1 July 2008
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6350

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council

2008 Substantive Session

14th & 16th Meetings* (AM & PM)


IMPROVING IMPACT, COHERENCE, EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AID


FOCUS, AS DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION FORUM CONCLUDES FIRST BIENNIAL MEETING


Three Round Tables Address:  Country-Level Capacities;

Aid and National Development Strategies; Aid Effectiveness Agenda


As the Development Cooperation Forum concluded its first biennial meeting today, the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development said he hoped the process set in motion by the Forum’s creation would produce, by its next meeting, “real results in improving the impact, coherence and effectiveness of international development cooperation”.


Jomo Kwame Sundaram said that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs would continue to support the process, as the Forum prepared for its next meeting in 2010.  On the experience of the Forum thus far, he praised the flexibility that allowed participants to interact and discuss constructively in a format that inspired new and innovative ideas, as well as tangible strategies for implementation.  Moreover, with its inclusiveness and political legitimacy, the Forum was well placed to “level the playing field” in the global dialogue on development and development policy review.


Looking ahead, he said that the nationally-led preparatory meetings for the Forum had drawn together diverse stakeholders for informal talks that had effectively identified gaps and obstacles in global development cooperation.  In the future, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs would seek to nurture and expand those relationships to ensure that the Forum, mandated by the General Assembly in 2005 to promote greater coherence among the activities of development partners, became “a truly universal platform”.


He stressed that the Forum’s continued success as a venue for dialogue, policy review and mutual accountability in development cooperation would also depend on its having a unifying theme as the focus of its work for each biennial session.  “Only by tabling high priority issues that interest a broad range of actors would the [Forum] be able to push forward the agenda on international development cooperation,” he said.


Mr. Sundaram also said that, throughout the remainder of the year, the United Nations would be involved in a number of activities aimed at stimulating the international development agenda, particularly the Review Conference on Financing for Development, set to be held in Doha, Qatar, in late November.  “Your dialogue over the past two days should serve as a major input to the discussions that will take place in Doha on international financial and technical cooperation,” he said.


Similarly, the outcome of the Forum’s meeting was expected to influence the outcome of the Third High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, to be held in Accra, Ghana, in early September.  He hoped that the “Accra Action Agenda” would incorporate a broad range of policy recommendations and messages that had emerged during the Forum’s meeting.


Economic and Social Council President Léo Mérorès, of Haiti, capped the day with a summary of many of the key issues that had emerged during the meeting, noting, among other things, that participants agreed that the overall development cooperation and assistance architecture needed strengthening, and that, while the capacities of programme countries to coordinate and manage aid were growing, major gaps remained in terms of analytical, policy, strategic and evaluation capacities.


Participants also believed that South-South and triangular cooperation was a growing dimension of international development cooperation, and played a complementary role to traditional bilateral and multilateral aid.  They called for the enhancement of alignment of development cooperation with the internationally agreed development targets, including the Millennium Development Goals.


Among the key concerns expressed, many stakeholders believed that, in the wake of the Monterrey Consensus and the Paris Declaration, there had been no real changes in donor behaviour that had led to sustained improvements, either in delivery of targeted aid or official development assistance (ODA).  The placing of conditions on aid delivery and allocation was also troubling and many participants had called for donors to set clear targets for a sharp reduction in such practices.


As for the future work of the Forum, he said that participants had called for the strengthening the voice of programme countries, as well as for focusing the 2010 meeting on playing an instrumental role in developing a more inclusive framework for guiding effective development cooperation, taking into consideration the concerns of stakeholders.


The Forum’s final working day featured a host of presentations, keynote addresses and round-table discussions on ways to achieve real results in improving the impact, coherence and effectiveness of international development cooperation, particularly in supporting the Millennium Development Goals and other development objectives.


Round-table discussions were held on:  “Are capacities ready for more aid at the country level?”; “How can development aid support national development strategies?”; and the “Aid effectiveness agenda:  towards consensus at Accra and Doha”.


In an earlier keynote address Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), echoing concerns expressed by many who participated in the Forum’s work over the past two days, lamented that the architecture of modern development assistance had become exceedingly fragmented and complicated.  While there was no “one size fits all” model, those complexities must be tackled, especially in light of evolving trends and needs.  Strengthening -- and simplifying -- the global partnership for development would be crucial in helping to craft swift responses to global crises like the current food and commodity price spikes.


