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Forum for the Future of Aid

Southern Voices for Change in the International Aid System Project

The Forum on the Future of Aid is an online community dedicated to research and opinions about how the international aid system currently works and where it should go next

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Influencing International Aid Policy

By Simon Burall and Ajoy Datta

This paper has been prepared as background for the strategic planning process of the Forum on the Future of Aid (FFA) which takes place in Uganda in February 2008. FFA is a space for Southern research institutes and think tanks to exchange information, research and ideas in order to increase the impact of southern-led research on international aid policy and on the reform of the international aid architecture. The paper is based on the assumption that, while Southern organisations were unable to consistently access policy debates about the reform of the international aid architecture in the past, this situation has now changed; a number of relevant international fora have been developed or opened-up over the past three to five years. This paper presents evidence for this assumption and explores ways in which Southern researchers can increase the impact of their research in the light of this. The paper is presented in four sections.

The introduction briefly highlights recent changes to the international aid system. Section two describes the fora which Southern researchers could gain access to and use to contribute to and influence policy debates. Recognising the importance of both the national and international levels for determining the impact of aid policy on partner country development, the descriptions of the fora are split into two broad sections; the paper first briefly examines fora and processes in partner countries, before examining four key international fora where aid policy and the reform of the international aid architecture are discussed. These four are: the follow up UN Conference to Financing for Development; the UN ECOSOC Development Cooperation Forum; the OECD/DAC third high-level forum on aid effectiveness in Ghana; and the OECD/DAC Global Forum on Development. Under each forum, a brief description of the process is given, the key stakeholders and decision-makers are identifi ed, and where possible any parallel civil society processes are noted. A summary of the key issues that the forum will cover is also given.

Section three of the paper then takes a step back by drawing on the large body of literature which explores how research can infl uence policy. This section highlights the messy nature of the policy making process before looking at the role of evidence in the policy process. It explores the nature of evidence and how it is viewed within the policy process, using this understanding to explore how researchers can think about the type of evidence they generate in order to increase its impact. It then highlights how important it is for researchers to build links not only with policy-makers, but also with other stakeholders. This third section then briefly describes a theory of communication and proposes that Southern researchers should consider using research in order to infl uence the terms of the aid policy and architecture reform debates rather than focusing their energies on trying to influence specifi c aid policies. It highlights the importance of researchers developing a communications strategy at the beginning of any research project and suggests a number of questions to guide the development of such a strategy. Finally, the third section proposes a matrix which researchers could use to help the process of identifi cation of which international forum/fora are most important in terms of their strategic aims. This matrix consists of a series of questions and has been partially fi lled out in order to help stimulate discussion at the FFA strategic planning process.

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