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Monday, January 31, 2011

Aid Watch vs. The Girl Effect

The generally excellent and always interesting Aid Watch has another post today criticizing the Girl Effect. Their general point, which both their regular authors and guest contributors have tackled repeatedly, is that the Girl Effect treats women as means rather than ends to development. But bringing the focus to helping women seems like a good thing, and I'm not sure we should be so quick to dismiss the use of evidence-driven aid, even if it comes off as a little cynical.

I've also come to expect a little more credulity from the aid watchers. After all, Bill Easterly has played a major role in the movement toward looking skeptically at development assistance, and his insistence on considering people's incentives definitely shaped my view of how we should go about helping the poor. The quotes from Esplen should be seen in that light: with a shift away from rights and toward measurable outcomes, groups like hers stand to lose funding and status. One of the key lessons I've taken away from working with nonprofits is that not only do incentives & money matter, they often matter even more because people legitimately care about the outcomes.

In the interest of full disclosure (and to hold myself to the same standard I expect of Aid Watch) I am generally very skeptical of rights-based advocacy in the developing world; rights, especially expanded, 2nd- and 3rd-generation rights, are pretty irrelevant when governments are non-functional and people are on the very verge of subsistence.

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