Addressing the panel on capacities at the country level, Rwanda’s Secretary to the Treasury stressed that, while the donor side of the equation was critical for the future of aid effectiveness, donor capacity and willingness to align aid with country programmes and to use country systems was typically glossed over.  But, many recipient countries had enhanced their capacities and reformed institutions, and even though challenges might remain, they were often in a position to use aid more effectively.  So, it made no sense to keep talking about “building capacities of recipient countries” when donors were not ready to change, as well.


During the panel on support for national development strategies, a Development Cooperation Minister from the Republic of Korea said devising national development strategies was both a starting point for indigenous development and an anchor for mobilizing resources.  The relationship between donor and partner countries should not rest on making demands.  Rather, it should be rooted in reciprocal partnership, especially in the creation of a national development strategy.  It was crucial to take mutual accountability for such an endeavour.


Another highlight today was a special presentation on the key policy messages and recommendations that emerged from the Rome Stakeholder Forum.  That 12-13 June event, part of the Development Cooperation Forum’s preparatory process, brought together representatives of parliaments, civil society and local governments to discuss the role of those actors in strengthening aid quality and effectiveness at the country level.


The Chief Executive of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation said that the participants at the Rome meeting had expressed the hope that the Development Cooperation Forum would work more closely with relevant United Nations bodies, especially towards linking its work with discussions on human rights, environmental sustainability, gender equality and labour rights.  They had also stressed that the Forum was not an “aid effectiveness forum” but a Development Cooperation Forum, and as such, it must examine the entire range of development and aid management concerns.


In the panel focused on the aid effectiveness agenda, the Chair of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)/Development Assistance Committee (DAC) said that, in the run-up to Accra, partner countries had identified several key priorities not covered in the Paris Declaration, including, among others, strengthening demand driven capacity development, streamlining the application of conditions, clarifying the division of labour, including clear incentives for aid effectiveness, and further untying aid.  Those issues had shaped the consultations ahead of the Accra meeting and the round-table discussions at that event would be based on them.


Overall, there was a long way to go towards strengthening international development cooperation, but the launch of the Development Cooperation Forum and the preparations for the upcoming Accra event had generated momentum to move the process forward, he said.  Accra was not trying to rewrite the Paris Declaration; it was trying to ensure that past commitments were made reality and put in place a robust mutual accountability regime, especially since Member States were now at the midway point to meeting the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals.  “We need a breakthrough in Accra.  We need political will and we need to act urgently,” he said.


Background


The first biennial meeting of the Development Cooperation Forum continued today as part of the Economic and Social Council’s high-level segment.


Keynote Addresses


Speaking on “The changing landscape and dynamics of international development cooperation”, the Minister of Finance of South Africa and Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Doha Review Conference, TREVOR MANUEL, said that, from the outset, it had been recognized that realizing the Millennium Development Goals would depend on a renewed partnership that included the need for wide-ranging institutional reform and increased resources.


The 2002 Monterrey Consensus, which had inspired States to make progress in financing development, was built on two pillars: acceptance that each country had primary responsibility for its development and acceptance that the delivery of sound policies would call forth greater quantities of financing.  “ Monterrey is for development what Rio is for climate change,” he said.  “It is the benchmark against which all of our efforts will be measured.”  Two basic tasks had to be undertaken at Doha: to review progress made in meeting 2002 commitments and to jointly define measures to help meet the 2005 Millennium Summit objectives.


The landscape of financing for development had been shifted by new dangers in an ever more interdependent world, marked by interconnected crises in finance, food and fuel, he continued.  The underlying factors responsible for the 1998 financial crisis were present today: global imbalances; weak financial governance; and asset price bubbles.  The impact of the food crisis was a measure of States’ failure to change the world of financing for development.  Had States resolutely implemented 2002 commitments, the impacts might have been less severe.  The more implementation was postponed, the more such challenges would continue.


