06 February 2013

Loewenberg on Hunger and Failure

Just came across this video from journalist Sam Loewenberg. "The Hunger Season, A Cynical Cycle" was delivered last summer at the University of Chicago Center for International Studies. The video provides a pretty succinct summary, "Loewenberg uses case examples in Kenya and Guatemala to illustrate that the increase in the percentage of the population living in hunger since 1974 continues unchecked, despite promises made at past global summits to eradicate the problem."

Found it because of Sam's excellent column in the Sunday New York Times on the importance of true accountability in aid interventions.
The risk is that too few people will follow. Especially in tough economic times, the pressure is on to show that they are getting bang for their buck. Last year an Obama administration official called on the aid community to adopt a “permanent campaign mind-set,” in which fund-raising and promotion are on the front burner. This creates an incentive to go for easy victories, highlight successes and bury failures. Even with the new fad in the aid world for metrics and impact assessments, their public reports are rarely forthcoming about missteps.

That’s bad science. While aid organizations must be accountable for outcomes, that pressure for positive results should not be an encouragement to skimp on the truth. Making a difference in the world is hard, often messy work. Pretending otherwise is no help at all.