Coherence, Aid Effectiveness among Key Topics as Economic and Social Council Launches Second Development Cooperation Forum

29 June 2010
ECOSOC/6432

Coherence, Aid Effectiveness among Key Topics as Economic and Social Council Launches Second Development Cooperation Forum

29 June 2010
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6432
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council

2010 Substantive Session

13th & 14th Meetings (AM & PM)

Coherence, Aid Effectiveness among Key Topics as Economic and Social Council

Launches Second Development Cooperation Forum

 

Delegates, Stakeholders Hear Keynote Addresses, Participate in Policy Dialogues

Amid what many speakers called a complex economic and financial climate, the Economic and Social Council today launched its second Development Cooperation Forum, built around multi-stakeholder dialogues covering various types of global development cooperation, aid allocation and effectiveness, and policy coherence.

The Forum, established by the 2005 World Summit, represented “an opportunity we cannot miss to develop key recommendations towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals on the basis of more and better development cooperation”, Council President Hamidon Ali (Malaysia) said in his opening remarks.  Given the dramatically changed global economic landscape and aid architecture, the role of official development assistance (ODA) and other development financing were particularly significant in ensuring progress towards attaining the Goals, now, more than ever.

“Political momentum and a focus on turning pledges into implementation are urgently needed,” he emphasized, calling on all development cooperation actors to work together for fast progress that would impact the lives of many poor people in dire need of change.  While the Development Cooperation Forum had come a long way since 2005, it would have an even greater role to play today in bringing stakeholders together, he added.

Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, presented the Secretary-General’s report on international cooperation trends and progress, noting that, despite marked signs of progress on many fronts, the state of the global economy meant that some donors would fall short of their global development commitments, while others, struggling to meet voluntary targets, were likely to renege on pledges to sub-Saharan Africa.

“For these reasons, we need to come together in an even more committed way.  We cannot control the anxiety and austerity of these times, but we can strongly encourage commitments to promises made,” he said.  Calling on delegations to focus on the General Assembly Assembly’s upcoming review of the Millennium Development Goals in September, he highlighted the Forum’s input as vitally important during such a critical time.

Delivering one of four keynote addresses, Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development of the European Union, stressed the need for coherent policies and political commitments to turn global visions into reality.  The European Union — which provided nearly 60 per cent of global official development assistance — was challenged with trying to squeeze the maximum effect out of every euro spent, he said, underscoring the need to focus on aid that would have a great impact on the lives of the world’s poorest people.

He stressed that, while official development assistance was indeed a catalyst for growth, a 1 per cent increase in the gross domestic product of a developing country would be “far more effective” than an increase in aid.  Bigger challenges lay ahead, he said, adding that a new development-policy paradigm required clear parameters for the input and output of delivered aid and less fragmentation.  In light of the foregoing elements, as well as the need for mutual accountability, genuine political will and strong partnerships between donors, institutions, and recipients were required to develop a workable delivery mechanism, he said.

Paavo Väyrynen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland, focused on the issue of sustainable development, saying that, given the deep influence that the global crises had had on lives around the world, the need for a shift from the current type of global cooperation was questionable, and a “humanity policy” was preferable.  Under such a policy — based on the common values and interests of humankind — States and existing regional unions would analyse their own needs, set their own goals, and outline their own internal and external strategies.

He said the institutional framework of such a policy had already been created on the basis of practical needs — the Group of 20 (G-20), which “must only be reformed and linked into the official global institutions,” he said.  With that in mind, he recalled an idea presented at the landmark 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) — the “Earth Summit” — held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which would have led to the establishment of a United Nations Council for Sustainable Development, had it come to fruition.

“What we got was the Commission on Sustainable Development, which has done valuable work, but has not had any leading role in global development policy,” he said, suggesting that the G-20 be transformed into the proposed United Nations forum responsible for economic, social and environmental affairs.

The Development Cooperation Forum’s work today was built around three round-table policy discussions focused, respectively, on the themes “Promoting greater coherence:  how can all policies be geared towards development goals?”; “Accountable and transparent development for cooperation:  how can we build more equal partnerships?”; and “South-South, triangular and decentralized cooperation:  promoting greater coherence, accountable and transparent development cooperation”.

During the dialogue on coherence, panellist Kampeta Sayinzoga, Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury in Rwanda’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, said it was time the international community and recipient countries considered whether they were “on the same page” about the way forward.  “Are we speaking the same language, or are we [in the developing world] concerned about something completely different than donors are thinking about?” she asked, calling for country ownership, national-level coherence and targeted initiatives.

Another panellist, Eckhard Deutscher, Chair of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said incoherent policies were bad policies, given their inefficiency, ineffectiveness and high costs.  “The way we deal with policy coherence institutionally is key,” he said, recognizing that progress would not be easy, and urging donor countries to develop strategic investments for a common global future and the best possible returns.

In the afternoon discussion on accountability and transparency, panellist Ingrid Srinath, Secretary-General of the CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, pointed out that, while the broad effort to boost development cooperation and implement financing for development faced serious challenges, “you’d never know it by listening to what’s been said today”.  The problem was that panellists and Government representatives were not discussing actual obstacles.  “We’re trying to apply a technocratic solution to a political problem, so it’s no wonder we’re failing,” she said.

