Limits to learning from critical reflection

Last Tuesday (18/10 -2016) the Expert Group for Aid Analysis and Evaluation (EBA, organised a day to discuss three evaluations of development cooperation in Africa. One of them looked at the impact of 50 years of development cooperation between Sweden and Tanzania. It raised several critical issues and there is much to learn from a careful analysis of its conclusions. However, immediately after the report was presented a number of websites and some daily papers took the conclusions (out of context) and generalised to all aid to Tanzania, and elsewhere. The debate got eschewed and much intellectual effort came to be spent on a ‘quasi-debate’, which was irrelevant and did not address the issues in evaluation reports. It was obvious that many of those commenting had neither read nor understood the evaluation. My pessimistic question is whether it is futile to bring evidence to the debate on development cooperation. It is not possible to prevent a critical analysis from being hijacked by people whos agenda is to put an end to development cooperation rather than improve it. So, how can an intellectual climate for critical reflection be built and maintained?