The Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA) was set up by the Swedish government in 2013. The Terms of Reference announce that we “will continuously evaluate and analyse Sweden’s international development cooperation in order to improve development cooperation and build up a long-term, high-quality knowledge-base”.
The position as Chairman of the EBA is an exciting one. It’s about building up a field of activity which for development assistance is an entirely new one. In addition, I benefit from the fact that I previously chaired the since long well established Expert Group on Public Finance (ESO), and I believe strongly in the sort of organisation that ESO and now also EBA constitute examples of. (In addition to the EBA and ESO another comparable organisation has recently been set up in the migration studies area – the Delegation for Migration Studies.)
EBA, like ESO, works with something that can be labelled a “double independence”. The Committee works independently from the government and chooses which issues it will analyse and evaluate – as well as which writer/researcher it will assign for the task. The authors then pursue their analyses and reports in the manner they desire. Before the reports are published, the Committee however takes a decision on whether they hold sufficient quality. The Committee can also choose to endorse a report or some of the suggestions it contains. We can also put forth our own analyses and proposals – but this has not been common in the ESO context.
Unlike other Swedish Government Official Reports none of the above committees (such as EBA) work with an individual mandate or with the mission to investigate or respond to a specific, distinct issue. Instead, we continuously produce analyses and background material for decisions on relevant and current issues in our respective fields. For EBA, this field is of course evaluation and analysis of Sweden’s development cooperation and its effects. But we can, if we believe there is a need, broaden our perspective and study also adjacent budgetary and policy areas, for example within the framework of Sweden’s Policy for Global Development.
It is not realistic to expect that a work group of this kind will play a major role when it comes to the most current, up to date policy issues. The focus must be on building a longer-term knowledge base. Experiences from the ESO show that many of the issues highlighted, and proposals brought forth, actually later were implemented as concrete policies, although it might not have been primarily thanks to ESO’s work. All in all, though, many ESO reports have without doubt directly influenced the current debate and policy.
It is our ambition to invite stakeholders and interested parties to discussion and cooperation in a transparent manner. Reports will be published and seminars and workshops will be arranged, all with the intention to open up for a fruitful debate and policy arena on Sweden’s development assistance activities.
We hope through our work that we can help to increase the knowledge of Swedish aid and thus to contribute to making it work better over time. Our aim is obviously to be relevant and useful when development policies are to be formulated and developed. Here you can all contribute and be of big help to us by suggesting questions we should pose and authors that could write about them. We look forward to working with you all.
Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA)