Lessons from Listening: The Aid Effectiveness Agenda : A Critical Systems Heuristics analysis of the Grand Bargain and Paris Declaration for Aid Effectiveness from the perspective of implementers and local practitioners

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för samhällsstudier (SS)

Abstract: Wide debates over the last 15 years have questioned the impact of global initiatives like the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness 2005 and more recently the Grand Bargain 2017 on any real improvements to the development effectiveness agenda. Many also ask to what extent do the initiatives consider the concerns and views of practitioners as stakeholders who implement the objectives and who have valuable experience, contextual insights, specific skill-sets and innovative ideas on how to address complex problems (Sjöstedt 2013). The breadth of literature surrounding the initiatives seems to reflect this, collectively calling for improvements in four common theme areas; greater collaboration, partnership and coordination between actors; instilled mutual accountability and shared responsibility; simplified administrative requirements for implementers; and greater participation and inclusion of stakeholder voices throughout processes. Questions that ask ‘who are the actors and decision-makers?’, and ‘who ought they be?’ can highlight gaps between an ideal situation and the reality, and is characteristic of a Critical Systems Heuristics (CSH) approach to analysing sources of influence in a typical system, or in this case, global initiative. Therefore, this paper analyses the voices of aid and development practitioners who are actively working in the sector, and compares their responses to the four themes from the literature. The research was conducted over three (3) months from May to July 2018 and interviewed nineteen (19) participants from a wide variety of development and humanitarian backgrounds and levels. The main findings of the research are summed as follows: Definitions of ‘effectiveness’ vary and depend on underlying political influences  Global initiatives like the Paris Declaration and Grand Bargain have had minimal visible impact on changing systems at the implementation level The role of global initiatives is however still important as forums for promoting discussion, defining boundaries and unifying debates Power imbalances and hierarchies within the development sector are structurally embedded and addressing this is crucial to improving effectiveness Real improvements to the effectiveness agenda require both innovative, participative and evidence-based learning, and systems to accept and address the concerns of implementers

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