Foreign aid is about charity. International development is about technical fixes. At least that is what we, as donor publics, are constantly told. The result is a highly dysfunctional aid system which mistakes short-term results for long-term transformation and gets attacked across the political spectrum, with the right claiming we spend too much, and the left that we don't spend enough.
The reality is that aid isn't – or at least shouldn't be – about levels of spending, nor interventions shackled to vague notions of ‘accountability’ and ‘ownership’. Instead, a different approach is possible, one that acknowledges aid as being about struggle, about taking sides, about politics. It is an approach that has been quietly applied by innovative development practitioners around the world, providing political coverage for local reformers to open up spaces for change. Drawing on a variety of convention-defying stories from a variety of countries – from Britain to the US, Sierra Leone to Honduras – this book provides an eye-opening account of what we really mean when we talk about aid.