Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Beneficiary Fatigue

For a myriad of reasons, political, economic or beneficiary refractiveness, the term “donor fatigue” was invented by donors and development aid agencies to convey their frustration at the slow pace of change or no change at all in their beneficiary countries and communities. They do not see the changes they have planned for, and many times, development plans from air-conditioned conference rooms do not survive either in the dust of the Sahel or in the humid heat of the coast. A seasoned development worker once said “the developers and their “beneficiaries” of development surgery simply see the same problems from different, sometimes opposing angles, but the beneficiaries tag along dutifully, but doing their own thing.” Then fatigue sets in. In order to relieve the fatigue and justify their continued “reluctant” support of “recalcitrant” beneficiaries, long term impacts have been nudged aside for in-depth inputs analysis, process emphasis and “lessons learnt” digressionism. And the beneficiaries have gotten wiser too. Better access to information on the politics and economics of development aid has changed the views of educated people and opinion leaders in beneficiary countries. Development aid donors and practitioners are seen as having a hidden agenda and are accused of self-satisfying and self-aggrandizing pseudo-samaritanism..

The beneficiary side of development aid harbors a growing disenchanted middle class, a cynical political class and a disillusioned rural and urban-ghetto populace. Illiterate beneficiary communities in particular, have become disillusioned with little or no impact on the quality of their lives, despite lofty declarations of donors and aid agencies over the years. These communities equate aid practitioners’ samaritanic declarations to mere intentions for which they have learnt to understand and accept their inability to hold the practitioners accountable. They have learnt to develop thick skin to “participatory approach” entreaties, and when they give their reluctant consent, they also have their own hidden agenda. The beneficiaries at all levels have found reasons not to commit more than self-serving placatory involvement and indeed to also claim fatigue.

Both donors/agencies and their beneficiaries have reasons for “fatigue.” The challenge and the way forward for both is to redefine their relationship on the template of good governance, absolute transparency, honesty and mutual trust.

1 comment:

Elzemedina said...

Dear Bimbo; thank you for always "keeping the loop" on issues that most of us passed by...