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WORLD-DEVELOPMENT: ‘‘It’s the Same Talking and Talking’’

Francis Kokutse

ACCRA, Sep 1 2008 (IPS) - About a 1,000 delegates are expected to take up their seats tomorrow at a high level forum on the effectiveness of aid that opens in Ghana’s capital, Accra. But their arrival has been met with mixed reactions.

Hamida Harrison -- donors need to stop tying aid to their national interests. Credit:  Miriam Mannak/IPS

Hamida Harrison -- donors need to stop tying aid to their national interests. Credit: Miriam Mannak/IPS

Representative of these reactions are the feelings expressed by Seth Ayensu, a 50-year-old informal trader at one of Accra’s markets.

He told IPS, ‘‘so many similar international conferences have been hosted in Ghana over the years to help the poor but they are yet to show any results. It is the same people who come to talk.

‘‘Nothing much would come out of this meeting because it is the same talking and talking by international delegates that achieve nothing in the end. What is the guarantee that it will come out with anything new?’’

But Siapha Kamara, chief executive of the non-governemntal Social Enterprise Development Foundation of West Africa (SEND), said the forum is important because of the inclusion of civil society as part of the discussions on how to make aid effective for recipient countries.

‘‘The attempt to open up the whole process of aid must be applauded,’’ he enthused.

Mary-Anne Addo, director of external resource mobilisation at Ghana’s finance ministry, explained that the whole concept of holding a forum on making aid effective follows the realisation that needs in developing countries have changed and to find ways to direct aid towards development.

Addo said, ‘‘past attempts to design policies to fit every country has not worked and people in developed countries are beginning to question the provision of aid to developing countries because they are not witnessing any change.’’

This led to attempts to find out what was not being done right. ‘‘This resulted in the first high level forum in Paris, France, where donor nations and agencies decided to tie their aid to the Millennium Development Goals over the period 2005 to 2011,’’ Addo elaborated.

The Paris Declaration included several commitments to improve aid to recipient countries. For example, partner (developing) countries commit to exercising leadership in developing and implementing their national development strategies.

Donors commit to respecting partner countries’ leadership and to help strengthen their capacity to exercise it.

The Accra forum is a midway review of how the Paris decisions were progressing to meet the necessary targets, she added.

Addo disagreed with Ayensu about the forum being meaningless. The Accra forum would give the opportunity to ministers and agency heads to consider and endorse the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA).

This will provide the platform to deepen the implementation of the Paris Declaration adopted in 2005 at the first high level forum.

Hamida Harrison, convener of local non-governmental organisation the Aid Effectiveness Committee, told a press conference in Accra that following consultations they had with other civil groups in the country, they intend to ask donors to discontinue tying national interests to aid.

The aim with this action would be to improve the results of international aid disbursement in recipient countries.

This is an issue that Addo and Harrison agree on. Aid tied to the national interests of donor countries has been seen to undermine efforts to address the needs of the poor and marginalised, which they both agree should be the core thrust of international aid.

Harrision argued that the draft AAA has not offered any opportunity for the removal of inequalities. It has weak participatory mechanisms which limited engagement with stakeholders.

Addo explained that the agenda has gaps regarding gender, disability, climate change and environment which need to be addressed. These issues have been incorporated into the agenda, leading some unnamed countries to ‘‘kick’’ against their inclusion.

These are the areas where the forum is expected to produce most head ache.

Another issue which Harrison said should be given proper attention is the issue of accountability. She said it is wrong for donor nations to demand accountability from the recipient nations without ensuring that donors do likewise.

‘‘We expect to see an independent and credible system to be established to actualise the commitment by countries in partnership to account to citizens on both sides.’’

Harrison noted that the level of civil participation on issues of aid in Ghana was low: ‘‘As a country highly dependent on aid for development, its processes and other issues should be a major concern to all.’’

She appealed to stakeholders to develop a keen interest in deliberations at the conference.

Despite the good intentions of the forum, the cracks that Addo spoke about are likely to deepen when the real business of discussion begins and this is likely to vindicate the cynicism expressed by lay-persons such as Ayensu.

The forum will end on September 4.

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