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Move on

by Sachin Chaturvedi


To Hindus Lakshimi is the goddess of prosperity

To Hindus Lakshimi is the goddess of prosperity

The time has come to move on beyond “donors” and “recipients” in the international development discourse, argues an expert from India. In his view, the focus must be on what is happening in the countries that receive aid flows, and what can improve the lot of their peoples. By Sachin Chaturvedi

Ahead of the multilateral High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4) in Busan at the end of November, there is growing concern whether progress can be achieved. Indeed, progress has mostly eluded the global community since the adoption of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (PD) at HLF2 in 2005.

The mandate for the Ad-hoc Working Party on Aid Effectiveness, which is hosted by the OECD, the club of the richest nations, is coming to an end. Unless Busan agrees on a new mandate of some kind, HLF4 will be the last in the series. The international community must re-start the process or forget about a shared agenda on achieving better development results internationally. The world does not need a fixed set of rules on aid, and the OECD must understand that India and other emerging powers will never sign up to such rules. One size does not fit all.

At the same time, it is worth pointing out that the established donor countries are not living up to their promises. The Paris Declaration defined five principles of aid effectiveness. They are:
– the policy ownership of the developing country,
– donors’ alignment to recipients’ institutions and procedures,
– donor harmonisation,
– managing for results and
– mutual accountability.
The OECD’s Development Assistance Committee assessed the implementation of these principles and found that, at the global level, donors were successful only in terms of one of 13 relevant indicators. The Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, considers this outcome “grim (…) even by the standards of global development, where commitments are regularly professed, but rarely fulfilled”.

There are more reasons for changing the general approach. The focus on aid effectiveness rather than on development effectiveness flies in the face of the ownership principle. The emphasis of the term itself is on donor action (since donors disburse aid money), whereas the PD and the Accra Agenda for Action, which was agreed at HLF3, correctly put the recipients first.

In the past years, we have witnessed an intense debate on similarities and differences between North-South and South-South cooperation. As Harald Leibrecht accurately wrote in D+C/E+Z (2011/6, p. 253 f.), South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation involving OECD donors as well as non-OECD donors make sense. The evidence collected by the OECD’s Task Team on South-South Cooperation (TT-SSC) on behalf of the G20 shows that the South generally adheres to some of the principles spelled out in the PD.

These trends also mean that the time has come to move on beyond the terms of “donors” (for rich nations) and “partners” (for emerging markets and developing countries). We must focus on the recipient countries and check what exactly is happening there: What can and must be done for aid to deliver the best possible results for the least developed countries and their people? What leads to success? These questions are vitally relevant.

Non-OECD members have been implementing development programmes successfully. There is empirical evidence that they should carry on what they are doing. South Korea, which only recently joined the OECD and will host HLF4, deserves praise for promoting the issues that governments from emerging markets stress in their development programmes: the promotion of the productive sector and enterprise development.

Germany and the Netherlands have recently shown interest in the TT-SSC findings, whereas some other donors seem stuck in their tracks. The OECD must show flexibility and embrace new approaches, especially South-South and triangular cooperation. This is the appropriate basis for looking into the impact of development cooperation. There is a need to evolve the concept of “development effectiveness”, a proposal coming from South Korea, including the participation of the private sector and civil society organisations and striving for mutual benefits.