During the final policy dialogue on South-South and triangular cooperation, Christoph Beier, Managing Director of Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), said South-South cooperation was “not a better way, but another way” to promote and implement effective and efficient policy solutions.  Progress hinged on the involvement of new actors in the field of development cooperation, who could often inject new energy which helped identify specific needs.

The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 30 June, to continue its Annual Ministerial Review and close the Development Cooperation Forum.  It is also expected to hold a special policy dialogue on the role of women in countries in special situations.

Background

Continuing with the high-level segment of its annual substantive session today, the Economic and Social Council launched the two-day Development Cooperation Forum, during which delegates are expected to discuss the promotion of greater coherence; accountable and transparent development cooperation; the role of various forms of cooperation, including South-South and triangular cooperation; the impact of multiple crises; and achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

At its first meeting in 2008, the Forum established itself as a principal platform for global dialogue and policy review on the effectiveness and coherence of international development cooperation.  It has since also become a forum for independent analysis, high-level and balanced participation by key actors, and the clear representation of multi-stakeholder positions.  The objective of the 2010 Forum is to produce agreement on priority issues for action based on practical outcomes.

Opening Remarks

HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia), President of the Economic and Social Council, opened the second high-level Development Cooperation Forum by noting that this year it took place at a time when a confluence of crises still threatened to derail the development process.  The global economic landscape and aid architecture had both changed dramatically.  Now, more than ever, the role of aid and other development financing were particularly significant in ensuring progress towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals.

“Political momentum and a focus on turning pledges into implementation are urgently needed,” he said, urging all development cooperation actors to work together for fast progress that would impact the lives of many poor people in dire need of change.  While the Forum had come a long way since its establishment at the 2005 World Summit, it would have an even greater role to play today in bringing stakeholders together.

Highlighting some of the Forum’s achievement, he said it had successfully positioned itself as a well-recognized multi-stakeholder platform for frank policy dialogue on key challenges in international development cooperation.  It regularly attracted senior development cooperation officials from both developed and developing countries, bringing them all to one table and building on a unique consultative process.  It also had a broad impact on global debate by raising important issues of aid allocation, conditionality, multi-year predictability and value for money, in addition to aid effectiveness.

Building on analytical work and engagement with stakeholders, the Forum had moved towards facilitating a process of developing principles for enhanced development impact, he said, adding that the process was most advanced in the area of mutual accountability in development cooperation, and in respect of its gender impact.  Recognizing what worked and what did not was important in development cooperation, he said, pointing out that the Forum promoted peer-learning and the exchange of lessons learned in formulating, supporting and implementing national development strategies.

Those efforts helped actors to prioritize and to “walk the talk” on the basis of well-informed decisions, which had become increasingly challenging, he said.  The four comparative advantages represented the Forum’s key assets, at the discretion of stakeholders, to use and thus better deliver on the broad responsibility faced.  “We need to promote development cooperation in its current context of crisis or slow recovery,” he emphasized, encouraging all stakeholders to use the Forum to promote mutual accountability, particularly with regard to ensuring behavioural change towards country systems, budget support and aid predictability.

He went on to say that delivering on such commitments would not have the expected impact unless mutually supportive national policies on trade, debt, investment, technology, climate change, food security, migration and systematic issues were well established.  The second Forum was a unique opportunity to enhance the effectiveness and coherence of development cooperation as a major signpost for those regions and groups most in need of help, he said, adding that the coming two days of discussion represented “an opportunity we cannot miss to develop key recommendations towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals on the basis of more and better development cooperation”.

SHA ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted that delegations had come together to exchange ideas and best practices on how the international community could improve the impact of aid on development targets.  With the global economic landscape so fragile and the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals drawing near, that work was more crucial than ever before.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s wide-ranging report on trends and progress in international development cooperation (document/2010/93), he said it reviewed commitments to aid quantity, progress on policy coherence, the impact of the global crises, aid allocation practices and mutual accountability mechanisms, among other topics.  It also consolidated the research, best practices and lessons from meetings and symposiums of the Development Cooperation Forum held over the past 18 months in Helsinki, Vienna and Bangkok.  The report also showed that, despite the atmosphere of anxiety and austerity clouding the global economy, many donor countries had lived up to their promises.  Indeed, development assistance had risen in 2009 and most donors were expected to meet their 2010 aid targets, he said.

It was heartening that some non-Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee countries were also playing a critical role in delivering support to some of the poorest nations, he said.  Many of them were developing countries aware of the challenges faced by less fortunate friends, and were helping out in a spirit of solidarity.  Another trend highlighted in the report pointed to increasing support from foundations, private charities and civil society organizations.  Yet, despite those marked signs of progress, some donors were well short of global commitments and were struggling to meet voluntary set targets, he said, warning that many were likely to renege on pledges to sub-Saharan Africa.

“For these reasons, we need to come together in an even more committed way.  We cannot control the anxiety and austerity of these times, but we can strongly encourage commitments to promises made,” he said.  The international community could also work to strengthen other crucial elements of development cooperation that went beyond financial aid.  Everyone knew that aid alone would not eradicate poverty, save children’s lives and help mothers improve their health.  Those goals could only be achieved if aid delivery was supported by coherent policies and strong and accountable national institutions.

