11 Nov 11

Civil Society Organisations Look to Busan for Development Effectiveness

By Sharukh Mirza

The development world is gearing up for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4), to be held in Busan in four weeks’ time. Following the first three High Level Forums in Rome, Paris and Accra, HLF4 aims to renew previous commitments to improve the impact and value of aid, as well as discuss new commitments to make aid work for poverty eradication and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This Forum is particularly significant to civil society organisations (CSOs), who will be participating in negotiations as full partners for the first time.

The previous High Level Forum in Accra saw BetterAid, a global CSO platform, assemble 800 organisations to petition governments for inclusion of civil society representatives in discussions. Their actions led to the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA) recognising CSOs to be independent development actors of their own right. Following Accra, civil society has been preparing for HLF4, with the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness conducting extensive consultations with civil society actors to create a joint CSO strategy for Busan and beyond, including developing a set of Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness. All of this signals the possibility for real progress to be made on CSO concerns in Busan.

Whether this will be borne out in reality remains to be seen. While Accra marked a critical step forward for civil society, progress on the ground has been less encouraging. For example, of the sixteen main demands made by civil society of their governments in Accra, a BetterAid review finds that six have seen no progress, nine have been partially achieved, and only one has been achieved fully. Worryingly, of the six unaddressed demands, the majority are reforms that would increase transparency and accountability of donors and governments, including removing donor conditionality, abolishing tied aid, and implementing multi-stakeholder mechanisms. Slow reform on these fronts mean they have shown up again in the current list of civil society asks for Busan. However, there is no guarantee that things will be different this time round, with some donors already pushing for watering down or even removing commitments to more transparent aid.

On the other hand, there does appear to be greater appreciation for the roles CSOs play in development, and the consequent need to ensure the means to achieve their full potential. In an especially positive development, the third draft Busan document includes requests to governments to ensure an enabling environment for CSOs, as well as acceptance of the Open Forum Principles as a means to improve CSO effectiveness.

While a milestone has been reached with the inclusion of CSOs at the negotiation table and acknowledgement of their importance in development, whether their perspective on development effectiveness will receive due attention is still not certain. For now, all eyes are on Busan, where a promise has been made to ‘forge a new global development partnership’- a promise that civil society hopes will finally be fulfilled. The One World Trust will be following developments at Busan closely with regular news updates and further posts.


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Posted by Sharukh Mirza

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