The warnings. The funding appeals. The newspaper headlines. The images.
This week, finally, the international response to the drought in the Horn of Africa kicked into overdrive. As donors and NGOs scramble to reach millions of victims, questions about the sluggish response – about accountability and aid effectiveness – grow louder.
This crisis is another sorry reminder that international development is impossible without strong partnership – between government, civil society and the private sector. Talk about a long-overlooked Millennium Development Goal!
Interestingly, “partnership” isn’t development buzz with traditional donors only – it’s also central to emerging donors. Look at the name of South Africa’s planned aid agency – the South African Development Partnership Agency – and you’ll find it there. Same with India’s Agency for Partnership in Development, which may finally see the light of day.
South Africa’s aid agency is expected to be launched late this year. Its creation alone won’t prompt international assistance to this emerging economy to be cut. But it will cement the country’s status as the region’s powerhouse – economically and diplomatically.
India’s development partnership agency – if it indeed materializes – will have been a long time coming. The country’s aid program can be traced back to the late 1950s. Grants given to Nepal and Myanmar were followed by broader regional, then global, engagement to pursue political and economic goals. India is now pushing into Africa and other faraway regions. Like other donors, including China, it is exploring ways to better engage its private (and nonprofit) sectors in international cooperation.
India is also warming up to the idea of diplomatic powerplays, seeking access to natural resources abroad in exchange for development aid. But this is no China with its no-political-strings-attached “investment.” What makes India attractive to developing world partners is its rags-to-riches story and the prospect of replicating it elsewhere. India, after all, has grown to become the 11th largest economy in the world. (Yet, it is home to more poor people than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.)
India now ranks 23rd on the list of most generous donors to the World Food Program and 24th when it comes to the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund – organizations that are active in the Horn of Africa right now. (South Africa ranks 58th and 31st, respectively.)
Expect calls for more accountability, transparency and aid effectiveness as South Africa, India and other emerging economies streamline their development portfolios and set up aid agencies. The international community will be watching, as they are now watching the drought response in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.