States were a long way from meeting their commitments, he said, adding that, if that scenario persisted, the international community would lose faith in the credibility of such pledges.  Failing to meet official development assistance (ODA) commitments made at Monterrey would give the world little hope for confronting the looming challenge of climate change.  In that context, he cited the European Union’s proposal to help ensure meeting commitments by adopting rolling, multi-annual indicative timetables that showed how donors planned to reach their ODA targets, as a possible inspiration for recommitting to the Monterrey Consensus at Doha.  In closing, he called on participants in the Development Cooperation Forum to “return the world’s leaders to an understanding of interdependence -- it was there at Monterrey, it must now be reinstated”.


SUPACHAI PANITCHPAKDI, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that the architecture of modern development assistance and cooperation had become exceedingly complicated.  While it was true that there was no “one size fits all” model, those complexities would have to be addressed, especially in light of evolving trends and needs, including to craft immediate responses to global crises and flare ups like the current food and commodity price spikes.


He stressed that, while dealing with architectural challenges, stakeholders must continue to monitor ODA trends, ensuring that such assistance, as well as debt relief, remained -– or rose to –- levels that were agreed to under the Monterrey Consensus.  For its part, UNCTAD had been attempting to keep track of donor activity, including whether or not conditions and stipulations had been attached to disbursements.


In its effort to monitor the effectiveness of ODA, UNCTAD had also tracked whether donors were living up to their commitments with regard to new resource allocations, he said.  That was to say whether partners were maintaining their ODA contributions, while also allocating promised resources to such mechanisms as the Central Emergency Response Fund.  There should be more harmonization between ODA and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, especially towards reaching the social development targets of that landmark agreement.


There was also a gap in ODA that was targeted to infrastructure refurbishment, he added, stressing that, overall, stakeholders must try to monitor not just the effectiveness of ODA, but the actual effectiveness of that assistance on development initiatives in the target country.  Finally, he returned to the issue of the complex nature of development assistance and stressed that bureaucracy and red tape held up delivery of aid, while poverty persisted in many parts of the world.  Diplomatic leaders must stop dragging their feet; the entire international community had a duty to address the issue head on.


In a brief exchange of views following the keynote addresses, one speaker drew attention to the need for a “report card” of commitments that had been met and those that still needed to be achieved.  Another speaker pointed out that post-conflict countries had an institutional framework for resolving issues; the newly established Peacebuilding Commission.


In response, Mr. MANUEL focused his comments on surmounting an enormous challenge: one side of the Monterrey partnership could not be working to the exclusion of the other.  Responding to the development needs of “countries emerging from poverty” should be undertaken because it was fundamentally correct, rather than because others were calling for it.  He highlighted another key issue: the speed with which the world was seeing the diversion of resources to deal with countries facing food stress.  Food- and fuel-importing countries were the most vulnerable, which should create a sense of purpose and urgency.


Round Table A


The round table discussion, which asked “Are capacities ready for more aid at the country level?”, was chaired by Economic and Social Council Vice-President Andrei Dapkiunas ( Belarus) and moderated by Kemal Derviş, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  It featured panellists Gérard Niyibigira, President, Economic and Social Council of Burundi and former Minister of Finance; John Rwangombwa, Secretary-General and Secretary to the Treasury, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Rwanda; and Ingrid Hoven, Director-General, Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany.


Noting Burundi’s post-conflict situation, Mr. NIYIBIGIRA said that, by and large, countries that were at peace were able to make crucial improvements in research, aid procurement and internal infrastructure that increased their abilities to absorb aid.  In contrast, countries at war had little or no development and investment.  Stakeholders in conflict and post-conflict zones were unable to seek aid effectively, much less harness what was given.  Delays in the financial management of external assistance further constrained aid absorption and meant that, at the end of a project’s execution, the outcome often did not match initial expectations.  Assessment and evaluation was also often thin.


Distinguishing between two kinds of development assistance -- official aid and private investment, particularly the flow of foreign capital -- he stressed that the latter did not happen without peace.  War had a long legacy and, as had been seen in the wake of Burundi’s civil war, a country’s infrastructure and social service mechanisms could be destroyed.  It was, therefore, especially critical in post-conflict zones for a country’s population to take part in the investment programmes to create a climate that was conducive to investment.


Mr. RWANGOMBWA identified three types of linked capacities: institutional and human; economic; and non-governmental.  Too often, discussions about capacity focused on the ability of the Government and economy to absorb aid, to the exclusion of the abilities of non-governmental organizations.  Additionally, donor capacity and willingness to align aid with country programmes and to use country systems was also typically left out of the conversation.  But, the connections between those types of capacity had to be factored in, particularly if effective capacities were to be built from the donor side.


