What is good practice in aid administration? This article, based on the reflections of an insider practitioner, finds that unequal relationships between donor and recipient and the ambiguous nature of aid as a gift between one country and another, creates a complexity that is difficult to negotiate in practice. A key finding is that neither market nor administrative rationality fit the needs of the exchange, although the rules of aid administration feature both. Instead, a third logic; the ambiguous social logic of the gift, creates opportunities for practitioners of good intent on either side to go beyond the contract obligations or rules of office to overcome negativities and achieve positive outcomes. At project level this to advocate a role for the mutuality of friendship that both administrative norms and market theory disallow as dangerous. At intergovernmental level, inequality persists in ways that are not masked by the language of partnerships that now pervades aid administration. The paper concludes with the thought that this may change, as will the nature of aid, as countries North and South negotiate a shared destiny in a warming World.
Keywords: Gift, delivery, development, donor, administration, recipient