News / Africa

International Conference in South Korea to Assess Effectiveness, Impact of Aid

Delegates will review donor promises to coordinate funding and strengthen support for development efforts of recipient nations

Multimedia

Audio
William Eagle

Over the past ten years, three previous international meetings on development assistance have been convened by the OECD, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The results of those meetings in Rome, Paris and Accra were a set of targets aimed at improving the results of aid. Delegates in Busan will talk about whether and how to stick to them.

A principled stance

Among the so-called Paris Declaration principles is a commitment by donors to harmonize their development plans in an effort to cut costs and avoid duplication.

Studies show the number of aid projects have grown over the years.

In 1960, there were usually only two countries giving aid, the U.S. and the Soviet Union. One study today shows that finance ministers in some recipient countries spend up to a third of their time receiving over 250 donor missions in one year, rather than focusing on long-term development plans. With the joint management by donors of field missions, developing countries could deal with a reduced number of larger projects, rather than several smaller ones.

In Busan, members from Save The Children and World Vision stage a demonstration urging donor countries to fulfill their aid commitments.
In Busan, members from Save The Children and World Vision stage a demonstration urging donor countries to fulfill their aid commitments.

The principles also include a commitment to encourage and support development plans drawn up by developing countries. That includes aligning aid with national priorities and including aid flows in national budgets.

Recipient nations agree to improve their financial management and procurement systems. Both donors and their national partners also agree to adopt a system to measure results and to hold each other accountable.

Lawrence Macdonald, the vice president for communications and policy outreach at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., explained the importance of host country ownership of projects.

He said emergency situations, it’s normal for donor countries to depend on international NGOs to deliver assistance, but that in the long run, it harms efforts to create self-sustaining projects.

"Over time, that kind of reliance on outsiders can draw talent out of government," said MacDonald. "People would rather work for the Red Cross, Oxfam, or the UN where they can earn a higher salary than for their own government. You get on kind of a vicious cycle, where the government lacks capacity and so the NGOS and international organizations are doing development and the government never builds up capacity. So the notion that the country should develop its own program and identify its own priorities and donors should support those priorities is designed to counteract the situation of donor dependence."

Tied aid

Supporters of the Paris Declaration also support the concept of removing conditions on aid imposed by donor countries.

Of the approximately $129 billion dollars of aid given yearly to the developing world, about a third is estimated to be tied to the purchase of goods and services in donor countries. A network of NGOs from 19 European countries, the European Network on Debt and Development, estimates that tied aid reduces the purchasing power of aid by up to 40%.

"If the US gives a certain amount of money," said MacDonald, "it has to be used to purchase US products or to pay U.S. consultants. That tied aid is ineffective. It raises the cost. If I could get my bulldozers on the international market I might be able to get them cheaper than if I get them from (the U.S. company) Caterpillar. It also reduces the ability of the recipient country to use aid to develop its own capacity to solve problems. So they agreed it would be good to untie aid."

Several OECD members continue to support tying aid to development, including the European Union, Japan and the United States. Supporters say ensuring the involvement of businesses from donor countries in development projects makes it easier to earn public support for foreign aid.

Transparency

MacDonald said another topic that’s likely to come up at the meeting is the principle of transparency. He says some donors and international agencies are still slow to publish figures on how their aid is spent. He says Nancy Birdsall, the head of his own group, the Center for Global Development, favors the release of donor aid disbursements on a quarterly basis.

"If the donors are publishing this data in a consistent manner in an electronic format that is easily combined with other disclosures," said MacDonald, "then relatively small civil society groups can take the data and put it together in an easily accessed and read form. Then, the recipient government will be able to know how much money is spent where and for what."

Civil society groups and NGOs [and contractors and groups that provide development services] can monitor that, so can tax payers in the rich world and beneficiaries in the developing world. You get a “many eyes” kind of phenomenon. There’s the saying in the software industry ‘with enough eyes, all bugs are shallow’ and the idea with the transparency in foreign assistance is that with enough eyes looking at this, it will be possible to identify in efficiencies, corruption and to improve the effectiveness of the assistance.

Monitoring aid flows

Delegates to the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness will be considering the adoption of a system to improve the tracking of aid flows and monitor impact, called the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Some countries, including France and Japan, prefer the current system, which activists say is insufficient. Some say the failure to adopt the new system will be a blow to donor support for greater transparency.

Participants at the Busan talks will consider how far donors and recipients have come in adopting the Paris principles for improving aid flows.

Recent studies show donors have more work to do.

Police officers stand guard in front of the venue of Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan.
Police officers stand guard in front of the venue of Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan.

Gregory Adams, the head of the Oxfam delegation to the talks, says donors have failed to meet the commitments they made at previous global aid forums on improving the quality of their aid. Research by the OECD and by the Center for Global Development show industrialized countries have succeeded in meeting only one of several criteria used to measure their performance.

"On the 13 indicators they were measured against, they’ve made progress on one, which is “harmonization” – talking to each other better," said Adams. "In contrast, partner countries have done what they said they were going to do. So there is a very real disconnect on the agreement made six years ago (in Paris). The nature of the deal was the idea we know aid works better when donors trust poor countries to manage it themselves. But donors find it hard to do that."

"So, there was a set of commitments made," said the Oxfam spokesman. "Partner countries agreed they were going to tackle corruption and manage their finances better, and donor countries agreed to trust recipient countries more: they would provide aid more predictably, make sure more money flowed through a partner country’s own institutions and, the results are in and partner countries did what they said they would do, and the donors have not."

Accountability

Adams says donor countries are now pushing to scrap the system that keeps track of their progress on aid effectiveness.

"The big debate now is should there even be a global monitoring scheme, a set of indicators that track how well donor countries are doing," he said.  "That decision will not be actually be made (what indicators are) at Busan. We’ve managed to push back a bit on the effort to abolish the indicators or cut them down to meaninglessness. But we want to be sure we get the right set of indicators that measures what is meaningful in terms of donors commitment especially on five key principles of Paris Declaration."

Adams hopes the delegates to the Busan forum, including China and other members from the global south as well as philanthropic organizations, will join OECD members in committing themselves to the Paris Declaration’s principles of effective aid.

Development experts estimate Beijing’s contribution to be at least $25 billion per year, while private groups contribute over $50 billion. The World Bank estimates that by 2014, the BRIC countries [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] will provide 60 percent of global economic growth].

Support for shared principles on aid and for more effective partnerships could appear in the outcome document expected at the end of the meetings.

Adams also hopes it will also include continued support for a global monitoring framework that will allow poor countries to demand accountability from rich ones.

Lawrence MacDonald of the Center for Global Development says to be successful, the summit – and final document -- must rise above rhetoric to emphasize time-bound commitments to action.

You May Like

Diplomats Work to Extend Israeli-Palestinian Cease-Fire

US Secretary of State John Kerry, diplomats from France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Qatar gathered in Paris Saturday to discuss crisis More

Photogallery US Defense Department Warns of Arms to Eastern Ukraine

‘Imminent’ delivery of Russian rocket launcher poses threat to civilians, US says More

Video Researchers: Africa Genetically Modified Crops Held Back by Scaremongering

GM crops offer best hope of increasing productivity and coping with climate change in Africa, according to co-author of Chatham House report More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid