November 29, 2011
Delivering quality aid is not just about giving the right amount – it’s about giving it in the right way
Today more than 2,000 negotiators including Ban Ki-moon, Hilary Clinton and the European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs will meet in Busan for a crucial summit to decide how to make overseas aid work better, with enormous consequences for the world’s poor.
At stake is the Paris declaration of 2005 where donors and poor countries struck a deal where recipients would take steps to such as tackling corruption to manage aid better in return for improved donor behaviour. Six years on donors have not held up their side of the bargain. For their part, developing countries have done well on keeping their promises, especially in improving their planning and financial management.
Rather than face up to their shortcomings, the European Union and other rich countries preparing for Busan are pushing for a solution that will let them off the hook. European donors have performed badly on improving the effectiveness of their aid, and now they are trying to change the rules of the game by shifting the entire responsibility to make aid work onto developing countries.
The EU’s clear lack of ambition for Busan is more than disappointing – it is concerning.
Particularly worrying is the proposition to scrap plans for a global aid monitoring system that would keep donors honest and improve the quality of their aid. This threatens to undo the progress made so far and to undermine further efforts to make aid work better for the poor.
Well delivered, quality aid can help transform the lives of millions and could save up to $4 billion of EU aid per year if it implements better aid reforms.In Tanzania in 2000, just over half of children did not go to school – a decade later, underpinned by aid, every child has a place. But too much assistance remains tied in red tape or gets wasted on projects that make sense to donors but don’t benefit recipients.
With the pressure of taxpayers at home, European donors at Busan are likely to push for a ‘value for money’ approach focusing on easy-to-reach targets , neglecting important goals that are harder to measure – such as gender, equality and human rights – and that are essential for development.
Giving money directly to developing country governments is the best way to ensure that decisions on how aid is spent are made more on the basis of poor countries’ needs than on the basis of the political interests of donors. Delivering quality aid is not just about giving the right amount, it’s about giving it in the right way.
Building a strong civil society is also a crucial so that local people can hold governments and donors to account and help make sure that aid reaches those most in need. But so far, despite the recognition of civil society organisations as development actors in their own rights , the EU has made no concrete commitment to supporting civil society growth and has failed to champion budget support as one of the best systems to give aid.
Rather than trying to negotiate their way out of their commitments, donors should grasp the opportunity to fix what is wrong with aid. There are more hungry people in the world that live in North America and Europe combined. If done right, a Busan aid agreement will deliver real results for people living in poverty.Oxfam International EU Advocacy