November 30, 2011

Getting the Busan Gender Plan back on the rights track

What was to be a showcase announcement on gender equality at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness landed with a bit of a thud as women’s organizations from around the world gave the plan a cold shoulder.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton teamed up with the Korean government and several other countries – Canada included – to launch the Busan Joint Action Plan on Gender Equality and Development Wednesday. The keystone of the plan is EDGE which stands for Evidence and Data on Gender Equality – a much needed and welcome investment in the capacity of governments and institutions to collect and analyze data broken down by gender. This information is critical to good public policy, providing decision-makers with evidence and insights on how their actions or inaction are affecting women and girls differently than men and boys.

Nothing offensive about that. Indeed the only critique is how modest an initiative it is.

The target of the women’s movements’ scorn is the other element of the Busan plan, aimed at boosting support to women entrepreneurs. And here the concerns have more layers than an onion, each with the capacity to leave you in tears. On the surface is the focus on women as engines of economic growth. Everyone it seems is hot on women these days – the UN, the development banks, the aid agencies, the private sector. There’s not much money flowing their way but there’s lots of talk about women as a great untapped resource that, with more support, could spur tremendous growth within flagging economies.

There’s truth to that but cause for caution too. Women have every reason to be suspicious of yet another scheme that instrumentalizes women and girls for a broader objective rather than putting women’s rights at its centre.

Most development projects just ignore women. But too many create more work for women without creating more power, rights or respect for women.

Delegates to the Women’s Forum of the Busan Global Civil Society Forum recounted examples where micro-credit, community loans and other schemes simply added to the burden of women whose plates were full but were going hungry. Between their underpaid and unpaid work women already put in two-thirds of all the hours worked on the planet. Yet many are so desperate they jump at the chance to further indebt themselves, taking out micro-loans to start a business – in effect, a third or fourth job – even though too many of them have little control over the income they earn.

Lenders gladly loan them money – as long as the amount is small enough – confident the women will repay their debts. Socialization and community pressure mean default rates are very low, even when the cost to the women is very high.

Forum delegates note the dominant economic model is founded on women’s unpaid and underpaid work. The burgeoning care economy and the growth of precarious work that relies on a constantly replenished pool of young women workers were cited as examples of the sorts of entrepreneurship that was as likely to enslave as to empower women.

That women want more economic opportunity and freedom there is no doubt. That they want recognition for their many contributions to economic growth and legal status as owners of lands, homes and assets, of course. That they want decent work and opportunities to open and grow businesses, again, that’s true. But the women state unequivocally that the foundation for prosperity with equity is rights.

They believe it is naïve or disingenuous to promote the three E’s – education, employment and entrepreneurship – as the recipe to end inequality without tackling the attitudes and behaviours, customs and norms that perpetuate patriarchy. They underline too the need to address violence and child care and climate change and a wide range of issues that create vulnerability and inequality and represent systemic barriers to eradicating poverty. And they call for an initiative that is grounded in rights, that starts with the Beijing agenda and that engages women’s organizations from the outset in the conception and design of the proposal as well as its delivery and assessment. Is the Busan Joint Action Plan dead? No, not yet. While early reviews were negative, no doubt some women’s groups will test USAID’s expressed openness to dialogue. And were the engagement genuine and the resulting plan rights-based, comprehensive and ambitious, there could yet be enthusiasm for this venture. [And were the US to ratify CEDAW, Secretary Clinton would have more credibility as its champion.]

As for Canada, it will be important that CIDA take an active role in the reframing of this initiative. Sustainable economic growth has been identified as a priority by the government. While the details of the strategy remain under wraps, we can only hope that women’s economic empowerment is central. And if so, a new, improved Busan plan might be the perfect means to leverage Canada’s investment to have the kind of results that all women will welcome.

This blog post was written by Robert Fox, Executive Director of Oxfam Canada and delegate to the High Level Forum.

 The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CCIC or its members.

November 29, 2011

Progress since Paris? Clearly not enough

At last the countdown to the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4) is over. Governments and the sherpas are finalizing the draft Outcome Document, and civil society, represented in greater numbers than ever before, have completed their “Statement” on the draft Document. The stage is set for tomorrow’s formal opening.

As HLF4 gets underway, several donors, Canada included, have signed on to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) just in time for some media friendly back-slapping and hand shaking. While the addition of new donors to IATI – which aims to make information about aid spending easier to find, use and compare – is welcome (and Canadian CSOs have certainly applauded Canada’s efforts), participants have been less optimistic about post-Busan as they look back on progress since Paris and Accra, the focus of Day 1.

