January 26, 2012

The accountability gap just got a whole lot smaller

Accountability. These days it seems to be an issue on everyone’s mind.

It forms part of the holy development trinity of results, transparency and accountability, so key to many donors’ agendas these days.

For a long time, the focus for donors on accountability was largely on the mutual accountability between themselves and partner governments – à la Paris Declaration. Since Busan, the focus has officially expanded to “the intended beneficiaries of our co‐operation, as well as to our respective citizens, organisations, constituents and shareholders.” It now makes up a central principle of all future development cooperation.

It has also long been a central tenet of the work of civil society organizations – who have long been pre-occupied with the mutual, multiple and multi-directional dimensions of accountability, as articulated most recently in the International Framework on CSO Development Effectiveness.

So it was with great interest that a couple of weeks ago I attended a presentation by members of the Policy Action Group on Emergency Response (PAGER) on beneficiary accountability in humanitarian situations.

Since the mid 1990s – and in response to the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda – humanitarian organizations have established a range of codes of conduct to inform their actions – the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response (the “Sphere Project”), the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Code of Conduct, among others.

All were developed with a view to both enhancing the quality of humanitarian practice and the accountability of humanitarian actors to their constituents, donors and affected populations.

Within this context, the issue of really targeted beneficiary accountability is a relatively new one.

In humanitarian disasters, where hundreds of thousands of lives may be at stake, one might think that rights and obligations take less precedence. Not so. Groups firmly acknowledge that all communities and citizens are entitled to principled, quality, informed and appropriate services, regardless of the situation they are in.

But providing accountability in the context of a humanitarian disaster – with massive flooding, displacement, starvation – certainly poses tremendous challenges.

Oxfam Québec has been working with other Oxfam affiliates to introduce an innovative set of initiatives to get feedback on how their humanitarian interventions are rolling out and being perceived by their beneficiaries – with a view to improving their practice based on feedback and ultimately reporting back to complainants about what has been done to address their concerns.

In Haiti, where 85 percent of the population own a mobile phone, Oxfam set up a free phone line, “Line 400”, to receive complaints or feedback. They set up focus groups discussions, complaint boxes, information boards and community meetings, and encouraged interaction with staff.

Based on an evaluation of how the process went in the first phase – for example, “Line 400” was challenged by insufficient human resources to staff the call-line; the complaint boxes had no clear procedure for defining how complaints would be addressed; and it did not always prove easy to provide feedback on how complaints had been resolve – the project has moved into a second phase.

This is establishing clear guidelines for each of the accountability initiatives in terms of transparency, standards, and complaint handling, training to staff to be able to implement the initiatives, pursuing processes to actively engage beneficiaries in the design and implementation, and constant evaluation with a view to continual improvement.

The Canadian Red Cross is also in the process of designing and piloting its own beneficiary accountability framework.

It has hired a Beneficiary Accountability Advisor to do three key things:
·         map what work other NGOs and Red Cross National Societies have done already in terms of developing accountability frameworks;
·         recommend an accountability framework and set of guidelines for the Canadian Red Cross to pilot; and,
·         identify and develop tools to implement the framework, and integrate it into the project cycle.

In terms of project cycle this means assessing situation specific needs through participatory tools, planning and designing projects that correspond to these needs, validating the project design through local beneficiaries to attest to the appropriateness of the design, implementing the design, and monitoring and evaluating outcomes with a view to continually improving their projects.

Since disasters challenge how easy it is to engage affected individuals in the process, the Red Cross has also thought through different levels of engagement (from information sharing and consultation, to delegating authority and controls to the communities over implementation and assessment) that are appropriate to the stage of the disaster (emergency, recovery, development).

And their approach to informing the communities about their programs is also creative, from posters and community theatre, to texting, community meetings and call-in radio.

We all know how essential accountability is to development. Who thought it could be so interesting and exciting as well?

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.

January 16, 2012

Post-Busan – So much to do, so little time

This past week, CCIC held a debrief on Busan and the outcomes of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4) with a number of interested CCIC members, academics and a couple of government officials.

Overall the perceptions of what happened in Busan were positive.  HLF4 moved the goal posts forward (or at least stayed the ground).

But with the agreement now in our pockets, it was the debate around what is going to differentiate Busan from Paris and Accra – and more practically what is going to need to happen in the next six months (not to mention the next year) – that is both raising eyebrows and blood pressure levels.

