First step on the road to Busan

A glimpse of the famous Coliseum in Rome. Photo by: Russell Yarwood / CC BY-SA

Some 2,000 government officials and civil society representatives are heading to Busan, the second-largest city in South Korea, later this month for what promises to be one of the largest international development summits of late. On the agenda: aid effectiveness.

The Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, or HLF4, runs Nov. 29 to Dec. 1. Participants will take stock of the international development community’s progress on improving development cooperation and increasing value for money. Donor and recipient country leaders alike are expected to make new commitments to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.

The development community’s growing effort to better coordinate and harmonize foreign aid may be traced back to the last 1990s. But the aid effectiveness movement only began to truly pick up steam in 2002, with the release of the Monterrey Consensus – the outcome document of the first-ever U.N.-backed conference on financial and development issues.

Then, in February 2003, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development convened ministers, aid agency heads and senior officials from 40 multilateral and bilateral donors and 28 aid recipient countries in Rome, Italy, for the First High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. It was also the first time that aid effectiveness principles were outlined in a concrete document: the Rome Declaration on Harmonization.

This declaration set out three priority actions that are the forerunners of the aid principles known and adhered to today: delivering development assistance based on the priorities and timing of aid recipients, focusing on delegation cooperation and introducing more flexibility in donors’ country program and project staff, and implementing and monitoring good practices.

These actions were reviewed in Paris, France, Feb. 28 to March 5 at the Second High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. The resulting Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, which was endorsed by more than 100 leaders, is the highest-level existing statement of norms on aid delivery.

The Paris declaration outlines five fundamental principles for aid effectiveness: ownership, alignment, harmonization, managing for results, and mutual accountability. It is this last principle that largely sets the Paris declaration apart from the one adopted in Rome, which focused mostly on how donors can harmonize their aid efforts.

In addition to these five principles, the Paris declaration provided an action-oriented, practical road map on how to improve the quality of aid and maximize its impact on development. It also established 12 indicators and a set of specific targets for 2010.

The Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness commenced Sept. 4, 2008 in Accra, Ghana. Its key outcome is an agenda for action that sharpens the principles and commitments outlined in the Paris Declaration. The Accra Agenda for Action zeroes in on three areas for improvement: country ownership, accountability and aid delivery, and inclusive partnership.

At the upcoming Busan forum, the international community will assess progress on adhering to the Paris declaration and implementing the Accra Agenda for Action. Delegates are also set to “share global experiences” in delivering “best results” and agree on a Busan outcome document “to further enhance efforts globally and within countries to make aid more effective in reducing poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.”

To be sure HLF4, delegates are in for huge task. For one, an OECD report released ahead of the summit reveals that only one of the 12 indicators in the Paris Declaration has been met. Also, ongoing negotiations on what to include in the outcome document hint at differences between key donor countries, particularly on the topic of transparency.

Read more about aid effectiveness, including an exclusive op-ed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus on innovative financing for development, in our blog Busannovate: Making the Money go Further. For the latest on aid transparency, visit Full Disclosure: The aid transparency blog.

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.