In that context, he continued, the report emphasized that the harmonization of aid policies and non-aid policies was a prerequisite for success, pointing out that in developed and developing countries alike, policies relating to agriculture, trade, investment, migration, security and technology were often at odds with aid policies.  The OECD and other organizations had done some good work in that area, he said, citing the European Union, for example, as having worked on coherence procedures in 12 policy areas.  A growing number of European Union member States had introduced legislation aimed at enhancing coherence, he added.

However, overall progress among members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) had been weak, and the Secretary-General’s report described the slow pace of change, he said.  Only a few DAC members had mechanisms for resolving policy conflicts or dedicated policy coherence units, he noted, calling for more political engagement in that area.  Political views must change before policy coherence was given its due attention, he stressed, going on to say that the report outlined the trends and progress made in creating accountability mechanisms, which were important for improving aid delivery in terms of quality, quantity and impact.  For donors to pledge increasingly larger commitments they needed clear and reliable information about aid operations and their impact on the ground, he said.

At the same time, programme countries needed guidance and technical assistance from donors if they were to improve their accountability procedures, he pointed out.  They could not increase evaluation capacities overnight, and without information on best practices and technological aids.  The value of monitoring and evaluation could not be underestimated, he stressed.  “We need more solid, credible information about aid delivery and its impact, for so many reasons.  This data is like a compass that can show us where we are performing well, where we are not.”

He said that over the next two days of the Forum, he would ask delegations to focus on a fast-approaching milestone for the international development community:  the General Assembly’s upcoming review of the status of the Millennium Development Goals.  There had been much progress since 2000, as well as “large unexpected setbacks” due to the recent global crises.  Indeed, many development gains had completely unravelled, he noted, adding that, at such a critical time, the Council’s input was vitally important.  “We are counting on concrete, actionable ideas from the Development Cooperation Forum that can help recover lost ground.  We can still accomplish what we set out to achieve.  Please help us in every possible way to do just that.”

Keynote Addresses

ANDRIS PIEBALGS, Commissioner for Development of the European Union, kicked off the keynote addresses by recalling that under the Lisbon Treaty, reducing and eradicating poverty had become the regional bloc’s primary objective, underscoring the deep commitment of European citizens to global solidarity.  One of the main cornerstones of the body’s new institutional architecture was the European External Action Service, which would be instrumental in delivering a stronger, better coordinated and more visible European foreign policy with a strengthened development component, once operational, by the end of the year.  “Institutions and legal provisions alone do not serve any purpose.  There is a need for policy and political commitments to turn global visions into reality,” he stressed.

Noting the European Union’s important role in ensuring that the high-level September Summit became a stepping stone towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, he said its development assistance had almost doubled since the adoption of the targets in 2000, having reached more than €49 billion in 2009.  While providing almost 60 per cent of global official development assistance (ODA), the European Union faced the challenge of trying to squeeze the maximum effect out of every euro spent.  “We need to focus on real aid; aid that will have a high impact on improving the lives of the world’s poorest,” he stressed.

The Millennium Development Goals were achievable, given the right policies, strong local political commitment, adequate levels and quality of investment and international support, he said.  In implementing European Union policies, particular attention should be paid to fragile States and least developed countries, he said, cautioning that, while he recognized official development assistance as a catalyst for boosting growth, a 1 per cent increase in a developing country’s gross domestic product would be “far more effective” than an increase in aid.  With regard to good governance, he said the European Union insistence upon it was simply an expression of support for the citizens and Governments of partner countries.  Bigger challenges lay ahead since a new development-policy paradigm required clear parameters for the input and output of delivered aid and less fragmentation.

He went on to underline that, in light of all the foregoing elements, as well as the need for mutual accountability, genuine political will and strong partnerships between donors, institutions, and recipients were required to address them and develop a workable delivery mechanism.  In that regard, the European Union was ready to embrace other innovative cooperation methods, including triangular cooperation, he said, noting that North-South and South-South cooperation should complement each other for the successful implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

YI XIAOZHUN, Vice-Minister for Commerce of China, said the 2010 Forum was taking place amid profound global crises, particularly the ongoing fallout from the economic and financial downturn.  In just three months, world leaders would gather at the United Nations to review the status of implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, a backdrop against which the Forum was of great significance in helping Member States take stronger and more specific steps to facilitate the realization of the Goals through intensified cooperation for development.

He went on to note that 2010 marked the sixtieth anniversary of China’s technical assistance to other developing countries through South-South cooperation.  It also marked China’s thirty-first year as a beneficiary of the United Nations development assistance system.  Those milestones provided an opportunity to share some observations on the country’s experience, he said, explaining that, as a large developing country with a population of some 1.3 billion people, and a per capita gross domestic product ranking 160th in the world, China was facing “serious development challenges”.  Indeed, by United Nations standards, 150 million Chinese were living in poverty on $1 a day.  In the years ahead, China would need to address myriad energy, environment and climate change challenges, making further development cooperation indispensable.