And what kind of progress has there been? Well - not much. Indeed, with the release of the 2011 Survey on Monitoring the Paris Declaration, the Independent Evaluation of the Implementation of the Paris Declaration and The Reality of Aid Special Report on civil society perspectives on progress since Paris in the lead up to HLF4, participants meeting in Busan are quite aware that with a few exceptions, the Paris Process has failed to deliver on its promise of better aid. All three evaluations of the Paris process have shown that, although the aid effectiveness agenda has had some impact on the way aid is delivered, there has been a lack of political will to ensure the full implementation of the Paris Principles and the Accra Agenda for Action.

The 2011 Monitoring Survey demonstrated sobering results. At the global level, only one of the 13 targets established for 2010 to measure the implementation of aid effectiveness commitments has been met, and just barely. Progress has varied across donors, and in some areas, such as reducing aid fragmentation and proliferation, there has been a backsliding. Indeed, Brian Atwood, Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (read, “important person at HLF4”), actually stated that given the lack of progress on reducing aid fragmentation and proliferation - a donor commitment - we should be careful about how optimistic we are with respect to future improvements (a statement which he later retracted - apparently the optics are bad when the Chair of the OECD-DAC says there is little hope).

Indeed, the monitoring survey highlighted little or no progress on aid predictability and the implementation of donor commitments to common arrangements and procedures. Developing countries, on the other hand, have fared better, meeting many of their commitments, such as putting in place sound national development strategies and in some cases national results frameworks.

The Independent Evaluation of the Paris Declaration also found that donors were slower to implement their commitments than developing countries, despite the fact that the expected changes for them were more demanding. According to the report, “donors and agencies have so far demonstrated less commitment than partner countries to making the necessary changes in their own systems.” Nevertheless, the report found that the aid effectiveness process was important in generating norms of good practice, improving the quality of a number of aid partnerships, and relevant to improving aid processes, at least in theory.

While these evaluations were important to monitoring the implementation of Paris commitments, civil society identified a significant gap in the instruments, namely a failure to adequately measure the impact of the aid effectiveness agenda on democratic ownership and development effectiveness.

As a result, the Reality of Aid network (RoA) produced a Special Report looking at progress on the following: creating multi-stakeholder bodies and effective consultative processes to prioritize and monitor development policies; developing an enabling environment for civil society; producing transparency and access to information so as to inform accountability; and formulating poverty indicators that suggest outcomes for poor and vulnerable people.

Like the Monitoring Survey and the Independent Evaluation, RoA found that the aid effectiveness agenda has produced some positives, particularly with limited improvements in the relationships between developing countries and international cooperation partners. It found little evidence, however, of improvements in democratic ownership, highlighting that ownership over the development process has yet to move much beyond the executive arm of government, with a few exceptions. Finally, the RoA concluded that there is a shrinking space for civil society, with issues around transparency remaining, and little or no progress on corruption through independent investigation, legal redress and action (a finding shared both by the Survey and the Evaluation).

So, given the results of these evaluations, what are participants saying in Busan?

CSOs and a limited number of donor governments, including the Danes, the Finns and, believe it or not, the new Italian government are saying that development is not only about economic growth, but “first and foremost it is about fulfilling the rights and needs of people.” More specifically, civil society is insisting that HLF4 results in development policies and practices that are rights-based, that guarantee space for civil society organisations and other non-state actors “in keeping with binding commitments outlined in international and regional instruments that guarantee fundamental rights, and ensure private sector involvement actually contributes to development, while respecting international labour standards and conventions.” The rights of women and girls continue to be neglected. At the same time tied aid (though there have been improvements, 21% remains tied), accountability, and conditionality remain serious challenges.

So, while the results have on the whole been disappointing and there is recognition that global conditions and the development context have changed for the worse, there is nonetheless a general acknowledgement that the development community should not be distracted from the Paris and Accra agenda. Instead we should begin to frame development challenges in the light of a new global context and the need to reach the poorest and most marginalized on the basis of international human rights frameworks.

This blog post was written by Joe Ingram and Shannon Kindornay, The North-South Institute. Both are delegates to the High Level Forum.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CCIC or its members.

November 28, 2011

Taking our seat at the table – how civil society “got its act together” to influence the Busan outcome

Yesterday evening I said good-bye to my fellow “Team Canada” colleagues as we walked back from a meeting with some members of the CIDA delegation, here for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4) (HLF4) in Busan. The Busan Global Civil Society Forum (BCSF) is over and today the HLF-4 begins with the full participation of 300 civil society delegates, along-side donors and partner governments.

