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Multilateral summit

Inclusive partnership

by Hans Dembowski

In brief

The port of Busan is a symbol of success. In 2011, South Korea’s trade volume exceeded $ 1 trillion

The port of Busan is a symbol of success. In 2011, South Korea’s trade volume exceeded $ 1 trillion

China, India and Brazil have officially acknowledged they are donor countries by endorsing the outcome document of the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in the South Korean town of Busan in early December. The document’s title is “Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation”.

The Busan Partnership (BP) reaffirms commitments made in the Paris Declaration (PD) and the Accra Agenda for Action, which resulted from earlier High Level Forums in 2005 and 2008 respectively. However, the new agreement exempts emerging market nations from the previously defined obligations. Paragraph 2 of the BP spells out that “the nature, modalities and responsibi­lities that apply to South-South cooperation differ from those that apply to North-South cooperation”. Nonetheless, the PD and Accra Agenda are considered points of reference, and emerging market governments are invited to apply their principles voluntarily.

Compared with the earlier documents, the Busan Partnership pays more attention to the role of civil society and the private sector. It also acknowledges the relevance of philanthropic foundations. The new agreement is thus less state-centred than the previous ones. The BP states that “aid is only part of the solution” and that development is driven by “strong, sustainable and inclusive growth”. Without such growth, poverty cannot be eradicated.

Shared principles

The new document defines four principles as the foundation for development co­operation. They are:
– “Ownership of development priorities by developing countries”. This principle was a key component of the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda, but evaluation showed that donors have not been paying enough attention to it in past years. The Busan Partnership demands that developing countries must have the leading role and that all development efforts must be “tailored to country-specific situations and needs”. The idea is that the governments of developing countries lead partners in defining a framework of policies and goals to improve their people’s lot. Such frameworks are then supposed to guide the action of all parties concerned.
– “Focus on results”. Before the Busan summit, the technical term used in the aid-effectiveness debate was “managing for results”. The re-phrasing puts less emphasis on bureaucratic procedures and offers a wider scope for what, beyond government action, may achieve results.
– “Transparency and accountability to each other”. This is a re-phrasing of the previous principle of “mutual accountabi­lity”. The new emphasis is on governments that are involved in development cooperation not only being responsible to one another, but to all other stakeholders as well, including citizens, parliaments, municipal authorities, civil society organisations and private sector companies.
– “Inclusive development partnerships”. This principle is new and basically recognises the “different and complementary roles of all actors”.

Two core principles of the Paris Declaration are no longer explicitely mentioned as shared principles. The BP does not re-iterate donor harmonisation and alignment to developing countries’ institutions, but they are implicit in many paragraphs.

For instance, the BP is quite clear on “the use and strengthening of developing countries’ systems”, stating that relying on institutions and procedures of developing countries is the “default approach”. Any donor agency that decides against it is required to indicate the reason. At the same time, the BP points out that all parties involved in development cooperation must focus on how to improve developing countries’ own systems.

In the past decade, the aid-effectiveness agenda was driven by a Working Party that was hosted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which is basically a club of rich nations. This working party will be discontinued next summer. It is to be succeeded by the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. This Global Partnership, according to the BP, will be inclusive and represents the entire international community. One of its jobs will be to monitor the implementation of the commitments made.

How this Global Partnership will be organised and how it will operate has not been defined yet. The BP promises that this will be done by June 2012. The Working Party’s last task will be to convene the meetings for doing so. The OECD and the United Nations are invited to support the Global Partnership.

Dirk Niebel, Germany’s minister for economic cooperation and development, says he feels personally encouraged by the Busan outcome because the Federal Government is keen on improving effectiveness. In view of an increasingly complex world, in which many and diverse forces have an impact on development, he argues that the Busan agreement will help “various actors to join forces and to gear action towards shared goals”. He explicitely welcomes the fact that the PD and the Accra Agenda were re-affirmed in Busan.

Andris Piebalgs, the EU’s commissioner for development affairs, wrote on his blog that he felt “immensely proud” to re­present Europe in Busan: “We have been a leader throughout the process”. At the High Level Forum he announced two initiatives: a transparency guarantee and joint programming at the EU level. In his view, the BP means that “EU citizens can rest assured that their aid will be more efficient, and benefit more people”.

Antonio Tujan Jr. of BetterAid, a civil society umbrella organisation, speaks of a “bittersweet victory” (please note comment on page 43). In his view, the new agreement is superior to the PD and the Accra Agenda because it puts more emphasis on human rights, democracy and outcomes for the poor. But he sees downsides too. He argues that donors should have done more to back up their earlier and unfulfilled commitments, for instance in regard to untying aid. He is also critical of the mention of “voluntary commitments” because this clause could be “abused by the BRICS, especially China”.

Sachin Chaturvedi of the government-run think tank RIS in Delhi believes Busan pointed in the right direction. Nonetheless, he wonders: “If North-South and South-South Cooperation are different, how do we reconcile the differences and work together?” Nancy Birdsall of the Washington-based Centre for Global Development, on the other hand, welcomes that emerging market nations have signed up to the BP. But in view of only voluntary commitments, she states: “How much it will matter is yet to be seen.”

Hans Dembowski