Since the modern era of aid giving began after the Second World War donors have sought to improve the effectiveness of their aid.
In the 1980s and 1990s a shift towards policy lending (as opposed to project lending) dominated aid spending, along with a rise in the role of private agencies and contractors (both for profit and not for profit). In response to a perceived mishandling or downgrading of the potential role of the state during this period, the Paris Agenda strongly emphasised greater use of recipient government systems in the 2000s, primarily with a view to strengthening their capacity and accountability.
Now, in a context of limited progress towards increased ‘use of country systems’, that agenda is also being reassessed, both for failing to accommodate non-state actors into its purview, and for applying an over-rigid set of solutions that fail to take sufficiently into account the contexts of both recipient and donor partners.
Building on that analysis and learning from the challenges to date, this paper sets out a research programme to address whether the ‘Paris-style’ approach to using systems in order to strengthen them (i.e. transferring aid to and through those systems) is working, and whether an analogous approach might also be appropriate for non-state sectors (i.e. the private sector and civil society).