Global civil society gears up for aid talks in Busan

Monday, 28 March 2011 15:33

Donor and partner governments need to implement and deepen their current aid effectiveness commitments. In addition, new commitments are needed from all stakeholders in order to operationalize the notion of development effectiveness, and to promote a more equitable and just development cooperation architecture.

These were the main conclusions when some 80 representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) worldwide gathered in Härnösand, Sweden, in March 2011.The meeting aimed to coordinate CSO demands and strategies in the process leading up to the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4), to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea on 29 November – 1 December 2011.

Most of the participants in Härnösand were members of one of the groups that coordinate two parallel and complementary global CSO platforms: BetterAid and Open Forum on CSO Development Effectiveness.

BetterAid was initiated in January 2007 as a platform for CSOs to influence the official aid effectiveness agenda at the 3rd High Level Forum in Accra in 2008. One of the outcomes of the Accra meeting was the formal recognition of civil society as an important development actor in its own right. BetterAid now represents global civil society in the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness (WP-EFF), the OECD body that was appointed to oversee the implementation of the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

Open Forum on CSO Development Effectiveness was born out of the discussions before and during the HLF-3 in Accra. In a process that is open to the entire civil society sector, the Open Forum aims to develop an International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness. This Global Framework, which will be a consolidation of consultations around the globe, will be presented to the HLF in Busan. The Open Forum is also developing recommendations for how donors and governments can provide a more enabling environment to facilitate the development work of CSOs.

While CSOs continue to emphasise the need for official development assistance and increased transparency and accountability to fulfill the commitments that were made in the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action, the civil society sector will continue to push for deeper commitments in a number of areas already committed to in Accra. Some of these existing priority issues include:

  • the promotion of meaningful democratic ownership of development policies, planning and actions programs through full engagement with, and accountability to, all development stakeholders;
  • increasing the use of country systems as the first option by donors in bilateral government-to-government cooperation:
  • ending donor policy conditionalities attached to aid negotiations and disbursements;
  • ending all formal and informal practices of aid tying, and giving preference to local and regional procurement; and
  • ensuring that participation in development programs by the private sector respects democratic ownership in support of the realization of agreed development goals, decent work and human rights standards.

Even before the HLF3 in Accra, CSOs were also arguing that greater attention must be paid to what is meant by ‘effective’ aid and development, and how effective development planning and implementation is linked to sustainable development outcomes and impact. During the initial discussions on the themes for HLF-4 in Busan, there was widespread support in the WP-EFF for addressing the issue of development effectiveness. However, as the result of more recent negotiations, the focus has narrowed in on the aid effectiveness issues that were already covered in Paris and Accra.

However, it is the position of CSOs that the more holistic position of focusing on development effectiveness must be an integral part of the discussion.
“This does not imply that we want to abandon the aid effectiveness agenda,” explained Tony Tujan, one of the co-chairs of BetterAid. “On the contrary, we are taking aid effectiveness seriously by pointing to all the issues that need to be addressed in order to make it possible to successfully implement the whole aid and development effectiveness agenda.”

Based on the discussions and key messages coming out of the meetings in Härnösand in March, CSOs propose that development effectiveness needs to be guided by some overarching values:

  • making development cooperation practices promote human rights standards, focusing on the eradication of the causes of poverty and inequality;
  • promoting and implementing gender equality and women’s rights;
  • implementing the Decent Work Agenda as a cornerstone for socially inclusive and sustainable development strategies; and
  • ensuring the full participation of CSOs as independent development actors in their own right.

With regard to the institutional framework for multi-stakeholder international dialogue and coordination of development assistance, CSOs are calling for some fundamental reforms of the global “aid architecture”.

Indeed, international aid policy and coordination is largely dominated by the traditional donor countries through institutions like the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD (DAC), which also hosts the formally independentWP-EFF, as well as through their strong influence in development banks and other international financial institutions.

The CSOs want to promote a more equitable and just development cooperation architecture. CSO proposals towards that end include better coordination between the WP-EFF and United Nations mechanisms like the Development Cooperation Forum; the creation of a more equitable and country-led multilateral forum for policy dialogue and standard-setting, with a mandatory accountability mechanisms, to succeed the WP-EFF after Busan; and a binding covenant on development effectiveness negotiated within the framework of the United Nations.

All of the recommendations that CSOs address to governments, donors and multi-lateral institutions are accompanied by the further work that CSOs are doing to improve their own effectiveness as independent development actors.  Through the Open Forum, CSOs have developed eight Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness that form the base for their development work. The Open Forum is in the process of developing and finalizing recommended guidelines, mechanisms and indicators to measure their achievement of these principles.

The need for all stakeholders to be accountable for ensuring effective development is also being taken up by the Multi-Stakeholder Task Team of Cluster A of the WP-EFF, who met in Härnösand in conjunction with the CSO meeting. The Task Team agreed on some key joint messages from donors, governments and civil society around providing a more enabling environment for CSOs, and encouraging the need for ongoing multi-stakeholder dialogue to ensure more effective development delivery by all actors.

The meeting in Härnösand ended with discussions of how the CSOs will carry their agendas forward, independently as well as through the two global networks, and at the international,  regional and national levels. Much emphasis was placed on the importance of policy dialogue with governments at the national level, as well as to the identification of the proper international and regional targets for the CSO agenda to be brought forward for discussion. The implications of the fact that – for the first time ever –CSOs will be attending HLF-4 in Busan as full and equal participants in negotiations with governments and inter-governmental institutions was also a subject for reflection.

Göran Eklöf (Context)Read the press release issued from civil society organizations after the meetings in Sweden.

Sumber: BetterAid