30-31 May 2019: Multi-country high-level meeting taking place on...
Follow-up to high-level forum identifies key areas including untied aid, but commitment of emerging Bric donors unclear
Participants at a follow-up meeting to the Busan conference on aid effectiveness have agreed a set of indicators that will provide the basis for a global monitoring framework for development assistance. The extent to which emerging donors will sign up to these indicators remains unclear, however, as their participation will be on a voluntary basis, as specified in last year's outcome document in South Korea.
Agreement on the 10 indicators put forward by the UK and Rwanda followed two days of talks at the Paris headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the club of 34 developed nations. The indicators cover areas such as untied aid, transparency, mutual accountability, the role of the private sector, and women's empowerment.
The post-Busan interim group also agreed on a steering committee of 18 members that will play a "strategic agenda-setting role". It remains to be seen whether any of the donors from Bric (Brazil, India and China) countries will be part of this committee, given their insistence that their participation in the monitoring framework should be voluntary.
At Tuesday's concluding session, India expressed strong support for the framework, saying it wanted to play an active role, but added that it needed more time to come on board fully. Brazil, throughout the discussions, insisted that south-south co-operation should be judged by different criteria to north-south co-operation.
Ronald Nkusi, from Rwanda's ministry of finance and economic planning, expressed hope that one of the Bric countries would join the steering committee. "It would be good to have one of them at the table in the room so we can see what their concerns are, and for them to see that the committee isn't something bad," he said.
Rwanda has been prominent in pushing for greater transparency and further untying of aid. Nkusi said overall Rwanda had been satisfied by the discussions, but would have preferred clarity on these two key issues. One official pointed out that tied aid affects not only projects but also technical support, with countries such as Germany and Japan insisting that developing countries use German or Japanese nationals for technical support.
This week's discussions provided a reminder of the balancing act reached at Busan, the high-level forum on aid effectiveness held last year following conferences in Paris and Accra. Busan sought to deal with the emergence of new players, even though their aid levels are dwarfed by traditional donors in the OECD's development assistance committee (OECD-DAC).
Busan established a global partnership for effective development co-operation, but it had to be a loose alliance as emerging donors felt it was unfair to apply the criteria of transparency and untied aid in north-south co-operation to south-south co-operation. The reluctance of emerging donors to sign on the dotted line on a global framework stems partly from a genuine lack of capacity to track data, but also from practices on the ground. China, for example, uses Chinese workers for construction projects in Africa. A case in point was the building of the new African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.
The notion that China and other emerging donors should not be subject to the same criteria as traditional donors irks the likes of Rwanda, but Busan was about inclusivity and compromises had to be struck to bring in the new players.
A draft discussion note prepared by South Korea summed up the balancing act at Busan and since succinctly: "The participation of south-south partners is essential to materialise the new global partnership. Otherwise there will be little political progress since Busan and possibly we will move backward to the old paradigm. In regards to global monitoring, it is important to ensure that language is provided to retain an open door for south-south partners without undermining the expectations and quality of the Busan spirit. Equally important is to reaffirm that south-south providers are not treated in the same way as northern providers unless they choose to be."
The best gloss on the attitude of the new donors is that they may eventually buy into the global framework, as voiced by a civil society delegate in Paris. "We are eager to see south-south providers engage on an agenda of mutual accountability," said Mayra Moro-Coco from BetterAid, the umbrella group for civil society organisations. "They are unlikely to commit soon, but it leaves the door open in the future."
In another indication of the shift away from the traditional OECD-DAC model – regarded by Brazil as lacking legitimacy – the UN Development Programme (UNDP) will partner the OECD to support the new global partnership, which will consist of ministerial-level meetings every 18 to 24 months, with more frequent meetings of the steering committee. The latter will consist of 18 members, including three co-chairs, five developing country representatives, and three from donor countries.
Under the new structure, the OECD will provide the analytical expertise while the UNDP will bring breadth, drawing on its extensive international development background in the field. "It should be emphasised that setting up this initial leadership structure is a test for the credibility of the global partnership," said a summary of the meeting by the chairman, Talaat Abdel-Malek.
This week's proposals on indicators and the governance structure of the global partnership will be presented to the DAC-hosted Working Party on Aid Effectiveness, which brings together representatives of more than 80 countries and organisations.