Excerpts from the BBVA Foundation press release issued today: January 29, 2010 - The awardof €400,000 goes to the Development Research Institute (DRI) for “its contribution to the analysis of foreign aid provision, and its challenge to the conventional wisdom in development assistance,” in the words of the jury’s citation.
The DRI has brought a fresh approach to aid and development research, helping ensure that the economic aid rich countries provide to the developing world is better utilized. Its results question certain mainstream assumptions in development cooperation, like the idea that more generosity on the part of rich donor countries will have an automatic pay-off in poor country development.
“At a time when richer countries are being called on to increase aid expenditure, DRI has made it its mission to ensure that these resources are not wasted and that policy advice is effective,” concluded the jury in its resolution, which also singled out DRI’s determination to hold development assistance organizations and national aid agencies accountable to scientific scrutiny.
The DRI is co-led by two economics professors at New York University, William Easterly and Yaw Nyarko. Easterly holds a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is an expert in the political economy of development and the study of the effectiveness of foreign aid. Yaw Nyarko, one of the most highly ranked African academic economists in the world, is Associate Editor of the Journal of Economic Theory and has acted as a consultant to organizations like the World Bank and the United Nations.
Regarding the real effectiveness of humanitarian relief, the DRI has repeatedly criticized the lack of information and feedback between donors and beneficiaries. This is part of the thinking behind its Aid Watch initiative, a digital platform where researchers, policy-makers, commentators and aid practitioners can debate developments and exchange experiences.
Their research emphasizes that decisions about the allocation of relief funds cannot be left to foreign governments or multilateral organizations. Instead, they need to take close account of the social, cultural and economic peculiarities of the receiving communities in determining how and where the monies can best be spent.
The Development Cooperation award went last year in the inaugural 2008 edition to the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for applying scientific methods to assess the on-the-ground effectiveness of development assistance funding.