Indeed, the donor side of the equation was critical for the future of aid effectiveness, he said.  In countries with weak governance, other systems and communities, such as non-governmental organizations, should be used.  But, as governmental institutions improved, larger portions of aid could be channelled through Government mechanisms.  Many recipient countries had developed their capacities and, even though challenges might remain, they were often in a position to use aid more effectively.  Thus, it did not make sense to continue talking of building capacities of recipient countries if donors were not also ready to change.  He concluded by saying that a key part of the discussion was why donors often did not go through Government systems.


Ms. HOVEN said that, without sufficient capacities, external aid flows and other funds could not be used effectively for sustainable development.  Scaling up both aid and capacities at the country level for its effective use were necessary to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  But, it was hard to see how aid could be used effectively if the same modes of delivery that had been used in the last few decades continued to be used.


It was true, she said, that many recipient countries had made great strides in reforming public financial management and procurement systems.  While some donors were making efforts to use them, more could do so.  In fact, too often, the decision of donors to use a system was not based on an evaluation of the strength of that system.  External partners had to do better to increase the leverage of country capacity.  To that end, programmes had to be better coordinated and demand-driven.


During the ensuing discussion, country delegations joined civil society representatives to stress that donor reform was as critical as recipient country capacity-building.  A number of speakers decried the conditionalities that were imposed on the recipient community.  It was too often used as an excuse not to give aid, rather than to further the kind of development cooperation that could foster capacity-building, some said.


Turning the question around, the representative of Norway asked what obligations the recipient community would impose on donors and, noting a general fragmentation in the donor community, inquired if real incentives could be created that would halt the fragmentation.


One speaker suggested that parliaments of both donor and recipient countries should be involved in the discussion on how development aid was used.  That would establish clearer dialogue on both expectations and progress achieved, he said.  Another speaker said that, when a programme was unsuccessful, it was not always because the project failed, but sometimes because less than half the funds promised were actually provided.  He cited the knowledge gap between donors and in-country actors familiar with the situation on the ground as one reason for failures to give what was needed.


One speaker stressed the need to talk about a capacity to manage development and not just manage aid, which was, after all, just one input in the development scenario.  One critical lesson learned was that development took time -- usually more than was expected or desired.  If you short-changed yourself on time, you were almost bound to short-change yourself on capacity-building, he said.


Before inviting the panellists to respond, Mr. DERVIŞ said that, when the international institutions arrived, fruitful discussions often took place, but the subsequent analysis was often done by international staff.  Wouldn’t it be fruitful for the analysis to be done by the national experts?


Ms. HOVEN agreed that conditionalities had not been successful in the past, but mechanisms had to be built into the contracts to measure both a project’s performance and the results achieved.  That was the only way to create sustainable partnerships and provide proof to taxpayers in donor countries that an aid recipient was responsible and reliable.


Mr. RWANGOMBWA said that some donors were doing well, but some were really doing badly.   Rwanda was trying to use peer pressure to help reform these under-responsive donors, but international dialogue on the issue was needed.  Peer learning should take place not only among recipient countries, but also among donors, he added.


Mr. NIYIBIGIRA took the floor to point out that dialogue with the donor community could be blocked entirely when Government Administrations were unstable.


Round Table B


The round table on “How can development aid support national development strategies?” was chaired by Economic and Social Council Vice-President Antonio Pedro Monteiro Lima ( Cape Verde) and moderated by Charles Michel, Minister for Development Cooperation of Belgium.  The panel featured Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, Minister of Economy and Finance of Niger; Park Kang-ho, Director-General for Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea; and, as lead discussant, Bernard Petit, Deputy Director-General for Development of the European Commission.


Mr. MICHEL launched the discussion by noting that national development strategies were the principle vehicle for advancing the implementation of national and global development goals.  However, their credibility was sometimes undermined by an overextended scope.  Guiding questions for the round table would include a focus on how programme countries could successfully interact with donors and most effectively manage the different demands of consultations with national stakeholders.


Leading the panellist presentations, Mr. PARK said that devising national development strategies was both a starting point for indigenous development and an anchor for mobilizing resources.  There was consensus that the development process must be owned by the developing countries themselves.  A key part of that ownership was the extent to which local priorities were reflected in the national development strategies.


