A year ahead of the Third High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra (Ghana), we invited experts from South and North to share their views on a precondition of effective aid: developing-country ownership. The Workshop was sponsored by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Participants discussed why poor-country governments have had such a hard time taking charge of their relationships with donors. They also took a close look at how civil society and parliaments can help broaden a country’s ownership of its development strategies.
Drawing on the discussions and the Draft Report, we are currently putting together some of our thoughts on ownership in the OECD Development Centre's next volume of “Financing Development”, which will be launched on 21 May 2008. To shorten the wait, please consult the country studies and papers below.
And here is a sneak preview of some of the Report’s main messages:
New forms of conditionality that link aid with results are good at promoting ownership, as they give developing countries more space to choose their own policies. However, results-based conditions can stifle policy innovation when aid agreements do not safeguard against the risk of external shocks.
Policy conditionality is in decline, also thanks to the Poverty Reduction Strategies introduced by the World Bank and IMF. However, the predominance of donor knowledge reduces space for poor countries to generate their own, home-grown solutions to development problems. This imbalance in knowledge is aggravated by the proliferation of donor initiatives and instruments in the area of development finance.
Donors and governments could boost ownership by giving local think tanks the resources and independence to come up with home-grown policy solutions. Developing-country governments ought to share more knowledge with each other, for example in regional organizations. And donors might rethink the skills required of their country staff, giving a greater role to “knowledge facilitators” as opposed to policy specialists.
Parliaments, the media and NGOs often lack the capacity to engage in informed public debate, monitor government activities and hold the state accountable for its use of development finance. Moreover, their access to information and freedom of speech are often curtailed. The Accra Action Agenda, to be signed in September 2008, could include recommendations on how to empower these actors in building a more broad-based and legitimate ownership in their countries.
The Advisory Group on Civil Society and Aid Effectiveness is currently attempting to shed light on the roles of civil society organizations (CSOs) as aid donors, channels, service providers and policy watchdogs; this will hopefully lead to greater recognition of their activities. Hand-in-hand with such recognition, however, CSOs will have to answer calls for greater transparency, accountability and effectiveness. One might even ask to what extent CSOs could apply the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness
to their own activities and relationships.
The future of the Paris Declaration is hotly debated by development experts.
Some want the Declaration to change from a “technocratic fetish” to a policy document, including substance and targets on gender, human rights and democracy. Others welcome the Declaration’s emphasis on process, arguing that there is no point in duplicating international policy documents such as the Millennium Declaration.
Some experts want to see the Declaration include more well-defined targets on civil society participation and “democratic ownership”; they argue that the current target on ownership, based on a country having negotiated “operational development strategies” with donors, is too state-centred. Others defend the Declaration. They point out that, ultimately, governments are responsible for aid relationships, and call for a pragmatic approach to existing indicators, rather than the introduction of new ones.
Despite such divergences in opinion, experts agree that the Accra High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness and Follow-up Conference
to Monterrey (Doha, Qatar) will constitute valuable opportunities to give a stronger voice to developing countries in the debate on aid effectiveness. After all, this is what is needed most for ownership to be put into practice.
These papers were coordinated through the Development Finance Network (DeFiNe), and served as a starting point for Workshop discussions, especially in the well-received break-out sessions.
Other papers and presentations