China’s experience showed that international cooperation, effective use of resources and international best practices would help developing countries accelerate the development process, he said, recalling that such assistance, provided by the United Nations and the wider international community, had helped his country integrate with the rest of the world.  During the 1980s, China had developed, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a “cold chain” system for an expanded immunization programme, and had met its target of 85 per cent coverage for children ahead of schedule.  In the 1990s, China had cooperated with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on microcredit schemes in 17 provinces, cities and autonomous regions, covering more than 1 million poor people.

He then highlighted his country’s strong support for and participation in South-South cooperation initiatives, noting that the Government of China also supported the Secretary-General’s proposed “Beyond Aid” plan.  There was a need for enhanced policy coherence, host country ownership and capacity-building over cash assistance, he said, expressing support for the preference expressed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for “package solutions” over stop-gap measures in order to achieve broad attainment of the Millennium Goals.

Emphasizing that his country’s cooperation with developing countries was implemented without political conditions, and also helped to open markets in least developed countries, he highlighted development assistance projects dating back to the 1960s with the building of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (Tazara).  That project was still serving the local people in those countries and had helped China win the trust and respect of other international partners, he said, noting that the Government had announced that it would launch eight new development initiatives in Africa over the next three years, including preferential loans totalling some $10 billion.  The relevant programmes would be in areas such as clean energy development and capacity-building for small and medium-sized enterprises.

China had begun establishing six economic and trade cooperation zones in African countries, including Zambia, where some 13 Chinese companies involved in the chemical, manufacturing, mining and construction sectors were up and running, he continued.  The actual disbursement of investments from those companies had reached $850 million, thus far, generating more than $50 million in tax revenues and creating more than 6,000 jobs, he said.  The requirements for achieving the Millennium Development Goals included:  giving priority attention to those developing and least developed countries hardest hit by the recent crises; reaffirming commitment to the development financing targets set at Monterrey; improving market access for the least developed countries; and emphasizing capacity-building and technology transfer.

PAAVO VÄYRYNEN, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland, delivered the final keynote address, noting that the global crises made the sustainable development agenda more important than ever.  Finland’s development policy was based on a comprehensive view of sustainability and built on the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.  “The twentieth century economic model of the industrialized world is not ecologically sustainable,” he said, stressing that there was indeed a sustainable way to create welfare for all humankind.

Considering the deep influence that the global crises had had on lives around the world, he questioned the need for a move away from the current type of global cooperation, suggesting a “humanity policy” instead.  Under such a policy — based on the common values and interests of humankind — States and existing regional unions would analyse their needs, set their goals, and outline their internal and external strategies.  The policy’s institutional framework had already been created on the basis of practical needs:  the Group of 20.  “It must only be reformed and linked into the official global institutions,” he said.

He recalled that during the 1992 Rio Conference, he had been among those wishing to establish a United Nations Council for Sustainable Development, an idea that had never become reality.  “What we got was the Commission on Sustainable Development, which has done valuable work but has not had any leading role in global development policy,” he noted.  He suggested the transformation, ahead of the Rio + 20 Conference, of the G-20 into the United Nations Council for Sustainable Development, a body responsible for economic, social and environmental affairs.

Policy Dialogue I

The Council then began the first of its three policy dialogues, on “Promoting greater coherence:  how can all policies be geared towards development goals?”

MARTIN DAHINDEN, Director-General, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation played the role of Moderator, saying the topic usually provoked strong reactions and wide-ranging discussion.  While everyone understood that aid alone could not solve all sustainable development challenges, “policy coherence” seemed to mean different things to different people.  Indeed, to some, it meant development assistance “coherence” across national plans and programmes, and to others it meant broad cooperation to achieve agreed policy objectives.  He said he looked forward to a lively discussion, particularly given the involvement of recipient stakeholders, who were often sidelined in policy talks.

NGUYEN THE PHUONG, Vice-Minister for Planning and Investment of Viet Nam, said his Government was in the midst of implementing its five-year socio-economic development plan with a view to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Of course, that exercise was under way at a time when the world was facing deep economic and financial schisms, but the aim was to boost development and raise Viet Nam out of “underdeveloped country” status.  The first two years of implementation had seen modest growth, but when the financial crisis had hit, inflation had begun to rise, he said.

The Government had acted swiftly to keep inflation in check and maintain social order, he continued.  It was reforming public administration, combating corruption and implementing various policies on supporting the poor and other vulnerable groups.  Thanks to those initiatives, the 2008 growth rate had been right around 6.8 per cent, he said, adding that, as the rest of the world had been “sinking into economic turmoil” the Government of Viet Nam had been able to stave off the worst of the fallout by, among other ways, boosting investment and consumption.

As a result, inflation had not spiked and the growth rate had been about 5.3 per cent in 2009, he said, adding that the challenge now was to return the country to high pre-crisis growth rates.  The Government was also moving away from ad hoc solutions with the aim of setting up stable national mechanisms, and attracting investor resources and official development assistance, as well as political support.  Viet Nam would continue to press ahead with sustainable development.

