(Project Description)

Co-Principal Investigators:
Janine R. Wedel and Lloyd J. Dumas

This project addresses the issue of accountability in international economic consulting. We aim to facilitate discussion and the development of mechanisms that would enhance the capacity of recipient governments and donor organizations to identify competent and unbiased advisors, know their track records, monitor their performance, and hold them to account. Because the capacity of both recipient and donor organizations crucially shapes the conduct of advisors, we have been examining the development of tools such as consultant registries, sanctions, and training. The project seeks to encourage knowledge sharing and advance accountability practices and mechanisms that can be adapted, piloted, and implemented. While our primary focus is international economic development consulting, some of the issues we raise pertain to international consultants more widely construed.

Background in Brief:
The project grows in part out of our experience studying economic and policy advisers and the international development process. Although the role of consultants has expanded substantially in the past decade and a half, the capacity of international organizations and governments to hold consultants to account or simply gather independent information about their track records and activities has not. At the same time, much anecdotal evidence points to instances in which economic advisers have played multiple and conflicting roles and engaged in activities (including for personal gain) that did not support and may have undermined the development goals of the countries and organizations they supposedly served.

In the first phase of the project (and first Ford Foundation grant in support of it), which began in early 2003, we convened an international Working Group composed primarily of officials from developing and transitional countries. The officials outlined accountability issues that they have encountered as recipients of international consultants, discussed potential improvements to the system, and provided feedback on a draft code of ethics. As a result of our deliberations, Working Group members are now involved in producing guidelines to help recipient officials like themselves in their own countries to better select, contract with, and monitor international consultants and generally to have more equitable dealings with development and consulting organizations.

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Current Activities:
In the present phase of the project (and current Ford Foundation grant), we have been involved in discussions with a variety of stakeholders in the international economic consulting enterprise, most notably representatives of international development institutions, especially the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Bank. Through consultations and interactions with appropriately placed individuals in these entities, as well as other parties and analysts of the consulting process, we have determined that the goals of the project would be best served by drafting and distributing a Resource Handbook. This handbook will lay out the key issues around accountability in international economic development advising, synthesize current discussion, explain practices in place, and detail current experiments underway. These practices include efforts that have resulted from institutional reforms and measures implemented by international development organizations and/or recipient governments that aim to enhance accountability within the international advising process.

The Resource Handbook will draw on a diversity of sources, including input from the Working Group (obtained during our first Ford Foundation grant) and a host of activities performed under the second. These include perspectives gleaned from internal e-discussions at the UNDP; information gathered within international development organizations; the results of our discussion groups with donor and recipient representatives, as well as numerous conversations with parties to the consulting process; and published and unpublished materials from disparate sources dealing with aspects of the topic. The Resource Handbook will also include the following materials: (1) Guidelines by and for recipient officials (described above), together with any feedback from any piloting in developing/transitional countries; (2) Addenda to consulting contracts under development by members of the Working Group, together with any feedback from any piloting in developing/transitional countries; and (3) the draft proposed code of ethics, along with suggested mechanisms by which such a code might be enforced, to stimulate discussion and for training purposes. The Handbook is intended to serve as a resource and discussion document for international development organizations, officials in developing/transitional countries, consultants and consulting firms, and other interested parties. As the primary concrete output of this phase of the project, the Resource Handbook would then serve as a basis for stakeholders to take the project to the next level of practical activity.

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© , Janine Wedel