The relationship between donor and partner countries should not rest on making demands, he said.  Rather, it should be rooted in reciprocal partnership, especially in the creation of a national development strategy.  Just as there was no “one size fits all” model for development assistance, it was similarly impossible to apply a single approach to the creation of national development strategies.  It was crucial to take mutual accountability for such an endeavour.


Speaking next, Mr. PETIT asked how assistance could do anything but support the creation of national development strategies.  Terms such as “ownership alignment”, “scaling up” and “mutual accountability” were esoteric.  “Nice words, nice ideas, but what is taking place in the field,” he wondered.  The architecture of assistance had become so complex that it had led to unbearable transactional costs for the countries involved.  How could a minister define and implement a strategy if he was dialoguing with all the donors?  The world was far from achieving implementation of the Paris Declaration, and he called for a significant qualitative leap.  The High-level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra would be a test of credibility.


Continuing, he said implementation of development goals was the primary responsibility of the countries involved.  They must fully commit themselves to dialogue with civil society, non-governmental organizations and parliaments, and donors must not undermine such processes based on their own visions.  Next, he underscored the need to make assistance more predictable, noting that efforts were being made through various cooperation strategies.  Highlighting that it was “high time” to move from rhetoric to action, he also called for reviewing the practice of conditionality, a term which translated to “sanctions”.


Taking the floor next, Mr. ZEINE described developments in Niger, saying that, in the 1990s, the country had gone through two armed rebellions and two coup d’etats.  By the end of the decade, there had been a lack of economic and financial statistics and programmes with Bretton Woods institutions.  “We had to start from scratch,” he said.  From 2000 to date, Niger had implemented two economic reform programmes, and another that had financed all State institutions.  Economic growth generators included tourism and rural sector development, he said, adding that it was important to devote revenue to creating jobs and reducing poverty.  The Government would also step up infrastructure development and was working to improve the tax rate.  On obtaining financing, he emphasized the importance of concessional assistance from public and private partners.


Finally, he focused on the pricing of raw materials, such as uranium, which was found in Niger.  His country needed a correct assessment of uranium pricing, and had begun a dialogue regarding a rise in price.  Currently, Niger still needed ODA, and he called for more specific actions, especially given that the country had embarked on the path of democracy.  The ball was in the camp of Niger’s partners.


In the ensuing interactive dialogue, speakers from Government delegations, international organizations and civil society addressed a range of issues, from the need to ensure the efficiency of aid and effectiveness of policies, to the importance of including the world’s poor in efforts to eradicate poverty.


Several speakers drew attention to the issue of conditionalities, which did not allow States to move towards development.  They urged that such requirements be adapted to changing national policies, especially when Governments undertook reforms.  One delegate cautioned against the creation of a “new generation” of conditionalities, which could arise from differences in the understanding of the concept among donors and others.


In response, Mr. PETIT said he was shocked, not by the fact that donors needed certain assurances, but by the “clinical delirium” surrounding conditionality.  Donors needed assurances regarding public funding, but that was not a reason to require partners to act exactly according to their prescriptives.  That was not ownership.  It was important to enter into dialogue and ask what type of results a country wished to receive.  Past errors, including the conditions articulated in the Washington Consensus, should encourage a healthy dose of humility going forward.


Mr. ZEINE, answering a question on how Niger had experienced conditionalities, urged accompanying the allocation of resources with shared values, such as good economic governance, proper accounting and independent justice.  Also, a framework should be developed to determine whether conditions had been met and, in that context, he highlighted the issue of hidden conditionalities.


Mr. PARK, taking up the issue of monitoring partnerships, said the Paris Declaration had made efforts to establish national development strategies.  Programme countries needed to understand that such strategies were a prerequisite for a successful development process.  On the issue of conditionality, he emphasized partnership.  If programme countries invited advice, a mutual understanding of priorities would be strengthened.  Continuous dialogue was essential for building trust.


Mr. PETIT, addressing a host of other questions, said first that helping the world’s poor out of poverty required a participatory approach.  Dialogue and support for non-governmental organizations should be fostered in that pursuit.  Regarding the impact of remittances on macroeconomic growth, he said the question was how to assist migrants in using those funds for investment in their communities.  In addition, there was a moral and political duty to ensure that decent labour conditions were created.