The discussion was heated, the debates stimulating, the questions challenging and thoughtful.

For example, with its voluntary principles on South-South cooperation firmly planted within a voluntary agreement, is China really in the tent? And will it live up to its promise to continue to engage in the process? And what precedent has this set for the future of South-South cooperation?

How can the private sector contribute to positive development outcomes, and what is the role for aid in this?

How will the role of CSOs outlined in the Busan Outcome Document (BOD) be interpreted and implemented by donors, in particular in the current reality of a disabling (not enabling) environment that still doesn’t leave organizations the space to fulfil that role?

And how will donors reconcile their own agendas and their current obsession with “results” with a shift to following “the priority needs of developing countries”, strengthening their capacity and country systems? In essence, if Busan was all about “global light, country heavy”, which country is “the heavy” – the donor or the partner country?

And perhaps most important to all of us, how is the Canadian International Development Agency going to implement all of the commitments made in Busan? While it is fastracking its private sector strategy, what are its plans for civil society with respect to the Istanbul Principles? And beyond policies, how will CIDA’s actual practice change as a result of Busan?

While the responses to all of these questions are still in their nascent stages – among both government and civil society – the outcomes of the next six to twelve months are going to provide a number of answers to those questions and to put the all essential “meat on the bones” of the BOD. 

The analogy of “bones” is perhaps an apt one. The BOD is after all is just a framework, with few concrete commitments and a very long “to do” list for the next two years.

In December, two weeks after the Busan Outcome Document was published, the OECD put out a Room Document on what needs to be done to implement Busan.

By June 2012, the Busan Interim Group (the former Sherpa Group) leading this process needs to agree on the working arrangements for the Global Partnership on Effective Development (the successor to the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness), on the all-important global level indicators and framework for monitoring the BOD, and on the institutional arrangements for a joint OECD-UNDP secretariat to support the Partnership.

Here the Canadian government and CCIC both have an important role to play – CCIC is an active member of BetterAid, who is represented on the Busan Interim Group that will steer the process up until June; and Canada, who had to take a back seat to the UK Sherpa at the negotiations in Busan, has managed to get itself a seat at the table under the CANZ grouping (Canada, Australia, New Zealand).

But the list doesn’t end there. 2012 will also see donors doing the following: review plans to untie aid; implement common standards to publish timely, comprehensive and forward-looking information on aid allocations; develop principles and guidelines to reduce the proliferation of multilateral and global funds; agree on principles that address countries that receive insufficient assistance; and review how further authority can be delegated to the field.

They also have to move forward on a range of things related to the eight “official” building blocks to come out of Busan: the action plan on statistics, country level results and accountability agreements, the gender action plan, indicators around the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, priority actions to enhance cooperation between the public and private sectors, and public schedules for those – like Canada – who signed on to the International Aid Transparency Initiative.    

And then there is still the work of the “unofficial” building blocks, for example on enabling environment and rights based approaches to development. (I think I have made my point.)

So it is perhaps no surprise that many of us left Monday’s meeting (not to mention HLF4) with mixed emotions – the promise of what it could be, with a distinct feeling that the jury is still out on what it actually will be.

And let’s not forget that even when the judgement comes down one year on from Busan – when many of these things will hopefully be in place – that is just the start of the process. After all, any commitment or plan is nothing if it doesn’t translate into action that somehow improves the lives and the livelihoods of the poorest and most marginalized. 

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

January 5, 2012

Le défi mondial d’éliminer la pauvreté et l’injustice : seule l’action collective peut transformer nos vœux en réalité (deuxième partie). *

En 2008, le Conseil canadien pour la coopération internationale et ses membres adoptaient un programme en 10 points visant à s’attaquer aux causes profondes de la pauvreté et de l’injustice dans le monde. Ce programme présentait une vision de la société civile canadienne quant à la façon dont le Canada peut jouer un rôle décisif pour aider à mettre un terme à la pauvreté et à l’injustice.

Trois ans plus tard ce plan d’action demeure, plus que jamais, d’actualité. Au début d’une année qui s’annonce pleine de défis pour les organisations internationales et nationales impliquées dans le développement  international, je vous en présente les grandes lignes, comme un appel renouvelé à serrer les rangs et à redoubler d’ardeur pour que les priorités de ce plan deviennent réalité.

