François Bourguignon, President of the European Research Development Network (EUDN) and Director of the Paris School of Economics (PSE) since October 2007, was formerly World Bank Chief Economist (2003-2007). We interviewed him during the EUDN Conference, held in Paris on March, 26th of 2012. François Bourguignon is a specialist in development assistance and is also advisor to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso.
A reminder of this year’s topic: “Evaluation and its discontents, do we learn from experience in development?”. Our societies’ demand for the evaluation of economic policies has been evolving alongside a growing desire for transparency and accountability of decision-makers . This is within a context where persistent doubts exist regarding the efficiency of public spending. In the development sector, this is particularly apparent as development assistance has been heavily criticized due to its limited efficiency. The increasing budget constraints faced by many donors have also exacerbated the complexity of the task.
Nevertheless, the issue of evaluating public policies is neither a new idea, nor a novel practice. It becomes increasingly essential, however, to determine whether the evaluation task is properly conducted. We need to discuss whether the way evaluations are undertaken produces an accumulation of knowledge that is accessible to decision makers, or whether the context in which development policies are implemented severely reduces the usefulness of past experiences for designing future projects. Can we learn from our own and others’ experiences in the field of development? If so, how can evaluation contribute and how is it that we seem unable to translate these experiences into practice? If not, what are the factors hampering the learning process?