With hard times and budget austerity dominating politics in the rich world, the aid community is moving from a longtime emphasis on the quantity to the quality of aid. There are high hopes that the successor meeting to Paris and Accra on aid effectiveness, set for Busan, Korea this coming November, will lead to real changes in the way the aid system works – with more transparency, more innovation, more evaluation and learning, more acceptance that doing aid well is an uncertain and risky business and that aid programs can fail – that the key is to accept the logic of trial and error and learn from failure. This is what we heard at meetings with those responsible for shaping the agenda in Busan, such as former Dutch Minister of Development Cooperation Bert Koenders, who joined us at CGD for a small discussion when he was in Washington for the IMF/World Bank spring meetings last month.
All this is good. But it is still just a tad off kilter.
Why? Because ultimately the real issue is not aid effectiveness (does aid money have any impact) but development effectiveness. The trial and error, and the risks of failure, are ultimately the responsibility of the governments and the people in the developing countries.
That is why I am applauding here, in a kind of blog post shout-out, a recent report prepared by the African Development Bank and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), to outline an agenda for the High-Level Forum in Busan.
Consider just the title and subtitle: The Tunis Consensus: Targeting Effective Development with the subtitle From Aid Effectiveness to Development Effectiveness.
“Aid is only one part of the solution to Africa’s development challenges”. That’s on the first page of the full report. (as we’ve been saying now via our Commitment to Development Index for almost ten years). Bravo!
Here are the six items that make up the Tunis Consensus on an African development effectiveness agenda (Anyone who knows I am an inveterate promoter of Cash on Delivery Aid will notice some connections to the COD philosophy):
- Building capable states: Donors should provide support through country systems – but capacity building means more than strengthening country systems for aid delivery. African countries should take leadership on capacity development.
- Developing democratic accountability: “But the accountability that matters most is not between donors and receiving governments but between the state and society”. (See slide #14 in this presentation or our COD Aid web pages.)
- Promoting south-south cooperation: “…a partnership of peers, without the hierarchies implicit in traditional technical assistance.”
- Thinking and acting regionally: “…investments in development are still overwhelmingly organized on a national basis.” For why that’s a big problem for Africa go here. More investment is needed “in the capacities of Africa’s regional economic communities”.
- Embracing new development partners: Emerging economies like Brazil, India and China are becoming “increasingly important players” which presents “an opportunity for Africa… ”
- Outgrowing aid dependence: “…Africa needs fair and efficient tax systems. We call for stakeholders to rethink how aid is programmed…”