KAMPETA SAYINZOGA, Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Rwanda, said Africa was changing and it was time for the international community and recipient countries to see if they were “on the same page” about the way forward.  “Are we speaking the same language, or are we [in the developing world] concerned about something completely different than donors are thinking about?”  She called for country ownership, national-level coherence and targeted initiatives, warning that a proliferation of promises and projects would not lead to attainment of the Millennium Goals.

Rwanda had pressed ahead with a home-grown development policies, largely ignoring the international consensus that it must follow a well-worn path to development paved with one-size–fits-all policies, she said.  Following its own road, with the assistance of partners, the country had, for instance, initiated an insurance programme that was now a model in Africa and beyond.  “So we need to be wary of letting evidence choke innovation,” she cautioned, adding that it was also necessary to identify ways in which domestic resources could leverage development.  That could be achieved by creating a tax base that could drive pro-poor policies along with broader socio-economic development.  “We are beggars today, but we don’t want to be beggars tomorrow,” she declared.

ECKHARD DEUTSCHER, Chair of the Development Assistance Committee, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), stressed that more political commitment, stronger political leadership, and more coordination and monitoring were needed to ensure coherence.  Some donor countries had made progress in promoting it, while others lagged behind.  “It is easier said than done,” he said, noting that strong political commitment was necessary in order to make progress in implementation, promote accountability, and align policies with evolving needs.

“The way we deal with policy coherence institutionally is key,” he said in recognition that advancing it also would not be easy.  Incoherent policies were bad policies, given their inefficiency, ineffectiveness and high costs, he said, urging donor countries to develop strategic investments for a common global future and the best returns possible.

Addressing a point made by Ms. Sayinzoga, he said the complexity of the donor system was an obstacle that must be eliminated, noting that the OECD was aware of the issue, which was under discussion.  “We cannot stay alone.  We need a horizontal approach,” he said, urging partner countries to be critical in addressing what needed to be done.

JOSÉ ANTONIO OCAMPO, Professor, Columbia University, focused on the issue of international economic architecture, addressing migration, trade and finance.  Of those three dimensions in which developing countries cooperated, migration saw little action as there was no framework within which to discuss it at the global level.  The United Nations should, therefore, create a special commission within the Economic and Social Council to discuss migration and development, he said.  As for trade, there were much more important issues that should be included on the international agenda, including the collapse of multilateral trade.

Emphasizing that a “totally fragmented system” was a major issue affecting the future of international trade, he said the current level of trade was lower than that preceding the last economic boom.  If a new wave of trade was unlikely to occur, South-South trade would be the only mechanism dynamic enough to stimulate global trade, he said.  Furthermore, reform of the global financial and monetary systems should also be on the international agenda, since cross-border capital flows — which primarily affected developing countries — were not being discussed.  Citing multilateral development banks as essential instruments of international development cooperation, he underscored the importance of reforming the global monetary system to ensure they were ready to support developing countries in times of crisis.

In the ensuing discussion, Government representatives stressed the impact of the past 18 months of financial turmoil on development assistance and cooperation initiatives, underscoring the critical need to mobilize adequate resources from all available mechanisms in order to attain the globally agreed development goals.  At the same time, it was felt that rich countries must continue to stand by their obligations to support sustainable development.  Several speakers highlighted the importance of innovative South-South cooperation to that end.  The representative of the Russian Federation backed the country-led approach, calling for a favourable investment climate and infrastructure improvements to put aid to work.

Brazil’s delegate said coherence must aim to create a more pro-development international system that supported agreed aid objectives and rejected protectionism.  It should be seen as a way to better achieve national priorities, “not just as a means to an end”.  He was also among the speakers who called for a scaling up of investment in the agriculture sector, as others supported the broad adoption of the Secretary-General’s “Beyond Aid” strategy.  Another speaker said he had noticed that ODA had not been the primary focus of the discussion thus far, which was encouraging because, while aid remained vital to attaining global development goals, it was clear that donor and recipient countries were beginning to realize that more options were available.  Still, he said:  “We donors need recipient countries to help us get our acts together.”

A representative of the Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development said civil society would continue to stress that development cooperation and coherence could not be separated from the broader context, which included meeting agreed obligations, stimulus initiatives, and improved market access.  “Rich countries cannot continue to pick and choose among a boutique of resource obligations,” she said.

The representative of Morocco said policy coherence should accompany efforts to increase aid effectiveness and quality.  There was a need for additional work to ensure a balance between development partners while maintaining flexibility and adaptability, and improving debt management.

Also participating in that discussion were representatives of Yemen (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Israel, Belgium, Argentina, Guatemala, Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Nepal, France, Nicaragua, China, Indonesia, Venezuela and Bangladesh.

The observer delegations of the European Union and the Inter-Parliamentary Union also spoke.

Policy Dialogue II

The Council then began its second policy dialogue, on “Accountable and transparent development cooperation:  how can we build more equal partnerships?”

ANDERS B. JOHNSSON, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and Moderator for the dialogue, said mutual accountability was the least understood and perhaps most poorly applied of the Paris Principles, yet one of the most important.  A recent survey showed that the accountability relationship between donors and programme countries was skewed in favour of the former.  Within countries, the accountability lines among Governments, Parliaments and other parties were either broken or malfunctioning.  Nor were there well-defined aid policies, which should be the first building block of the aid architecture at the country level.