The BCSF brought together more than 500 participants from civil society, from all corners of the world, for three days of intense discussions in preparation for the HLF4. Updates were given about where the negotiation process stood, decisions were made about the bottom lines for civil society as the civil society (CSO) Sherpa, Tony Tujan, walked into what we thought was the last negotiation session before the HLF, and the CSO team strategized along thematic and regional lines as to how best to push the CSO key asks during the upcoming 3 days.

This morning, the news was not good. Sherpas had a long night and did not managed to come to an agreement that met the minimal bottom-lines of all parties. So the tussle continues. Very significantly, China seems to have withdrawn from the process, and other countries, including France, were conspicuously absent on the last critical Sherpa meeting before the HLF-4 kicked off. And these are just the highlights, much more going on below the surface and behind closed doors.

Easy to feel concerned about the outcome of the next three days of meetings - like any global negotiation, the issues at play here are complex and multi-dimensional, and the number and diversity of actors with high stakes and divergent interests daunting.

But let’s take a look at the highlights of the process so far, from a civil society perspective, to take strength in what we have to build on.

There is no doubt that we have come a long way since Accra, and have lived up to the challenges posed to us since then in unequivocal and creative ways. Who could have assured us, in the lead-up to Busan, when civil society groups rallied to get a formal recognition in the outcome document (the Accra Agenda for Action – AAA) that at the next high level forum we would be included as development actors in our own right and that we would have a seat at the table – at the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness, the Working Party Executive Committee, the many multi-stakeholder clusters and task teams, with our own Sherpa and with 300 official delegates at the forum itself.

This is without question an unprecedented experience for civil society – one from which we will no doubt draw many valuable lessons as we move forward into new challenges, in this process and other fields.  As I have come to understand the enormity of the achievements over the last three years in this regard, I have been struck by how in many ways this experience is counter-current to the shrinking of space for civil society that we are observing around the globe.

So, how did civil society get this seat at the table and how did we use it?

First, Better Aid. This broad global platform of CSOs, lead by southern organizations, has been the face of civil society in the process and has been the process via which we have produced common asks and negotiation positions - through a governance structure that has attempted to be as inclusive and democratic as possible, while being functional and efficient. Not an easy task, when you have hundreds of organizations from all over the world (more than 1700), that speak different languages, have different readings of the world and priorities, and different abilities and interests in the matter at hand. Brian Tomlison, Executive Director of AidWatch Canada and until recently Senior Policy Advisor with CCIC, says that “there is a respect that unites us all and does not undermine but rather strengthens all of our agendas”.
Brian Tomlinson (AidWatch Canada) in Busan

Second, The Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness. A process designed to respond to the challenge of establishing our own standards for effective development of CSOs, the Open Forum brought together more than 3,500 organizations from all regions of the world through consultations in over 70 countries. The outcomes: The Istanbul Principles and the International Framework on CSO Development Effectiveness.  

Third, through the combined efforts of Better Aid and The Open Forum, CSOs arrived in Busan last week with a clear set of key asks for Busan. “It has been at times difficult, but we managed to unify and come to Busan with a collective voice”, says Emele Duituturaga, Executive Director of PIANGO and co-chair of the Open Forum. “Through this process, we have learned to dialogue and go forward as one.”

Brian Tomlinson adds, “though it is not bullet proof, a highlight of this whole process has been the unity of civil society in the face of a very complex agenda with diverse special interests. We have come to HLF4 with a common set of bottom lines which are strongly rooted in a human rights approach to development”.

It is without any doubt, the combination of having produced our own standards for development effectiveness and our common key asks that have allowed for  CSOs to be instrumental, in the lead-up process to HLF4, to not losing sight of the most important issue – better development outcomes for the poor and marginalized around the world. Through its participation in the numerous multi-stakeholder platforms that worked to prepare the ground for Busan, CSOs were able to make important contributions to increase the ambition in the Busan Outcome Document (BOD), and this has been broadly recognized. “We have transformed the process,” says Emele, “and this is how we will transform the world”.

But as I leave, I also reflect on the many challenges that lie ahead for global civil society. It was not an easy or quick process to come up with a statement at the end of the BCSF. But after a couple of hours of group discussions and then plenary discussions, and finally a committee review, we had a statement that synthesized the top concerns of the participants of the forum. So we still have work to do on how to best work together in a fair and representative structure that delivers results.

Emele Duituturaga (PIANGO) in Busan

After Busan, CSOs will re-convene to start a much needed reflection on this exceptional experience, and evaluate the pros and cons of this new role of being at the table while remaining activists in spirit and intent.

