|The Unbearable Lightness of the Busan Declaration|
Last week’s High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan saw a greater inclusion of non-DAC countries, with China, Brazil and India joining the negotiating table. But with no binding commitments or specific actions agreed, what difference will the conference make for the world's poorest and most vulnerable people?
7th December 2011
2nd December 2011 - Social Watch
Civil society organizations that participated in the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held this week in Busan, South Korea, regretted that the deal reached at the conference was not binding for all the donor countries, and the lack of a rights based approach, especially on gender, and of commitments on favorable conditions for the NGOs.
“The deal struck […] will only live up to its historic potential if nations follow through on their promises,” stated BetterAid, a coalition of more than 1,700 aid groups. The alliance expressed “regret that the agreement apparently does not include binding commitments or specific actions."
“There's too much unfinished business here,” agreed Gregory Adams, of the international aid agency Oxfam. Adams said that “one billion poor people are waiting for more than words: they want measurable action.”
The Busan declaration suffers from an “unbearable lightness”, accused ODA Watch, a South Korean watchdog organization. “Even though Busan made meaningful efforts and results building for inclusive partnership, it still has much limitations,” said the group in a statement.
The declaration suggests that the principles, commitments and actions reached in Busan shall be voluntary for emerging nations such as China, India, Brazil and other emerging economies. The statement recognizes their “differential commitments” and noted that the actions were “voluntary” for them, explained in a press release Publish What You Fund, part of the Better Aid Open Platform.
Amid increasing pressure, Beijing was apparently reluctant to join to the club of major donors, reported The Korea Times.
Pros and cons
“This meeting became a conversation between Northern and Southern donors about what kind of aid they want to give, not about what the world’s poorest people need,” explained Oxfam’s Adams. But the agreement “puts more countries now at the table, and accountable for their actions,” he remarked.
"It's a big step forward that China is at the table, but it's a pity that they aren't yet ready to promise to act on what they say," said Antonio Tujan, chair of BetterAid and the representative of the civil society at the negotiations.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cautioned on Wednesday developing nations to be "smart shoppers" and to beware some donor countries which might be more interested in extracting natural resources than promoting development, reported AFP news agency.
Without mentioning China by name, she urged developing countries to avoid "quick fixes" that fill short-term budget gaps without lasting benefit, added the French agency.
“Favorable conditions” for CSOs needed
The outcome document was signed by heads of state, ministers, members of parliaments and other representatives of developing and developed countries, heads of multilateral and bilateral institutions, representatives of different types civil society, private, local and regional organizations.
“By participating in high level negotiations on aid and development for the first time, people’s organizations can take credit for cementing democratic ownership and human rights in the Busan Outcome Document – but more works needs to be done on advancing favorable conditions for civil society,” added Emele Duituturaga, co-chair of Open Forum, a global civil society platform engaging thousands of organizations worldwide.
Commitments from governments and donors on conditions for CSOs were not fully defined, particularly in light of the growing evidence of a crackdown on civil society in many parts of the world, added Open Forum in a press release.
“Governments must recognize CSOs as not only social actors but also political actors in the democratization of our societies”, said Ruben Fernandez, of the Latin America CSO network ALOP.
Disappointment on the gender issue
The Forum in Busan failed to deal with the lack of a rights based approach, nor ensuring that aid is spent for the benefit of the poorest, particularly women and children, in fragile states such as Somalia, Haiti and The Ivory Coast, remarked BetterAid.
The UN reports that women represent over 70% of the world’s poor. “Women’s empowerment is much more than just using them as engines of growth. This document failed to recognize women’s rights,” said Kasia Staszewska, from WIDE Network and BetterAid.
Women’s organizations from around the world choose not to endorse Busan Joint Action Plan on Gender Equality and Development launched by Hillary Clinton.
“We all know that increasing the number of women available in the labour market can be very profitable. But does it result in better development outcomes or rights for women? Not from our experience,” said Azra Sayeed of Roots for Equity, Pakistan.
“A human rights-based plan should be developed in dialogue with women’s rights organizations and gender equality advocates,” agreed Katia Uriona, member of the Coordinadora de la Mujer, Bolivia.