Emphasizing the essential importance of timely access to information, he said more assessment of progress was needed in order to change behaviour at the country level and to monitor such change.  Two questions that loomed large in such discussions centred on political will and capacities, he said.  Political will did not spring naturally on its own, but rather, relied on actors to press Governments in a different direction.  Accountability institutions, starting with Parliaments, must be properly endowed with skills, resources, information and appropriate authority.

MUSTAFA MKULO, Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that, despite some progress, concern centred on the effectiveness of aid, for example, its sustainability in the absence of support in recipient countries, failure by donors to stick to their commitments, and inadequate transparency.  There was also a major challenge in delivering on commitments relating to development budgets, he said.  For its part, the United Republic of Tanzania had developed a framework for coordinating aid so as to ensure that objectives were realized, he said.  There had been a remarkable improvement in its relations with its partners, but that had not come about easily, he said, recalling that strains in the 1980s and 1990s had led to the formation of a team of advisers charged with evaluating the Government’s relations with donors.  The Government had agreed to take the lead in the development process, undertaking financial and budgetary reforms, he said.

Among the country’s successes was the institutionalization of an independent monitoring group, which facilitated mutual accountability and placed development partners under the same scrutiny to which the Government had been subjected, he said.  Efforts were also under way to better align aid with national priorities, which, in turn, better aligned resources.  While Parliament’s involvement was important, weaknesses among such actors prevented them from getting involved more deeply in aid effectiveness.  He urged the Forum to examine such challenges with a view to developing policy.  There was also a need to continue building Government policymaking capacity, and to improve both the predictability of aid flows and the disclosure of aid resources among donors.  “Building successful partnership takes time,” he said, adding that promoting the political commitment of donors and recipients would enhance understanding.

IRENE FREUDENSCHUSS-REICHL, Director-General for Development Cooperation, Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of Austria, recalled last November’s Vienna symposium on accountable and transparent development cooperation, saying it had highlighted the importance of enhancing national ownership and leadership.  Among its messages was that the role of Parliaments was important for mutual accountability, in programme and donor countries alike.  Parliaments often needed capacity-building in order properly to discharge their duties, an issue that deserved attention and funding.

As for how Austria practised mutual accountability, she said it had formulated an action and implementation plan for the 2009-2011 period containing three key elements, the first of which was a programme to implement the principles of mutual accountability.  Secondly, Austria had started to incorporate results-based programmes into the countries in which it had a presence.  The plan also emphasized the active support that the country gave all stakeholders at the level of policy development cooperation.  Third, the Austrian Development Cooperation Division had participated in efforts to boost accountability platforms in order to build the capacities of Parliaments, among other actors.

Turning to the Forum’s future role, she said the Secretary-General’s report contained interesting proposals.  Mutual accountability was best exercised at the country level, where the specifics of a situation could be taken into account.  She said she did not see much value in global assessments.  Rather, attention should focus on the regional level, where mutual accountability could be discharged through mechanisms such as the African Peer Review, which had great relevance and deserved closer examination.  Finally, she highlighted the gender dimension of the internationally agreed goals of development cooperation and policy.  “We need to find better ways to strengthen the gender dimension in exercises of mutual accountability,” she said.

In the ensuing discussion, Government officials noted that international development was a long-term endeavour and that impatience often led to dubious results, which, in turn, reduced transparency.  Standards should be set not only according to the ability of developing countries to achieve them, one delegate said, but also according to how well rich countries lived up to their commitments to partner with them.  One speaker called for the creation of a mechanism to determine how well pledges were fulfilled.

Another delegate questioned the legitimacy of the Group of Eight (G-8) and G-20, ad hoc bodies with no legal status.  The solution was not to legalize them but to rescue multilateralism, international law and the United Nations.  It was time to add to the international agenda the global South’s concerns about conditionality and the predictability of official development assistance, he said, as he recommended approving the outcome document of the international conference on the international crisis.

As another question was raised about consolidating civil society participation and support, the representative of Sierra Leone said his country had given its all to engage civil society, bringing it into budget planning, for example.  Even in Parliament it was difficult to define civil society participation, he said, wondering whether there were any new thoughts on really empowering civil society actors.

Ms. SRINATH responded by urging an examination of the enabling environment for civil society, as the legal frameworks were a prerequisite for their participation.  The second factor was the “ecosystem of civil society” — the presence or absence of an umbrella organization, for example, or spaces in which civil society could convene and decide who it wished to see participate in Government processes.  The issue of capacity was also important, she said, noting that civil society often attended large meetings with far less knowledge or expertise.  “None of us is doing this as a full time job,” she said, noting that often there simply was not the kind of capacity for civil society to organize itself prior to large meetings.

Ms. FREUDENSCHUSS-REICHL stressed the importance of focusing on implementation principles at the country-level, as opposed to large conceptual meetings like today’s.  “We need to sharpen our scrutiny” towards sharing experiences and best practices, she said.  Non-governmental organizations were very important participants in international meetings, but they thrived best in any setting that fully recognized fundamental rights and freedoms.

In a second round of questions and comments, Argentina’s delegate stressed that official development assistance would only be effective to the degree it came with domestic public policies.  Effectiveness was also tied to institutional strengthening and capacity-building.  However, he expressed concern that transparency efforts often brought higher transaction costs.  The tight focus on transparency should be considered in all sectors.