“Civil society came at this driven by moral and ethical motivations, but being at the table means we have had to negotiate” says Brian, who was also co-chair of the Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment.

“We know we have to devise a process to move the agenda forward at the country level”.

And Emele rightfully reminds us, “after having being at the table and negotiated as equals, many of us now have to go back to our countries and face the hostile relationship with our governments”.

This blog post was written by Julia Sanchez, Canadian Council for International Co-operation.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CCIC or its members.

November 27, 2011

Aid and the Private Sector – How to make sure people and development profits

“Busan is to do for the private sector what Accra did for civil society,” stated a donor, speaking at an event on the private sector in Europe.

It is perhaps no surprise that a key focus by members of the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness has been to try to bring the private sector “into the tent” through the front door of the Busan Outcome Document.

Busan comes just over a year after G20 leaders put their stamp on the Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth – essentially an updated version of the "Washington Consensus" with a sprinkle of equity thrown in – and a year after Seoul convened the B20, a forum of over 100 business leaders from G20 countries.

The G20 stamp is all over Busan, with a new vision for development that it is not merely “supported” but rather “driven by strong, sustainable and inclusive growth” (my emphasis - Busan Outcome Document, para 26a). Within this, it sees the private sector as the engine of that growth, “advancing innovation, creating wealth, income and jobs, mobilizing domestic resources, and in turn contributing to poverty reduction” (para 30). It leaves you wondering what states will be left to do.

For civil society, some of these issues – like the new vision for development – are deal-breakers in the current negotiations. And so it is not surprising that the role of the private sector in development has been a source of contentious and heated discussion in many of the sessions over the past few days and will continue to be so in the days to come. The Reality of Aid Network is focusing its 2012 report on “Aid and the Private Sector” and held a workshop on the issue at the Busan Civil Society Forum. The High Level Forum (HLF4) will itself host a Private Sector Forum, a side event and Thematic Session on Public Private Co-operation (TS, designed to build on the Paris Declaration (PD) and Accra Agenda for Action (AAA)), and a Building Block on the Private Sector (BBs, to build an agenda for beyond Busan).

Some of the contention around the issue could emanate from the fact that non-governmental organizations, despite strong efforts to be involved in the discussions, have been shut out from the process. In all the other BBs and TSs it has a presence. But then so have Business Associations and Trade Unions.

So why now?

In the context of declining aid budgets, more emphasis is being placed on the “value for money” of existing aid resources, and how to catalyze Official Development Assistance (ODA) to generate additional development finance resources. Increasingly the focus is falling on innovative financing mechanisms, with aid as the “capital base” to leverage additional resources from the private sector or engage them in identifying solutions to development challenges.

To complement these investments donors are organizing new facilities and departments to blend ODA with funds raised on private capital markets.

Donors are also looking to new partnerships between the private sector, governments and civil society to deliver goods and services.

And so what are the key debates and reservations among civil society on this issue? There are five.

Firstly, whose private sector benefits? Civil society is not wholly opposed to aid being used to support the private sector. Most organizations recognize the potentially positive contributions the private sector can play in development. But for most CSOs (and the occasional donor!), the prerogative of aid is to support poverty reduction and supporting the realization of the rights of the most marginalized. This means that CSOs prioritize businesses indigenous to the country, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and social enterprises, like cooperatives as recipients of aid.

Secondly, for years the emphasis in development has been on creating an enabling environment for business. The World Bank’s (much criticized) flagship Doing Business Report ranks countries according to the ease of doing business. In practice, while it may encourage countries to streamline heavy bureaucratic processes that choke innovation, this has also led to excessive deregulation, flexibilization of work forces, and attacks on labour rights. For civil society, however, the focus is wrong. It is less a question of creating an enabling environment to develop the private sector (and stimulate investment), than creating an environment that enables the private sector (and investment) to contribute to development. This is a subtle difference, but important.

Thirdly, aid must demonstrate both financial and development additionality. CSOs are concerned that scarce ODA could be diverted from where there is a deficit - domestic public and private sector in partner countries – to where there is essentially a surplus - international corporations. This means that aid for the private sector must clearly demonstrate the following: 1) Financial additionality: Scarce public moneys must target the appropriate sectors and businesses that would otherwise not have the funds available; and 2) Development additionality: Investments of aid resources in the private sector must clearly work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and eradicating poverty.

