Seven Deadly Sins: Reflections on Donor Failings

37 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2007

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 2004


In the face of continuing development challenges in the world's poorest countries, there have been new calls throughout the donor community to increase the volume of development aid. Equal attention should be given to the reform of the aid business itself, that is, to the practices, processes, procedures and politics of aid. This paper discusses the shortcomings of that business using new research that has not been adequately or explicitly incorporated into the donor community's reform agenda. It outlines seven of the worst sins or failings of donors, including impatience with institution building, collusion and coordination failures, failure to evaluate the results of their support, and financing that is volatile and unpredictable. It suggests possible short-term practical fixes and notes the need ultimately for more ambitious and structural changes in the overall aid architecture.

Suggested Citation

Birdsall, Nancy, Seven Deadly Sins: Reflections on Donor Failings (December 2004). Center for Global Development Working Paper No. 50. Available at SSRN: or

Nancy Birdsall (Contact Author)

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