“We heard quite a bit about the potential economic growth women can generate, but we didn’t hear anything about guaranteeing decent work, sovereignty over land and resources, or shifting economic and social systems that impoverish and discriminate against women” said Kate Lappin, from the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development.
More transparency also needed
Aid donors made significant progress on transparency to ensure that aid has the best possible impact in the future, said in a press release Publish What You Fund.
The group reported that in the run up to and during the Forum in Busan 26 donors published information about their aid spending, among them the Asian Development Bank, the UNDP, the UNOPS, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Fund for Agriculture and Development, Spain, Sweden, Finland, the United States and Canada, all of them representing over three-quarters of international aid flows.
“Donors who remain outside the fold, such as France and Japan, should sign up immediately,” said Karin Christiansen, managing director of Publish What You Fund.
Donors agreed to align their aid with recipient country’s systems, and to accelerate their efforts to untie aid. They reiterated promises to make their aid more predictable, and to reduce fragmentation and the proliferation of aid channels.
European Union criticized
The EU gives 50% of global aid, but it failed to show leadership in Busan, according to civil society organizations that participated in the conference.
“The European Union was a ghost at the global aid summit,” said Justin Kilcullen, president of the European ONG Confederation for Relief and Development (CONCORD), at a press conference in Busan. “Despite contributing €53billion to development aid a year, the EU allowed a watered down agreement to accommodate geopolitical agendas.”
For her part, Oxfam spokesperson Farida Bena said: “This is a time to make the aid the EU gives better, not worse. We’ve are hugely disappointed at the EU’s lack of leadership.”
“EU’s performance in Busan was disappointing,” agreed Timo Lappalainen, of the Service Centre for Development Cooperation (KEPA), focal point of Social Watch in Finland. “We European CSOs now have a mountain to climb over to push the EU take an active role and live up to its vision as a responsible global force.”
This report is based on data from the following sources:
29th November 2011 - Taro Ichikawa, InDepth News
Despite broad agreement that international development cooperation must become effective in order to achieve its objective of closing the rich-poor gap, the fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4), which kicked off on November 29 in Busan, South Korea, may fall short of marking a genuine "turning point" for the effectiveness agenda.
Some 3,000 delegates including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, high-level government officials from around the world and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are attending the Forum.
What should make the HLF4 a "turning point", says Shunichiro Honda from Research Institute of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), is the rapidly changing aid environment that policy makers and researchers consider the critical backdrop of the forum.
One major change, he told a joint meeting of the Korea Association of International Development and Cooperation (KAIDEC) and the Japan Society for International Development (JASID) ahead of Busan, is the emergence of the increasingly active "new" actors in development cooperation such as non-DAC donors, global funds, international NGOs, foundations and private corporations.
DAC stands for the Development Assistance Committee of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) comprising 34 countries from North and South America to Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
They include many of the world's most advanced countries but also emerging countries like Mexico, Chile and Turkey. OECD also works closely with emerging giants like China, India and Brazil and developing economies in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
The new situation is different from when the Paris principle was premised, where traditional donors including DAC bilateral donors and multilateral development institutions were the dominant development actors. The Paris framework has not been so designed to adequately address burgeoning and increasingly fragmented development programs and projects with such diverse actors, said Honda.
In this new environment, aid should and will play more of a catalytic role in development. Another change is the emergence of "new" global challenges such as climate change and fragile states, which were not fully envisaged at the time of conceiving the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) in the year 2000 and the Paris principle.
Effectiveness after Busan
Honda said, the review of documents including DAC official papers points to several issues with some emerging consensus, which would guide the direction of the effectiveness agenda after Busan.
"One key issue is whether the scope of the effectiveness agenda should be widened from the narrow 'aid' effectiveness to broader 'development' effectiveness. Taking cognizance of the growing call for more inclusive framework to better engage diverse actors, the shift seems to be likely," argued Honda.
The other major point of contention, he said, would be whether the principles will equally be applied to the new actors, assuming that the Paris principles continue to be maintained beyond Busan.
"A 'differentiated approach' seems to be the most probable direction forward without alienating major 'new' actors like Brazil and China, which take the position that South-South cooperation is more for solidarity than effectiveness. The approach implies a more flexible framework for new actors to work on, whereas traditional donors will be tasked to further speed up actions already agreed on the five Paris principles," said Honda.