Fourthly, aid to the private sector must ensure positive development outcomes. To date, most indicators for measuring the development impacts of the private sector are fairly facile. It is an issue that bilateral and multilateral donors are struggling with. Too often the number of jobs created is the proxy. What civil society is demanding is a system that both measures short term results, but that also values longer term impacts and outcomes – like decent work, job security, or equal work for equal pay. Jobs provide an income. Decent work provides a livelihood.

Finally, civil society is also demanding that the private sector must follow a set of principles that guide their practice as development actors. And by this, we don’t mean corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR can, if it is at the heart of an organization’s core business model, generate sustainable business practices; but more often than not it is just window dressing. The challenge for the private sector, as Penny Davies, the Policy Advisor at Diakonia Sweden noted in her presentation at the Reality of Aid workshop, is that when they engage in aid, they must abide by aid effectiveness principles beyond their own voluntary set of standards. Civil society has the Istanbul Principles. Why shouldn’t business have an equivalent?

Will Busan do for Business what Accra did for civil society? Yes. But unfortunately it will be “Business as usual”.

This blog post was written by Fraser Reilly-King, Canadian Council for International Co-operation, and Jeroen Kwakkenbos, European Network on Debt and Development. Both are members of the International Coordinating Committee of the Reality of Aid Network. 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CCIC or its members.

November 26, 2011

“Enabling environment” – the tie that binds us

If there is one issue that seems to bind civil society organizations together – that could make or break the outcome of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4) – it is the issue of “enabling environment.” 

The issue essentially came out of the last high level meeting, HLF3, in Accra, Ghana, in which CSOs were recognized as “independent development actors in their own right”, fulfilling a range of roles that are complementary to, but distinct from, those of government. And in order for civil society to reach their full potential, governments agreed to “work with CSOs to provide an enabling environment that maximizes their contributions to development.” 

So what is an “enabling environment”? Technically speaking it is the political and policy context created by governments, official donors and other development actors that affect the ways CSOs may carry out their work. In layman’s terms, it is essentially the amount of political space and freedom that CSOs have to do what they want to do. In this sense, an “enabling environment” is an essential pre-condition for CSOs to be able to realize their full potential in society. 

Since Accra, however, this space has eroded the world over. Civicus, the Act Alliance, and in Canada organizations like Voices, have all documented declining space for civil society. In almost all countries, CSOs, their staff and volunteers are experiencing political, financial and institutional vulnerability, arising from the changing policies and restrictive practices of their governments. 

Civil society is not alone in their perceptions of this threat. 

Speaking as the keynote on the first day of the Busan Global Civil Society Forum, Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, also observed that the commitments made by governments to these rights have repeatedly been broken across the world. In addition to intimidation, governments have enacted regulatory frameworks that have inhibited CSOs’ ability to participate in the development planning as well as the disbursement of aid. 

Yet for Mr. Kiai, development without rights is untenable. The Arab Spring, he said, demonstrated that growth and development can only go so far if they are not accompanied by the realization of political freedoms and rights. And CSOs have a critical role to play in this, ”building an active, engaged citizenry, which in turn helps build democracy”. 

Even the Korean example, he said, demonstrated that it is impossible for a country to continue to grow without political rights. 

“Progress towards the realization of economic, social and cultural rights needs high levels of accountability and transparency, underpinned by civil and political rights.” 

So what is the significance of all of this for Busan? 

Mr. Kiai pointed to the work of the Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment (TT), a sub-group of the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness that was established in 2009 to promote the implementation of civil-society related commitments in Accra. 

Co-chaired by Mali, Sweden and the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (on behalf of the Open Forum on CSO Development Effectiveness), a key component of the task team’s work has been to gather evidence on the environments in which CSOs operate and to provide clarity on the characteristics of enabling environments. 

So what then is required of governments? What are the minimum standards and fundamental rights that governments must guarantee to ensure an enabling environment for CSOs? 

The Task Team is clear on this: freedom of association, freedom of expression, the right to operate free from unwarranted state interference, the right to communicate and cooperation, the right to seek and secure funding, and the state’s duty to protect. 

Mr. Kiai welcomed these recommendations in his keynote address, emphasizing that these fundamental rights have already been agreed upon by governments and that, without an enabling space, CSOs cannot work as independent development actors in their own right. 

So what does all of this mean for civil society, for HLF4 and for the current Busan Outcome Document

It means everything, but it could leave us with nothing. 

While Article 21 reaffirms much of what was achieved in Accra – CSOs as development actors, the complementary role they play to government in shaping development policies and plans, and the need for an enabling environment – it goes no further. There is still no clear language around enabling environment and the minimum set of standards for interpreting what this entails. The language suggested by the task team is completely absent. 

