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Why We Lie about Aid

Development and the Messy Politics of Change

Pablo Yanguas


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Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (2/15/2018)


Foreign aid is about charity. International development is about technical fixes. At least that is what we, as donors, are constantly told. The result is a highly dysfunctional aid system that mistakes short-term results for long-term transformation and gets attacked across the political spectrum: those on the right claiming we spend too much, those on the left that we don’t spend enough. The reality, as Pablo Yanguas argues in this highly provocative book, is that aid isn’t—or at least shouldn’t be—about levels of spending, nor interventions shackled to vague notions of accountability, ownership, and harmonization. Instead, a different approach is possible, one that acknowledges aid as being about struggle, about taking sides, and 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 aid practitioners across the world, from Britain to the United States and Sierra Leone to Honduras, Yanguas provides an eye-opening account of what we really mean when we talk about aid.

Praise For Why We Lie about Aid: Development and the Messy Politics of Change

“Incisive case studies, a strong command of recent currents in development studies, and a passionate belief in the necessity of development aid, despite all its flaws, bolster this probing inquiry into the politics of aid.”
— Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

“A bold effort to reframe global engagement with development. Yanguas is a leading exemplar of a new, committed and pragmatic generation of scholars and practitioners. His voice deserves to be widely heard.”
— Brian Levy, Johns Hopkins University

“Elegantly written and passionately argued, Yanguas has provided us with an authoritative guide to current debates within the aid business, and, more importantly, to the crucial political struggles that have always defined the development process.”
— Nicolas van de Walle, Cornell University

“One of the most exciting books about development aid in many years: original and timely, closely argued and evidenced, and beautifully written.”
— David Booth, Overseas Development Institute

“Yanguas entertainingly and persuasively argues that a move away from current aid systems—as institutions too fixated on short-term results—is vital.”
— Medicine, Conflict, Survival

“Full of pithy quotes, punchy anecdotes, and insightful case studies.”
— Oxfam Blogs

Why We Lie about Aid plays an important role in showing where we are in terms of the debates around how to do aid and development better, and to more effectively tackle those stickiest of problems like weak governance and corruption.”
— Devpolicy Blog

Zed Books, 9781783609338, 216pp.

Publication Date: February 15, 2018

About the Author

Pablo Yanguas is a research associate with the Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre at the University of Manchester.