase in foreign aid with an improvement in both the human development and the gender inequality indexes. Specifically, aid appears to be effective in reducing maternal deaths, as well as helping to close the gender gap in youth literacy.

This is reflected in the action of donors. Larger amounts of aid are also given to countries that grant more extensive rights to women as shown in this working paper by Axel Dreher, Kai Gehring, and Stephan Klasen.

Aid has also been used to support women’s organizations, which has a positive effect on women’s political empowerment. And not only have they achieved more voice within their societies, there are also positive spillover effects, as noted by Lucy Scott, such as improved self-confidence and decision-making among women, as well as increasing household income.

These are all issues that will inform discussion in Copenhagen. The ReCom team now also needs to ensure that the evidence will be used by policy makers and find ways into development practice long after New Year’s Eve has passed. So while the majority of people eagerly wait for the festive season and other winter celebrations people in our office tend to check their calendars and the remaining days of this year with a different mindset.

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