As we noted at the beginning, an “enabling environment” is the essential pre-condition for Civil society to be able to realize their full potential. Recognizing the Istanbul Principles and the International Framework on CSO Development Effectiveness in the Outcome Document are important developments. But with no minimum guarantees that give civil society the space to implement the Principles, the recognition is meaningless. 

On November 28th, during the final negotiation of the Outcome Document, BetterAid will continue to try to push these standards into the text. Europe, the UK and Canada have all indicated their support for greater clarity in terms of what constitutes an enabling environment, but it is unclear the extent to which they are supportive of a minimum set of standards. 

Who knows what will happen? But what is certain is that “enabling environment” is the glue that holds civil society together. It allows us to realize our full potential in society. And without that glue, and without some clear standards on what that means, civil society will still hold together, but it could be our support for the outcome document that falls apart. 

This blog post was written by Brian Tomlinson, AidWatch Canada and Co-Chair of the Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment, Shannon Kindornay, The North-South Institute, Fraser Reilly-King, Canadian Council for International Co-operation. 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CCIC or its members.

November 25, 2011

Will Korea’s ambition rub off on the outcomes of HLF-4?

The city of Busan, Korea’s second largest city, brings the metaphor of the “East Asian Tiger” to life.

Upon arriving at the airport, travelers are greeted by the words “Korea – Beyond expectation.” From high above the city of Busan, the view reveals an incredible contrast between the highly developed business areas and their 100 story skyscrapers - true modern architectural pieces of art – that carve their way through rolling green hills and mountains, barely contained by the Pacific Ocean. Korea’s transformation over the past 50 years is a testament to the ambition that Seoul has for the global stage.  

In 1950, during the Korean War, tens of thousands of Koreans fled to Busan, on the South Eastern coast, looking for safe refuge, and finding it in a huge camp city that dominated the Busan landscape until 1953. The war left Korea devastated – destroying two-thirds of the countries production facilities, and leaving  high unemployment across the country. During the reconstruction period from 1953-1960, over 70 percent of Korea’s imports were financed by foreign aid. Fifty years later, and Korea had become a provider of official development assistance, giving in 2007 USD$680 million in aid (about one-eight of current Canadian ODA).

Indeed, ambitious seems like an apt description for today’s Korea, actively positioning itself as a leader on the global stage. In a period of three years, it will have played host to the G20 meeting in Seoul in 2010, the High Level Forum in 2011 in Busan, and the World Expo 2012 in Yeosu.  

Civil society organizations (CSOs) from around the world have brought their own ambitions to Busan. Starting tomorrow (Saturday) through to Monday, upwards of 800 CSO representatives will gather at the Busan Civil Society Forum (BCSF), an event that originally expected some 500 participants. CSOs will finalize preparation of key messages for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4), which starts on November 29 and runs through to December 1. The BCSF will ensure a high degree of coordination and organization at HLF4, at an event that will attract 2000 participants, including more than 100 Ministers and 40 heads of international organizations. Indeed, the Civil Society Forum promises to ensure that the 300 civil society participants in HLF4 will be one of the most organized groups heading into the final round of negotiations on the fifth version Busan Outcome Document (BOD).

A CSO team has been working intensely in the past couple of weeks to support Tony Tujan, Chairperson of BetterAid, a platform of more than 900 organizations, and the CSO “Sherpa” at the negotiating table.  Ever since the Third High Level Forum in Accra, where civil society were recognized as “independent development actors in their own right”, BetterAid has been an official member of the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness (WP-Eff) – the entity that is driving this process.

The fifth version of the BOD was completed a few days ago. On November 28th a final round of pre-HLF4 negotiations will take place, resulting in the final version of the BOD that will go to the Ministers for consideration during HLF4. They could accept it as is. Or open up negotiations again.

So how have the negotiations gone so far? The fifth version realizes some clear CSO ambitions for the outcomes from HLF4. To mention just a few, BOD5 includes a set of fairly progressive “shared principles for common goals” that provide the guidelines for all development actors present in Busan – non-Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donors, DAC donors, partner governments and CSOs. In terms of specifics, for example, the second principle, “focus on results,” states that efforts “must have a lasting impact on eradicating poverty and reducing inequality, on sustainable development, and on enhancing developing countries’ capacities.”  Here, there is implicit recognition that results are about development outcomes.  And transparency has been added to the fourth principle on accountability. The shared principle is now “transparency and accountability to each other,” and it recognizes that transparency forms the basis of enhanced accountability. Reference to the International Aid Transparency Initiative, which had been hotly contested by some donors, seems to have survived the final round of pre-HLF4 negotiations.

