On 16 October 2023, Prof Dirk-Jan Koch, Chief Science Officer at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Professor at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, presented his new book at IDOS.
Dr Niels Keijzer (IDOS) and Dr Lena Gutheil (IDOS) organised this book launch event in which Prof Dirk-Jan Koch presented his new book dealing with unintended effects in foreign aid. As unintended consequences are hard to detect and find little mention in evaluations, they are often not factored in during the conceptualisation stage of development projects and programmes. Based on solid research, the book, which is available as a free download, identifies and discusses the 10 most prevalent unintended effects in development aid, such as backlash effects (when aid is perceived as illegitimate intervention) or price effects (when aid distorts prices in developing countries).
Unintended effects are often perceived as only negative or unavoidable. However, the book shows that this does not necessarily have to be the case. The author presents some practical ways of tackling unintended consequences and provides recommendations for practitioners, policy makers and evaluators.
Following the presentation, three experts shared their reflections to contribute to the discussion. Peter Krahl (German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ) emphasised the importance of the book’s results for donors and implementation agencies. He pleaded for investing more into organisational learning. Subsequently, Dr Stephan Klingebiel (IDOS) reflected on the changing geopolitical context in which aid operates. He suggested that this changing context has diluted commitments to the aid effectiveness agenda, which ultimately also impedes that unintended effects are taken into consideration. The final commentary by Dr Zunera Rana (Radboud University) dealt with the practical challenges of considering unintended effects in evaluations.
Discussions with the audience addressed these aspects, focusing on the methods may needed to better understand and study unintended effects, while emphasising that analysing such effects is of broader public policy relevance and goes beyond development cooperation per se.