Special Presentation: Policy Recommendations of Rome Stakeholder Forum


The Development Cooperation Forum began its work in the afternoon hearing a presentation of the key policy messages and recommendations that emerged from the Rome Stakeholder Forum.  That 12 to 13 June event, part of the Development Cooperation Forum’s preparatory process, brought together representatives of parliaments, civil society and local governments to discuss the role of those actors in strengthening aid quality and effectiveness at the country-level.


The segment was moderated by Anders Johnson, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), and featured presentations by Gérald Tremblay, Mayor of Montreal, Chair of the Montreal Metropolitan Community and Vice-President of United Cities and Local Governments; and Kumi Naidoo, Chief Executive, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, all of whom had participated in the Rome event.


Mr. TREMBLAY said that city and rural community leaders had a major role to play in identifying ways to implement the Millennium Development Goals at the country level, especially in meeting the poverty reduction and education targets.  City leaders could draw on their technical knowledge about on-the-ground realities and other expertise to raise awareness about development issues with national Government officials.


The Rome meeting had called for greater efforts to ensure that cities were recognized as true stakeholders in the development process, he said.  It had also stressed that mayors should be given the same status in international development negotiations as parliamentarians.  Indeed, local authorities could not only help drive the development process, they could also reduce the redundancy of many international efforts.


Mr. NAIDOO said one of the many encouraging outcomes of the Rome meeting was that it had given representatives of parliaments, civil society and local governments a chance to get to know each other and sit at the same table and work together to help shape the international development cooperation agenda.  In Rome, there had been a general consensus about the fragmented nature of the national development assistance architecture.  Participants had also felt that there was a general lack of information about how –- and in what quantities -– aid was being dispersed, making it difficult for civil society to hold Governments accountable for allocation.


With those things in mind, he said, the participants had expressed the hope that the Development Cooperation Forum would help bring together all stakeholders to discuss ways the development assistance process could be simplified and strengthened.  They had also called for the Forum to work closely with relevant United Nations bodies, especially towards linking its work with discussions on human rights, environmental sustainability, gender equality and labour rights.


He went on to stress that the Forum was not an “aid effectiveness forum”, but a Development Cooperation Forum that must examine the entire range of development and aid management concerns.  At the same time, civil society actors hoped that the new Forum would assume a greater role at the next high-level meeting on aid effectiveness, set to be held in 2011.  As for other recommendations, he said that more work needed to be done to align aid with national development strategies and to rethink aid delivery procedures.


Moreover, while acknowledging that civil society actors played a key role in getting aid directly to recipients, Mr. Naidoo appealed to his Government counterparts to recognize those actors’ value as more than a reservoir of cheap labour.  Rather, civil society groups and non-governmental organizations represented a body of knowledge that could make a huge contribution to development processes.


Afternoon Round Table


The Forum wrapped up its work with a round table on “Aid effectiveness agenda: towards consensus at Accra and Doha,” which was chaired by Jean-Marc Hoscheit ( Luxembourg), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, and moderated by Munir Akram ( Pakistan).


Panellists included Trevor Manuel, Minister of Finance of South-Africa and Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Doha Review Conference; George Y. Gyan-Baffour, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Ghana (via audio link); Eckhard Deutscher, Chair, Development Assistance Committee (DAC) /Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); and Ramesh Singh, Chief Executive, Action Aid International.


Opening the discussion, Mr. AKRAM urged participants to consider, among other things, why the process associated with the Paris Declaration was not bringing about clear, measurable behavioural changes in donor and programme countries.  They could also discuss ways to establish and demonstrate clear links between aid effectiveness and the broader issue of development effectiveness in order to avoid the international dialogue on the matter becoming overly technocratic.  Most of all, they should consider the Forum itself, and how that body could contribute to regular assessments of progress in scaling-up, mutual accountability and aid effectiveness that included all stakeholders.


Mr. GYAN-BAFFOUR updated the Forum on the preparations for the Third High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, set to take place in Accra from 2 to 4 September.  Between 800 and 1,000 people were expected to participate in the event, which was currently estimated to cost some $2.3 million, largely made up of donations from bilateral partners.