The latter implies that issues including aid transparency, "division of labor" among donors, aid predictability and the use of country systems will continue to challenge traditional donors including Japan, he said.
How to catch fish
Reflecting views of a cross section of groups in favour of closing the rich-poor gap in international relations, The Korea Times said on November 28: "The conference on global development aid . . . is untimely in view of economic troubles worldwide. However, economic uncertainties should not be an excuse for countries to look inward. The meeting should be a productive occasion for a paradigm shift in aid methods, governance, transparency and enlargement of the pool of donors."
Korea's hosting of the three-day event bears added significance and symbolism, the national daily said. "Korea's successful transformation from an aid recipient to a donor gives a message of hope and encouragement to poor countries."
Learning from its own experience, Korea can indeed play a proactive model in aid. "Donors must give poor countries knowhow of how to catch fish, not just fish. Foreign aid should include both hardware and software. This approach will help the recipient countries go to the path of development. The development-through-aid initiative should be the new catch phrase of the international assistance program," the newspaper said.
Addressing critical points in order to make Busan and the post-Busan period a success, the newspaper said the current governance structure of the global aid body, including the OECD Development Assistance Committee DAC, must undergo change in order to enhance aid effectiveness.
The gathering should also be an opportunity for the enlargement of donor countries. So far only the rich countries have become donors. Active participation by emerging countries, including China and oil-rich Arab states, will also stimulate the program, it added.
Reports, however said that China was not ready to endorse a partnership for global development. Brazil and India have also decided to stay outside of the framework in a further blow, according to these reports.
The newspaper argued: The EU-dominated OECD-DAC might lose its luster in view of the current eurozone crisis. The OECD-DAC should enlarge engagement with emerging nonmember countries to increase foreign assistance in this time of economic uncertainty. Development aid can also stimulate world economic growth.
It added: "The UN can play an active role in initiating the new paradigm shift in the global assistance program. The UN can strength global partnership for creating inclusive space for dialogue, mutual learning and accountability.
"Improving aid quality is necessary as development assistance has been sometimes fragmentary and plagued by bureaucracy. The UN and the OECD need to build a partnership for maximizing synergy in global development aid. Donors also must strengthen partnership with the private sector for upgrading development effectiveness.
"Upgrading transparency in delivering aid is also critical. Donors have so far have not established a mechanism to ensure aid materials go to the grass roots people. Foreign assistance has sometimes spawned corruption in officialdom.
"The gathering should also be an occasion to tie aid to progress in democracy. Dictators in poor countries should not exploit aid for perpetuating power."
Reflecting the widespread mood, the newspaper said, the international aid community needs a more independent forum for embracing more emerging donors. Sticking to the current OECD model will not be attractive enough to encourage the participation of more emerging donor countries.
It called upon Koreans to stand behind Seoul's initiative to expand its foreign assistance in keeping with its economic power. From 1945 till 1999, Korea received $12.7 billion in foreign aid. Without such care from the international aid community, Korea would not have become the world's 11th largest economy, the newspaper concluded.
Park En-na, director general of the development cooperation bureau at the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told the Korean Herald that while both donor and recipient countries focused on how development aid was going from country A to country B in the past, the focus of the Busan forum was on recipient countries' "ownership" of aid – on setting a growth target on their own, setting related economic strategies and policies, matching them with investment and pursuing policy coherence.
For example, a donor country does not always have to give money to a poor country but has to offer other diverse options such as imposing no tariffs and no quotas in trade, or invest in a certain country and share consequent risks, Park explained.
In line with diverse and effective aid, the Busan forum will also seek a new dimension in promoting a partnership between the private and public sectors, she said. Normally, the corporate sector makes investment in a certain region for profit but a partnership with a government will enable them to set up a sustainable long-term goal, Park said.
"Let's say we want to build a road in a poor country. A private company, which sees a potential in the market, can finance the road construction project,” she said.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the Korean government suggested countries hold a private sector forum, as its role is important in international aid, especially when major economies, including the U.S. and European Union, are finding it difficult to expand aid during their economic downturns.
