Articles authored by Pratt, Brian

Conference Report

The 1992 International Workshop on the Evaluation of Social Development took place in Amersfoorst, the Netherlands. Representatives from international NGOs, academics, and planners sought clearer guidelines on methods NGOs can use to evaluate programmes and their impact. The first half of the workshop was based on case-studies, the second on drawing up guidelines based upon these concrete experiences. Customised methods of evaluation are needed for development NGOs to ensure the interests of the organisations, their `clients' and their donors are all considered.


In English only
In English only
In English only

We are in a time when many detractors of international development are regularly challenging the whole concept of development, including those who feel that international aid should be cut to avoid or reduce budget reductions in donor country’s domestic services. Meanwhile supporters of development assistance are also concerned both by recurrent failures to meet intended impacts, and that this is now being ‘exposed’ in the popular media and academic literature.

It is at least 20 years since authors such as Peter Oakley1 and Jonathan Friedman2 wrote about the concept of empowerment, and even longer since Paulo Freire3 and others popularised the concept of ‘conscientisation’. Do these concepts still have a value and a relevance at the present time, when so much development thinking is dominated by technological solutions to problems, or alternatively assumes that the hidden hand of the market will resolve economic and social ‘inefficiencies’?

In the current context, when so many policies on international development are changing significantly, it is challenging to write an editorial which may quickly become dated. As I write, we see development ministers across Europe turning their backs on policies such as budget support, the principles behind the Paris Declaration, and co-funding for international NGOs. In their place we see the re-introduction of new conditionalities; a focus on short-term ‘results’; and a reduced list of priorities, such as security and basic welfare.

At whatever level we are working, or researching, it is probably a truism that development is a slow business. Recently a UN official said to me that there is no appetite for longer term solutions to the socio-political structural issues which maintain poverty; and that people have been coming to the same conclusion for at least 30 years. Similarly we are often poor at researching longer term trends, not least because the current trend is for short-term ‘results’ from development aid, and evidence to back it up.


The article considers international advocacy concerning the exploitation of gas reserves in an area inhabited by an isolated indigenous group in Peru, the Machigengua. Considerable international advocacy activity was centred mainly in Washington, DC. Poor communication between those directly affected and international environmental NGOs illustrated very different and not always compatible agendas.

The world is standing at a major point in its history as I write, with European politicians still deliberating as to how a deepening of the international economic crisis will be averted or at least mitigated. The longer term implications for developing and emerging economies cannot yet be known. At one level we may see a major change in the emphasis of development aid, as well as priorities within developing countries as the demand-led consumer boom falters, but new opportunities arise in those countries still maintaining their economic growth.