To the point that parliaments lacked capacity, a representative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union asked about the role of ministers in development cooperation, since they were members of those very parliaments said to lack capacity.

Ms. FREUDENSCHUSS-REICHL said that to make real progress, there must be a development paradigm that worked for the whole world.  It could be one of sustainable development, as notably defined at the Earth Summit.

To comments about training programmes, she said her country’s programme was financed by the development agency and allowed direct cooperation between Austrian parliamentarians and those from partner countries.

Mr. MKULO said parliamentarians in his country were fully involved on several fronts, noting that the Controller-General reported to Parliament, for instance.  Parliamentarians had to be trained so that when they discussed budgeting, for example, they understood the issues.  Training would enhance their effectiveness, he said.

Mr. ANDERSON, addressing the matter of imposing a one-size-fits-all approach on transparency, said there were multiple, innovative approaches being used around the world.  “If you get it right, the transaction costs can be low,” he said, citing one example in India.  He said he was worried that the debate about mutual accountability involved only provider and recipient countries, pointing out that the discussions might be shutting out civil society, taxpayers and Parliaments included.  The debate must include a broader range of actors, he stressed.

As for how the Forum could take accountability forward, he said it had already brought in a broader range of actors, and could now draw lessons from South-South cooperation and inject them into dialogue.  The Forum’s success would “depend on us being pretty honest with each other”, he said, adding that pat statements would not really make a difference.

Ms. SRINATH added that the world was on its way to a very uneven recovery — the question was, recovery to what?  Returning to an unsustainable development path would not be advisable, and the Forum had the opportunity to put on the table issues that ordinarily would not be discussed.  It could also advocate for a more human rights-centred, gender-equitable development model.

Mr. JOHNSSON wrapped up the afternoon’s discussions by saying they had brought out the need to build capacity of parliaments.  National audit institutions were part of that architecture, charged with providing transparency and accountability.  Building capacity was a complicated process, since the aid machinery was driven by Governments and intergovernmental mechanisms.  The separation of powers that must exist was not necessarily respected in that equation.

Also participating in the dialogue were representatives of Indonesia, Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Nicaragua, Brazil, Ireland, Canada and Mongolia.

A representative of the International Monetary Fund spoke as an observer.

Also speaking were representatives of Nord Sud 21, Finnish Service Centre for Development Cooperation (Kepa) and the North-South Institute.

Policy Dialogue III

HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) moderated the day’s final policy dialogue, on “South-South, triangular and decentralized cooperation”, opening the discussion by noting that the development cooperation debate had changed significantly over the years.  The rise of new actors and mechanisms, including South-South cooperation, had been one of the most visible changes.

Indeed, as Development Assistance Committee flows declined, the international community had seen a surge in other innovate streams of development assistance.  Economic and technological progress across the developing South had been a key factor in that growth.  “Yet, even as we limp back to uneven recovery, populations, particularly in developing States, continue to reel from the fallout from the economic and financial crisis,” he said, urging participants to consider South-South and triangular cooperation as a viable companion mechanism to more traditional forms of development cooperation.  Indeed, while South-South was the “flavour of the day,” it was still no substitute for traditional North-South development initiatives.

CHRISTOPH BEIER, Managing Director, Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit, said South-South cooperation was not the result of scientific research but of a multi-polar international order where the experience gained by various countries — and their ability to share that experience and learn from each other — had proved successful in identifying the demands and needs of the developing world.  South-South cooperation was, therefore, not “a better way”, but “another way” to promote and implement effective and efficient policy solutions, he said.  The Gesellschaft’s experience had shown that progress hinged on the involvement of new actors in the field of development cooperation.  The international community had a tendency to be bound by traditions and agreed outcome documents, but often, new players could inject new energy with the potential to help identify specific needs.

LUIZ PEREIRA, Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Brazil, said the financial crisis had fundamentally changed the traditional context of North-South cooperation.  Indeed, the fallout from the economic slowdown would, unfortunately, impact ODA, as well as foreign direct investment (FDI).  At the same time, South-South cooperation could offer some relief in a context that would be characterized by “tightening”, at least in the near future.  Many key middle-income and emerging economies were still experiencing modest growth despite the crisis, he noted.

As for Brazil, the Government was trying to find niches and targets that could be effective with partner countries, especially in Africa, he said, adding that it was looking locally and regionally to shore up development.  Indeed, in such times, local options were cheaper, and regional technical expertise was better suited to real needs.  He said aid flows and the trade agenda would continue to be rocked by fallout from the financial crisis, and developing countries would continue to seek ways to generate resources and trade among and between themselves.  Those countries must also try to strengthen their ties with multilateral partners and private investors and philanthropists, he said.

ENRIQUE MARURI LODOÑO, Director of International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, said the world had changed substantially and the drivers of that change could be found in both the developed and developing worlds.  Cooperation today involved a variety of players, including private enterprise and civil society.  In that context, an interesting point had been raised about a category of developing countries that had younger populations, a dynamic economic sector and relatively stable political systems.  Included in the grouping were Colombia, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa, he noted.