2nd December 2011 - Jonathan Glennie, The Guardian
Some international conferences are immediate failures, but none are immediate successes. It will take weeks, months and ultimately years before the impact of the last few days at the Busan forum on aid effectiveness will be known, and it is impossible to find two people with the same opinion at the moment. Here is my preliminary view.
If you think what matters are time-bound measurable commitments, then Busan is something of a failure. At Paris, most of the technical work on principles and indicators was already done, with a limited amount of target-setting left for after the conference. Here in Busan, there are next to no specific commitments, merely promises to come up with some. No wonder the large donors have big smiles on their faces – they have no targets to which citizens can hold them accountable. The one specific commitment is on transparency, with 75% of official development assistance (ODA) now falling under the International Aid Transparency Initiative.
While some are hopeful that the next six months will bring forth a meaningful global monitoring framework for the promises made at Busan, my instinct is that this will be a hard task, although one worth engaging in.
If you care about evidence-based policymaking, this conference has been mixed. While there was not enough explicit referencing, sifting and collation of the plethora of evidence available on what has worked and what hasn't over the five years since the Paris declaration, it has, nevertheless, filtered into the outcome document, with less important Paris commitments being dropped and the vital ones being reaffirmed.
And that is worth dwelling on. There was a time a few months ago when even core Paris commitments, such as ownership and putting aid money through systems, were thought to be in jeopardy given donor preference for "results" over process. That has not happened. Busan has thoroughly underlined the importance of ownership, and has stronger language on systems-approaches than ever before, insisting that the "default" option should be to use country systems, with any deviance explained to beneficiary countries. The new deal for fragile states will also be seen as one of the successes of Busan.
If you are interested in progressive language more generally, this document is satisfactory. It moves the debate well along from an obsession with aid to a much broader understanding of the co-operation, financial and otherwise, required for development to take place. Sure, they are just words, but sometimes that is useful. There is a section on illicit capital flight, language on creating the "enabling environment" for civil society to thrive and a general tonal shift towards a new global reality in which the west plays a supportive rather than a dominating role. South-south cooperation, with its strong emphasis on horizontal relationships, is the key new area of theory in this document and that is good news. It does not herald a paradigm shift, but describes one that is taking place.
But despite the human resources spent on including time-bound commitments and perfecting language in international documents, we should not exaggerate their importance in driving change. Statements of intent are important, but not very important. As my boss at the Overseas Development Institute, Alison Evans, has put it (in the language of an economist) they marginally increase the cost of an alternative course of action, but seldom compete with more profound political and economic incentives. That is certainly one of the lessons of the last five years of Paris, in which donors have improved a bit, but substantially failed to meet their commitments.
That is why some people prefer to look at process issues more than wording, and if we look at political engagement rather than specific targets, Busan emerges as an important step forward. After last minute negotiations (in which Brazil played a key role) and the insertion of a paragraph distancing non-DAC (the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) donors from concrete commitments, China, India and Brazil all endorsed the idea of working together more closely in what is being described, even by usually critical civil society representatives, as a "new global partnership". This matters to African countries that want to apply principles to all international partners, without diminishing the distinctiveness of Chinese support for their development.
It is not a leap, it is a pigeon-step, but it is a step nonetheless - the latest in a long line that demonstrate the willingness of progressives to work more closely together to respond to global challenges such as poverty. The inclusion of civil society in negotiations was also an important procedural innovation, in contrast to the reduced political space it is experiencing in many countries. At one panel I was on, the idea emerged that civil society should be a formal part of many more UN processes.
The OECD, which, along with South Korea, deserves great credit for brokering the Busan agreement, realised that it had to decrease for a global partnership to increase, and it demonstrated leadership when it mattered. I am hopeful that despite the lack of measurable commitments, the building blocks are in place for an improved and much more inclusive model of international co-operation for development.
If Paris was a triumph of technocratic organisation, Busan has been an expression of shifting geopolitical realities, with the role of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) proving more critical than ever before. But ultimately the same question applies to both talkfests: what difference will all this hullaballoo mean for the world's poorest and most vulnerable people? That will depend more on the actions of the international community than words on a page.
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