There have also been important additions to the key paragraph for civil society, paragraph 21. It now recognizes that CSOs “play a vital role in enabling people to claim their rights.” This recognition implies a rights-based approach for CSOs – even if human rights can barely be found anywhere else in the document. This paragraph also reinforces the commitment of CSOs to improve their accountability and development practices, and acknowledges both the Istanbul Principles and the International Framework on CSO Development Effectiveness.

Despite these gains, clarity around what is meant by a “CSO enabling environment” is still absent. In particular, CSOs have argued that human rights, such as freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, provide the necessary foundation for an enabling environment. Although CSOs proposed specific text to this end for the BOD, some governments involved in the negotiation processes have been unwilling to include it. (Canada has been (surprisingly) supportive.)

Finally, the life of the WP-Eff – which was supposed to end in Busan – has been extended until June 2012, to help guide the development of indicators and a monitoring framework for Busan, and to steer the development of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation. And civil society will, presumably, still have a seat in that process.

Many are hoping for an ambitious outcome from Busan that receives strong political endorsement by Ministers who arrive in town in four days. While this sentiment has characterized the negotiations thus far, it is unclear whether the ambition of the document will resonate with the 100 plus Ministers that are expected. Each may be keen to put their own political stamp on an outcome that will shape the face of aid for at least the next five years.

“Beyond expectation” ?  You can’t but hope that some of the drive and ambition Korea has shown in the past 50 years might rub off on the coming week’s events, and help create a new, inclusive, and legitimate Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.

This blog was written by Shannon Kindornay, The North-South Institute, Brian Tomlinson, AidWatch Canada, and Fraser Reilly-King, Canadian Council for International Co-operation.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CCIC or its members.

November 23, 2011

Busan: A defining moment for development: Where will CIDA stand?

(an edited version of this Op Ed is published today in Embassy)

Next week, two heads of state, ministers from over 100 countries, the leaders of more than 40 international organizations, and over 2000 individuals will gather in Busan, South Korea, for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4). 

With the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness having effectively expired in 2010, Busan represents a key moment for donors and partner governments to reaffirm and implement existing commitments, and to work with a whole new set of development actors to define a forward looking agenda and framework for aid and international co-operation.

The outcomes of Busan also represent a defining moment for CIDA, in terms of the priorities it sets for itself post-Busan and for Canadian international cooperation over the next five years.

What should some of those priorities be? There are several, but three that could find some traction with the Canadian government in the coming years.

Firstly, transparency of aid allocation, but also aid execution, and its impact for poor and vulnerable populations.

Over the past year, CIDA has taken some important steps forward in terms of its own transparency. In June, it launched a new open data portal for all its projects and programs, with additional content expected in the coming months. In September, Canada also signed on to the Open Government Partnership, a multinational initiative that promotes more open, accountable, effective and transparent governance.

In Busan, the government could go one step further by setting out a timetable for committing to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), where currently 19 donors, multilateral organizations and several NGOs have signed up to a set of common standards on publishing aid information. CIDA’s current open data portal could easily be made compatible with phase one of IATI. The apparent hesitation by CIDA to sign on to phase two (and IATI itself) lies in the implications for substantial translation that would come with committing to a more comprehensive degree of disclosure in phase two. All donors recognize the need for time to meet technical and legal requirements. What we are suggesting is a commitment in a reasonable timeframe to provide Canadians with the information they need to assess the substance of Canada’s aid programs and policies, beyond basic data on projects. Signing on to IATI could bring CIDA kudos from other donors, while allowing the Agency to spread out the commitment over a manageable timeframe.

But that is not the full story on transparency. Governments and citizens in partner countries also want to know how CIDA’s money is being spent. To help achieve this, CIDA should implement the commitment it made in Accra in 2008 at the last High Level Forum and lay out rolling three to five year country allocations for its aid. This would provide some degree of predictability to southern governments who must plan their own budget priorities. Forward aid allocation targets by all donors will not only assist governments in their planning, but will also enable parliaments and citizens to debate priorities for their domestic budgets.  In this regard, CIDA should also support the capacities of parliamentarians, civil society, and the media to monitor and interpret donor and budget information for their citizens.

Secondly, balancing results with outcomes.

