Power Dynamics in Foreign Aid

This report summarizes efforts by an international team of academics and practitioners to reflect on changing power dynamics in foreign aid through a series of one-on-one consultations, workshops, and high-level events over a two-year period and in collaboration with high-level stakeholders from throughout the aid community. These consultations sought to put African perspectives front and center. We highlight five key points that emerged from our conversations:

1. Understanding power in foreign aid requires accounting for the diverse interests and agendas of multiple stakeholders;

2. True localization is challenged by sub-contracting, capacity building, and elite NGOs;

3. Altering existing power dynamics in aid is difficult because of aid dependency;

4. Rising populism in recipient countries is increasingly fueling anti-aid sentiments;

5. In the face of backsliding democracy, civil society requires predictable and accessible aid.

These five points set an agenda for deeper reflection by both those immersed in the day-to-day practice of aid giving, and scholars studying power and the changing nature of foreign aid.

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