The public in donor countries is often interested in the practical and ethical challenges of development, and how their public money is being used to advance international development. However, development policy and aid funding decision-making tends to be viewed as too complex for public deliberation, with fears that greater domestic accountability could shift aid away from recipients’ priorities and lead to poor coordination with other donors. As a result, there tend to be few opportunities for the public to engage with the policy process on aid and development.
This leaves aid policy vulnerable to controversies and scepticism and can drive aid towards easily communicated activities in response to the imagined perspective of public attitudes, rather than the public’s’ informed consideration of risks and challenges (Shamash et al, 2013).
Public engagement on aid and development policy can enable people to understand and debate the trade-offs and dilemmas that policy makers and officials face, and to consider aid together with other relevant policy areas such as tax, investment, climate change and trade.
Develop public consultation processes on key questions and areas of design on future foreign aid strategies and programmes. For example, this might involve:
- Carrying out public dialogues with representative samples of the public in reviewing country programmes or identifying ‘grand challenges’ and framing overarching questions and issues involving citizens at the highest level.
- Convening a sitting Citizen’s Council to provide public perspective and feed into development policy discussions.
- Establishing a fund with direct citizen involvement in spending decisions, through both convened dialogues and crowd sourcing voting.