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Governments greet new aid promises cautiously

Children at bilis-did IDP camp.
(Abdullahi Salahi Salat/IRIN)

As the Accra high-level forum on aid effectiveness drew to a close on 4 September, aid agencies praised ministers from developed and developing ‘partner’ countries as they signed an agreement to make aid more effective.

“The step made yesterday is a tribute to the fact that ministers came together and were clear that the status quo was not good enough…Ministers knew there were high expectations and that they would have to deliver on them,” said Robert Fox, head of non-governmental organization (NGO) Oxfam’s delegation.

Agenda for action

Donors pledged to move away from prescriptive conditions to taking into closer account partner countries’ own aid objectives. Donors also signed up to use partner country systems as the first option to manage aid programmes rather than setting up parallel structures.

They committed to longer-term three to five-year aid programmes and to share more information about donor funding with partner countries, though it is still unclear as to what this will mean in practice.

They also pledged to reduce the duplicating initiatives, and to involve governments in programme planning.

Governments want more of a say

Partners agreed to improve their dialogue on aid issues and to improve management of donor funds by building up stronger institutions.

They also expect to have more say in monitoring aid. For instance, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Development Assistance Committee, through which governments regularly review each other’s aid performance, has pledged to include partner governments in the monitoring process.

According to Angel Gurria, OECD secretary general, the organisation is considering adding Chile, Israel, Estonia, Russia and Slovenia as members while planning to ‘enhance its engagement’ with Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa.

Political momentum

Civil society representatives are relieved their views are in the new agreement. Oxfam’s Fox told IRIN “The outcome of this [meeting] was much better because of the active participation of civil society…over the past eighteen months, in which they identified a whole series of issues that were reflected in the accord.”

But others are still skeptical donors will honour their commitments. Wole Olaleye, NGO ActionAid spokesman, said some governments tried to block partner countries’ demands during negotiations. “Future aid negotiations cannot be run by a few rich countries,” he warned.

Cautious optimism

The OECD’s Gurria said now the agreement has been signed, the hard work begins. “We all as partners have to implement the agenda for action and make it more than just a piece of paper…This means acting on our words, pushing out the frontiers of best practice, and bringing new partners into the consensus.”

But he added, there is one condition for this agreement to really work “In the past donors have stood in the way of accountable governance of aid in recipient nations, making governments accountable to their donors more than [to] their [own] parliamentarians and citizens. Now it’s time to change.”

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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