He went on to say that cooperation authorities in low- and medium-income countries must seek cooperation not only with countries but also with institutions.  In that context, multilateralism played the role of a broker or facilitator of change; a catalyst of collaboration.  While the role of multilateral organizations had been questioned, Colombia was convinced of the value of institutions like the World Bank, Organization of American States and the Inter-American Development Bank.  Its Government also saw value in drawing closer to the Asia-Pacific region, and viewed the promotion of microcredit in Bangladesh as an example of what was possible.

For its part, Colombia had undergone substantial change, notably in increasing foreign investment, improving security and creating a “thriving” democracy, as had been seen in the recent elections, he said.  South-South cooperation could allow for deepening working relationships and, through it, important lessons could be drawn for poverty alleviation and addressing climate change.  By way of example, he cited the South-South Collaborative Group, set up under an OECD working group, which brought together 400 people from dozens of countries.  More broadly, the Paris and Accra agendas were going in the right direction, taking into account the concerns of developing countries, he said.  Participating in international forums was very important for developing nations, but “we have to link theory to action”, he said, stressing the importance of sharing experiences.

ELISABETH GATEAU, Secretary-General of United Cities and Local Governments, emphasized that, while local governments were often seen as non-governmental organizations, “they are governments”.  Many towns and cities, especially in Africa, where populations were exploding, would eventually have to cope with such situations without the resources to meet the needs.  Indeed, local governments were “invisible” in the United Nations system, and very little thought was given to what their skills or authority should be.  However, local governments were close to voters and saw what was being done in their name.  They often provided assistance that was very responsive and must be given far more attention.

She went on to say that less than 10 per cent of official development assistance reached the local level, a key reason for the notorious ineffectiveness of aid.  The proportion allocated to ODA should be raised to 25 per cent of gross domestic product.  She said she had been pleasantly surprised to hear the delegate of the European Union say the regional bloc Union was devoted to good governance in ensuring aid effectiveness.  However, she was disappointed that the Secretary-General’s report stated that good governance was not a factor sufficiently addressed in terms of aid.  He should re-examine that point and see what happened in countries that took their cities seriously.

As audience members took the floor, a representative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union stressed the importance of regional and “neighbourhood” integration as ways to encourage not only greater coherence, but also to promote peace and stability.  He cautioned that some South-South initiatives had begun to resemble bartering, for instance, materials for infrastructure enhancements in one country were “traded” for access to services or resources in another.  While there was nothing inherently wrong with such agreements, there was a need to ensure that terms of trade were equitable.  It would also be helpful if UNCTAD took a closer look at such situations, he said.

The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation said it was unlikely that agreed development goals could be achieved without strengthened South-South cooperation.  While Russia was a “young donor”, it had developed a cooperation mechanism last year and was very interested in supporting relevant initiatives with partners in the developing world.  Another speaker called for greater progress in registering and disseminating information on South-South cooperation initiatives as a way not only to track the effectiveness of implementation, but also to provide a database for those seeking partners in all parts of the developing world.

Many speakers echoed the call for more easily accessible data on South-South cooperation.

As the discussion continued, speakers repeatedly stressed that South-South and triangular cooperation must be considered a complement to, rather than a replacement for, traditional North-South cooperation.  Taking that notion further, Mexico’s speaker said that all forms of development cooperation must be reenergized in a de-politicized atmosphere.

A representative of the World Bank highlighted “South-South learning and training”, saying it was proving to be a powerful tool for development.  Such knowledge-sharing and networking among neighbours provided space for like-minded partners or regional groupings to set targeted and coherent policy frameworks, and identify common interests.

Ms. GATEAU responded to questions by saying that the work her organization carried out with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) was a prime example of decentralization of efforts, and it was to be hoped that more Governments would make use of that agency’s experience.

On the role of women, she noted that countries participating in the Annual Ministerial Review had reported growth in women’s representation at the local governance level, and hoped that the growth and strengthening would be extended to women’s civil society organizations.

Mr. PEREIRA, for his part, disagreed with a suggestion that South-South trade had taken on the characteristics of bartering, saying that he saw the surge in cooperation as a positive trend, and urging further investigation at all levels of interaction and engagement.

Mr. MARURI LONDOÑO agreed that knowledge-sharing should be a central aim of all South-South initiatives.  Indeed, at its heart lay not only the necessity to boost development, but also the need to connect developing countries to each other and to provide examples of best practices for others.

Mr. PURI, asked what the United Nations could do at the country level, said that answering that question would require everyone to admit that the Organization did not do very much at the country level.  Indeed, its country-level priorities were heavily influence “by the traditional ordering of things determined by traditional donors”, he said.  That explained why the only programme dealing with South-South cooperation was a small office within the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  The Secretariat must examine the vital role that South-South cooperation was beginning to play, he emphasized, acknowledging that such an assessment might not occur until South-South cooperation reached the critical mass required for the United Nations to take stock.

Also participating were representatives and senior Government officials from Nicaragua, Brazil, Spain, Uruguay, Portugal, China, Congo, Japan, France, Nepal, Indonesia, Israel, and Venezuela.

A representative of the IBAN Foundation also spoke.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.