In an age of budget cuts, and flat-lined or declining aid budgets, parliamentarians are demanding that every penny a donor spends be linked to tangible results and demonstrate “value for money”. The public, we are told, wants results. Of course they do. But they also want to see sustained reductions in poverty and inequality. They want to know that kids have a school to go to, but they also support universal primary education as a right, not a privilege. And while it is easy to measure the number of students going to school, it is much more difficult to address the quality of the education provided and its real impact on the life chances of these children.  Canadians also want to see women get access to credit so that they can start up their own business, or have the right to own property, but they also realize that equality between men and women does not happen in a matter of weeks or even years.

Short term results are important indicators of progress, but more important are sustained outcomes that guarantee those results over the long term for poor and vulnerable people. The challenge of measuring longer-term less tangible outcomes – like strengthening citizens’ capacities to monitor government delivery of health services – has always been the rationale for focusing more on short-term results, like the number of children vaccinated. But CIDA doesn’t have to choose one or the other. It can balance tangible results that are important for the Agency and for Canadians, with support for less measureable outcomes that are important to, and defined by, the constituencies with which it is working – partner governments, civil society North and South, and beneficiaries. Given the chance, Canada’s aid partners will likely be quite innovative in articulating the “results” they want and how to go about measuring them.

Finally, a new partnership with civil society.

Three years ago civil society organizations (CSOs), responsible for more than $25 billion in development resources, were challenged in the last High Level Forum to improve their effectiveness and be more accountable.  Since 2008, a CSO-led global Open Forum on CSO Development Effectiveness held more than seventy national consultations with 3500 organizations.  In September 2010 they agreed on a set of Principles to guide civil society in their contribution to development as independent development actors, complementary but distinct from the actions of governments and donors. The Istanbul Principles, and the International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness, are two key inputs for the High Level Forum. Their inclusion in the outcome document is an important nod to the key role civil society plays in development, and the principles it has proposed to define its work.

CIDA played a hugely important role prior to the Accra High Level Forum in laying the ground work for this recognition of civil society as development actors. Post Busan, CIDA could develop a strategy which comprehensively addresses how it will work with civil society in the context of the Istanbul Principles. Such a strategy could accommodate the Agency’s ambitions for being more effective, and the place for civil society within this strategy.  But it must also recognize and support the diversity of roles -- in policy dialogue, in learning and knowledge development, in public engagement and education, and as agents of change – outside of their traditional roles in humanitarian relief or service delivery to poor populations. 

The enabling environment for civil society, particularly in holding governments to account or empowering marginalized populations, has been under attack in many countries since the last High Level Forum in 2008.  Canada, along with other like-minded donors, government officials and civil society, must take the initiative in Busan to agree that basic human rights standards are essential if civil society is to effectively contribute to development.

Busan is a defining moment for aid and international cooperation. We hope that CIDA’s response will be a defining moment for Canadian development cooperation.

Julia Sanchez is the President-CEO of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC). CCIC is a Member of the Coordinating Group of BetterAid, which represents civil society on the Sherpa team negotiating the final draft Outcome Document for Busan. She will be in Busan. 

November 17, 2011

On the road to Busan

From November 29 to December 1, 2011, two Prime Ministers, over 100 Ministers, 50 parliamentarians and 40 heads of international organizations, including the UN Secretary General, will meet in Busan, South Korea, at the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4).  With the Paris Declaration having technically expired in 2010, Busan “must deliver the foundations for an ambitious, inclusive partnership in support of effective co-operation and collaborative action to advance progress on the Millennium Development Goals by 2015”. The ambition for Busan is to create a short, high-level political and actionable statement. But political commitments must be backed up with some firm indicators, time bound commitments and a monitorable framework if these commitments are to be meaningful and generate the necessary political will to carry them forward.

The Busan process is unique as a multilateral process in that multiple stakeholders, including civil society through the BetterAid Coordinating Group, are directly involved in the preparations for Busan and in the negotiations to shape the final Outcome Document.

From November 23 until December 3, a number of Canadians from different civil society organizations will be in Busan engaging in the process: Robert Fox from Oxfam Canada; Joseph Ingram and Shannon Kindornay from The North-South Institute; Gervais L’Heureux from l’Association québécoise des organismes de coopération international; Fraser Reilly-King and Julia Sanchez from the Canadian Council for International Co-operation; and Brian Tomlinson from AidWatch Canada.

Over seven days, they will be providing reflections directly from Busan on a range of topics among them global inequality, the private sector and aid, gender equality and development, the enabling environment, continuing the global CSO engagement around aid, and the future of aid architecture.

This blog post was written by Fraser Reilly-King, Canadian Council for International Co-operation.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CCIC or its members.