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Ghana Conference Brings Together Aid Donors, Recipients

The participants at the ongoing Ghana conference on international aid are hoping to improve the effectiveness of aid to help poorer countries. A discussion is taking place over how to give developing countries more control over how aid money is spent. Brent Latham reports from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Ministers and senior officials from more than 100 countries and numerous aid organizations are debating the best uses for the more than $100 billion of aid that rich countries give to the poorest nations each year. Critics say the aid is poorly coordinated, and often is subject to bureaucratic delays, political interests, and lack of coordination.

The talks are aimed at forming a plan to increase the coordination between aid donor and recipient countries, says Christopher Nuoyel of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, or JICA.

"We have about 100 countries, both developing, aid recipients, and givers, coming together to make an action plan which we will apply to make aid effective," Nuoyel said.

Nuoyel says organizations that coordinate aid are waiting to see what sort of plan is shaped, and are anxious to coordinate to improve the effectiveness of the aid they deliver.

"The conference will end tomorrow [Thursday]. Then the action plan will be implemented," Nuoyel said.

Organizations like JICA or USAID, the United States aid organization, are responsible for managing the programs that distribute a large amount of aid in developing countries.

The British-based group OXFAM has accused the donor governments that run those organizations of using aid to attempt to shape economic and political policy.

Ministers and officials from many developing countries have said they are frustrated with the way aid is sometimes delivered, saying that the current procedures take up too much time and deliver too little benefit.

The executive director of UNICEF, Ann Veneman said some ministers have told her they spend as much as 60 percent of their time meeting with donor groups to comply with bureaucratic procedures rather than delivering results.

The developing countries have also expressed interest in gaining more control over aid funds, which they would prefer flow directly through their government agencies rather than third parties. Three years ago in Paris, a previous edition of the conference agreed that aid recipients should have more control over the kind of aid they receive, but no concrete measures were taken.

But some observers say such a setup opens the door to corruption. International governance watchdog Transparency International has said the idea threatens to further curtail the amount of aid that reaches the world's poorest people.