OP-ED: Are We Ready To Meet Today’s Development Challenges?

Posted on 15 September 2011 by admin

By Bert Koenders and Talaat Abdel-Malek*

WASHINGTON, Sep 2011 (IPS) —  The release on September 22 of the report “Aid Effectiveness 2005-2010: Progress in Implementing the Paris Declaration” leads us to ask an important question: Are we any better at delivering aid effectively today than we were five years ago?

The evidence from the survey is sobering. At the global level, only one of the 13 targets established for 2010 in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness have been met, and only by the narrowest of margins.

When over 100 donor and developing countries agreed to the Paris Declaration in 2005, they endorsed a set of principles formulated to address the major concerns in development at the beginning of the 21st century. They also committed to deliver -by 2010- on a series of action-oriented targets designed to ensure that aid money would produce better, longer-lasting results.

Independent evaluation has shown that the Paris Declaration principles have left their mark. They have been taken up as global norms of best practice, focusing divergent interests on common goals and concrete development objectives. In many cases and circumstances they have changed the way development is done, putting developing country concerns at the fore and raising expectations among all stakeholders.

All told, the past decade has been good for development. More than one-third of all developing countries have graduated into higher income groups. Global efforts to scale up aid have resulted in a 60 percent real increase in official development assistance between 2001 and 2010. Rapid economic growth in the first half of the decade has led to a sizeable decline in poverty in developing countries so that today, the first United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the number of people living on less than USD 1.25 per day looks well within reach for 2015.

Yet despite these very positive changes, progress in reaching the specific targets agreed in the Paris Declaration is happening at a pace much slower than expected, and much more unevenly around the world than we had hoped. For instance, while many developing countries have met commitments to improve the way they manage public funds, many donors are still not using these systems.

It is clear that more is needed to meet today’s pressing development challenges.

The world has changed profoundly since aid as we now know it began some 60 years ago. Today’s development landscape is populated by fast-evolving realities. The past few decades have seen an explosion in the number of organisations and countries that support development, with middle-income countries and emerging economies increasingly providing development assistance directly, outside of the traditional models of the past.

Likewise, there are more and more non-governmental and civil society organisations, private foundations, and corporate players that are keen to make their mark on pressing global problems. And while these actors bring new funding, along with approaches and ideas that all can learn from, the playing field is getting crowded and the challenges faced by developing countries in managing them all are burgeoning.

In addition, transnational issues -such as health, security, employment, migration, food insecurity and climate change- demand a coordinated response and, above all, strong political will to address them.

In this landscape, working together has become one of the great -if not the greatest -challenge to producing positive development results and reducing inequality.

The upcoming Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) in Busan, Korea, later this year presents us with a unique opportunity. With only four years remaining before the MDG target date of 2015, this is one of the last remaining events to bring such a large and inclusive group of development leaders together. At Busan, they will have the chance to revitalise standing commitments, while laying the foundation for a modern, inclusive, and transparent approach to international development.

At Busan, we can forge a new global partnership for development that not only addresses the pressing challenges of the day, but also provides a blueprint for working together in true partnership on the challenges that we face going forward.

Development co-operation is only part of the solution; while it plays a catalytic and indispensable role in supporting poverty reduction and economic development, over time we need to reduce dependency on traditional aid-without jeopardising, or course, the well-being of the poorest people and countries.

This means to examine the interdependence and coherence of all public policies -not just development policies- to enable countries to make full use of the opportunities afforded by international investment and trade. We need to leverage the impact of the many sources of finance and build stronger public-private partnerships to achieve our common goals.

Successful development cannot be achieved with one-size-fits-all approaches; rather, partnerships for development can only succeed if they are led by developing countries and are tailored to country-specific situations and needs, especially in fragile and conflict-affected states.

At Busan, we have the opportunity to turn the page and make the coming decade not only a good one for development but a true game-changer. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

*Bert Koenders and Talaat Abdel-Malek are Co-Chairs of the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness.

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