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‘Accountability Vital in Improving Aid Effectiveness’

Suvendrini Kakuchi

BUSAN, South Korea, Nov 29 2011 (IPS) - Key actors meeting in Busan on Tuesday, the first day of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4), lay emphasis on inclusive ownership, mutual accountability and the platform of the groundbreaking 2005 Paris Declaration.

Speakers representing donor and recipient governments and civil society experts stressed the importance of going beyond technical targets to meet challenges in achieving inclusive indicators that are commonly based on concrete figures in poverty reduction.

Addalah Kigoda, from the Tanzanian government, pointed out the lack of parliamentary accountability in many aid recipient countries where budgets and economic planning remain in the domain of the executive.

“The governments’ development plans are aimed at selected areas that are served by the politicians in power. It is to this sector that the government takes responsibility. As a result, there is a tug-of-war with other parliamentarians when it comes to bringing in mutual responsibility,” he said.

Developing mechanisms to create diverse stakeholders, including citizen participation in decision-making and implementation of balanced partnerships to achieve transparency and poverty reduction have been defined as some of the landmarks of ownership and accountability.

The concepts are aimed to encourage domestic accountability that will foster development efficiency through the participation of grassroots-level citizens. The test in Busan is to implement political commitments to strengthen the process and move away from shaping aid narrowly through donor disbursements.

Still, surveys post-Paris indicate that more than 60 percent of donor and developing countries have not met their targets.

Faumuina Liga, representing the ministry of finance, Samoa, and a chief aid negotiator of his country, likened the Paris Declaration to a chicken that has been given the freedom to roam around but with one of its legs still tied.

“We blame each other when things do not succeed. But the key to good accountability is to develop a dialogue between the stakeholders. We cannot separate the donor and recipient,” Liga stressed.

Samoa has raised its profile as a country that has taken steps to push forward a culture of mutual accountability. The Pacific island has implemented new coordination mechanisms that create an inclusive space for multiple stakeholders to participate in national development.

For example, local civil society organisations (CSOs) and the private sector have joined panels to prepare national strategies to work towards development, said Liga. Samoa will be upgraded from its current status as a least developed country in 2014 and join the World Trade Organisation next year.

The process has worked. Samoa is now, according to reports from the Pacific Island Forum, able to discuss road maps for national development with donor countries and multilateral lending institutions.

Mutual accountability also remains a sticking point for donor countries. Martin Dahinden, director, Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency, pointed to pressure from tax payers in donor countries who expect concrete improvement in poverty eradication in shorter spaces of time.

“The danger in this short-sighted aid is to pluck the low-lying fruit and view short-term results as the goal. There must be more time spent to communicate the negative implications of this thrust by developing new areas for more dialogue to promote understanding,” he said.

An example of the risks of short-term accountability is aid being used to supply vaccines while ignoring human rights violations, the latter an area where results can take longer.

Experts pointed to the need to move ahead in achieving effectiveness in Busan to combat widening development issues – the emergence of new aid players against a backdrop of global disillusionment with the results of trillions of dollars already spent in overseas development.

Counter methods included the urgent need to monitor and disseminate success stories of mutual accountability, such as gaining the trust of grassroots communities that often feel ignored in the aid debate.

An example in Ethiopia is a case in point. The country’s Protection of Basic Services launched in 2006 is supported by 11 donors and is expected to receive additional support from the World Bank’s fund for low-income countries.

The programme, working closely with CSOs, has improved public service delivery in education, health, agriculture, water and sanitation and rural roads to meet the MDGs. Child immunisation has increased from 70 percent in 2005 to 82 percent in 2010.

An external evaluation of the new measures indicate that citizens now have more trust in aid and are better aware of their rights.

Chang Hyun-sik, expert at South Korea’s finance ministry, summed up his country’s experience of moving from aid recipient to donor, explaining that local ownership and accountability have been a key in the national success story.

“American aid played a vital road in South Korea’s development and the lesson in our story is we did it by explaining our national goals. This is the way forward,” he said.

Some 2,000 delegates will, until Dec. 1, review progress in improving the the effectiveness of aid, before making commitments towards a new development paradigm.

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