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DEVELOPMENT: Donors And The Poor Agree Aid Agenda

Francis Kokutse and IPS correspondents

ACCRA, Sep 5 2008 (IPS) - Delegates from both developing and developed countries have adopted the Accra Agenda For Action (AAA) as a guide to improve the way aid is given and spent.

The document was adopted at the close of a three-day High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness which drew over 1,200 delegates from about 120 to the Ghanaian capital.

Under the AAA, developing countries committed to control their own futures, and donors to better policy and delivery coordination among themselves.

After some hard negotiations, both sides also pledge to make themselves accountable to each other and their citizens.

Although there were reports that the talks pitted developing countries, backed by the European Union, against leading donor nations the US and Japan, a senior U.S. spokesman played down the suggestion.

"A number of groups were very involved in the discussions and in putting forward inputs and ideas. Everyone was pitching in and working together," said Henrietta H. Fore, Director of Foreign Assistance in the State Department and USAID Administrator.

"We wanted to reflect the urgency, but we also wanted to be realistic. We wanted to set targets that we could meet," she told IPS.

Other US officials pointed to what they called "cultural differences" between the U.S. and Europe – where European countries tended to set "aspiration targets" by setting the bar high, the U.S. favoured realistic, achievable targets.

"The U.S. is very target-oriented, very results-oriented," said a U.S. official attached to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the grouping of the worlds leading donors that had called the Forum along with the World Bank.

The Accra Agenda states that governments in the developing world will take stronger leadership of their own development polices and engage with their parliaments and citizens in shaping those policies.

"Donors will support them by respecting countries priorities, investing in their human resources and institutions, making greater use of their systems to deliver aid, and increasing the predictability of aid flaws," it adds.

In addition, they agreed that "achieving development results and openly accounting for them must be at the heart of we do."

Since citizens and taxpayers of all countries expect to see the tangible results of developments, the gathered leaders promised to "demonstrate that our actions translate into positive impacts on peoples lives."

"We will be accountable to each other and to our respective parliaments and governing bodies for these outcomes."

"Without addressing these obstacles to faster progress, we will fall short of our commitments and miss opportunities to improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable people in the world," they added.

The Agenda also agreed to deepen engagement with civil society organisations as independent development actors in their own right, as organisations whose efforts complement those of governments and the private sector.

Civil groups present at the Forum however criticized the final outcome saying it was a weak agreement characterised more by words than action.

"Even last-minute efforts by developing country ministers and their allies only ensured some marginal improvements. This aid forum was organised by the OECD, a rich-country donor club," said Rose Mensah-Kutin, executive director of NETRIGHT Ghana.

"In a year when more than one hundred million people have been pushed into poverty by rising food prices, it is scandalous that donor governments have refused to remove damaging restrictions that increase the cost of food aid," she added.

"Donors have failed to agree to reduce harmful policy conditions that undermine democratic processes and constrain country choices," said Tony Tujan of Reality of Aid, an umbrella group,

"Despite efforts by recipient countries, donors continue to impose their own structures, by-passing domestic processes. Donor are failing to meet their side of the bargain."

Ngonzi Okojo-Iweala, Ghana's minister for finance said, "the Agenda has advanced the course of what we have been talking about. It has set targets and indicators to improve upon aid."

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