The Ghanaian Government had gone very far in terms of those preparations on the ground and in facilitating the negotiations on the outcome document, to be called the “Accra Agenda for Action”.  Thus far, the work of the Accra meeting would be built around a “marketplace of knowledge, innovation and ideas”, nine round tables and a ministerial segment.


Mr. DEUTSCHER said that aid effectiveness work had been a direct outcome of the Monterrey Consensus and a key tool in OECD’s effort to help strengthen the partnership between donors and recipients.  The issue of aid effectiveness would be a priority topic at the Accra meeting, as would the need to enhance the participation of parliamentarians and civil society organizations.  He noted that OECD would host a civil society meeting to that end in Accra just ahead of the September meeting.


In the run-up to Accra, partner countries had identified several key priorities not covered in the Paris Declaration, including, among others, strengthening demand-driven capacity development, streamlining the application of conditions, clarifying the division of labour, including clear incentives for aid effectiveness, and further untying aid.  Those issues had shaped the consultations ahead of the Accra meeting and the many of the round table discussions at that event would be based on them.


Overall, he said there was a long way to go to strengthen international development cooperation, but the launch of the Development Cooperation Forum and upcoming Accra event had generated momentum to move the process forward.   Accra was not trying to rewrite the Paris Declaration, it was trying to ensure that past commitments were made reality to make aid effectiveness work, avoid over-politicization and put in place a robust mutual accountability regime, especially since Member States were now at the midway point to meeting the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals.  “We need a breakthrough in Accra.  We need political will and we need to act urgently,” he declared.


Next, Mr. SINGH said that the aid effectiveness debate needed to be viewed in the context of wider financing for development issues, including gaps between what donors and recipients thought development aid actually was and how it should be used.  “We need to talk about ‘aid justice’ as well as aid effectiveness,” he said, calling for changes in thinking that also took into account gender issues and trade concerns.


He also said that, as the Development Cooperation Forum’s work got under way in earnest, perhaps Governments could consider sending their development finance ministers to either New York or Geneva to participate in discussions on revamping the global development assistance architecture.


He said that, while there was definitely a need to end the “scandal of conditionality” surrounding the development aid issue, there was also a need to address “capital flight” and the huge amounts of money developing countries were losing because multinational corporations were evading taxes or avoiding local business regulations in their southern host countries.  He hoped that some time at the Accra meeting would be devoted to discussions on ways to curb –- and eventually end -– developing countries’ dependence on development assistance.


Mr. MANUEL said it was time to look at the trend lines.  That was the only way to ensure that the decisions taken regarding development assistance and cooperation were in sync with what was happening “in the real world out there”.  It was also necessary to not just consider how much had been achieved “since the last international meeting”, but rather at how far there was to go to make commitments a reality.


He went on to say that elements of trust and partnership were critical to the aid effectiveness discussion.  “If you want democracy to flourish, then you have to trust the Governments in recipient countries,” he said, but acknowledged at the same time that it was appropriate -- for both donor and recipient countries -- to ask the question: “What has this money bought?”  Indeed, what development dollars bought was ultimately more important than the overall quantities disbursed.  Finally, he urged the attendees to seriously consider support for measures that would help recipient countries formulate policy and implement programmes that had been targets for ODA and other donor funding.


During the exchange of views that followed, delegates from some of the top global donor countries stressed the need to strengthen the international development assistance architecture, as well as natural absorption capacities.  More transparency about what donors were doing would certainly be welcome.  At the same time, many called for better monitoring and accountability.  A speaker from the developing world said that, if delegations wanted the Forum to be the Council’s “think tank”, they should speak openly about the things that concerned everyone in the room, like minimizing the politics of aid delivery.


Another speaker from the global South called for predictability of aid disbursements, stressing that, if recipient countries were better informed about when aid was coming in, they could make better informed decisions.  By example, he said that, sometimes, recipient Governments could procure goods and services from local sources if they were forewarned about technical hitches or other delays in aid delivery.  A representative of a civil society group urged delegations to beware of the deficiencies that had hamstrung implementation of the Paris Declaration, so that they did not creep into the Accra Agenda for Action.  That document should be forward-looking and, above all, stress the importance of including civic actors as real partners in the development debate.


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*     The 15th Meeting is covered in Press Release ECOSOC/6351.


For information media • not an official record