6)      Promouvoir la paix

Les violations des droits de la personne, toujours présentes en temps de guerre, ont atteint ces dernières années des sommets sans précédent. Le ciblage de civils, les déplacements forcés des populations, les violences sexuelles et sexospécifiques (y compris le viol en tant qu’arme de guerre), l’engagement forcé des enfants soldats, les exécutions sommaires et les disparitions sont chose courante.

On estime également que le nombre de morts indirectes pour cause de maladie, de malnutrition, d’eau non potable et d’absence de soins médicaux est de dix fois supérieur à celui des morts liées au combat.

Le Canada doit s’engager beaucoup plus fermement en faveur du maintien de la paix. Il faut accorder la priorité aux droits fondamentaux des civils touchés par la guerre, et instaurer des mesures particulières pour protéger les droits des jeunes et des femmes.

Il faut également mettre un terme à l’impunité dont jouissent les personnes impliquées dans des crimes de guerre, des crimes contre l’humanité, des génocides et d’autres violations du droit humanitaire international, et supporter l’adoption d’un traité relatif au commerce des armes.

7)      Promouvoir la justice environnementale dans le monde

C’est en Australie, aux États-Unis et au Canada que les émissions de gaz à effet de serre par habitant sont les plus élevées – deux fois plus que celles de l’Union européenne (UE), six fois plus que celles de la Chine et treize fois plus que celles de l’Inde.

Le laxisme du Canada en matière de lutte aux changements climatiques et le retrait récent du protocole de Kyoto laissent craindre le pire pour les années à venir, particulièrement pour les populations les plus vulnérables.

Le mouvement mondial en faveur de la justice environnementale soutient que les pays industrialisés ont une dette particulière envers les populations du Sud, dont la valeur équivaut à des décennies de pillage des ressources, de dommages à l’environnement, de destruction de la biodiversité, de rejet de déchets et de changements climatiques. Les pays pauvres sont les plus touchés par la dégradation et l’effondrement de l’environnement car ils dépendent directement de celui-ci pour leurs aliments, leur eau, leurs matériaux de construction et leurs combustibles.

Nous devons continuer à plaider pour une plus grande justice dans la répartition du fardeau des changements climatiques et pour des pratiques d’investissement et de commerce avec les pays en développement qui passent le test de la viabilité écologique.

8)      Appuyer la gouvernance démocratique et la citoyenneté mondiale

Les organisations de la société civile canadiennes (OSC), de concert avec leurs homologues du Sud, sont reconnues comme des acteurs essentiels pour un développement efficace. Pourtant, l’espace et le rôle des OSC partout dans le monde tendent à régresser, avec un mouvement accru vers la concentration du pouvoir entre les mains des gouvernements.

Le Canada doit renforcer ses propres formules de participation de la société civile à la prise de décisions et à l’élaboration des politiques. Du même coup, il doit s’engager à conférer un plus grand rôle au Parlement, à ses députés et à ses comités pour définir la politique internationale, faire progresser les droits de la personne et mettre un terme à la pauvreté mondiale.

Notre politique en matière d’aide et de développement doit reconnaître le rôle décisif des OSC, du Nord et du Sud, dans le développement démocratique, la défense des droits de la personne, la prestation efficace de l’aide et l’élimination de la pauvreté.

9)      Instaurer un système multilatéral démocratique et efficace

Des problèmes à portée mondiale tels que les changements climatiques et la pauvreté endémique nécessitent une prise de décisions mondiale efficace. Toutefois, le système multilatéral a mal vieilli et n’a pas su s’adapter aux problèmes du monde émergent. Or, les institutions multilatérales reflètent les relations de pouvoir à l’échelle internationale. Les gouvernements du Sud exercent moins d’influence que leurs homologues du Nord, peu importe la tribune.

Le CCCI et de nombreux gouvernements et OSC du Sud demandent à la fois un soutien urgent pour sauver les actions multilatérales et une réforme en profondeur des institutions multilatérales pour régler les déséquilibres de pouvoir qui nuisent à leur efficacité et à leur crédibilité.

10)  Optimiser et accroître l’aide

La pauvreté revêt de nombreux visages et a de nombreuses causes. Cela dit, la qualité de l’aide devient un facteur aussi important que sa quantité pour éliminer la pauvreté. Il faut porter attention aux deux dimensions.
Le budget fédéral 2012-2013 marquera la deuxième année d’une période de plafonnement de l’enveloppe d’aide internationale canadienne à cinq milliards de dollars, période qui devrait durer quatre ans. Avec ce plafonnement, l’APD se chiffrera à environ 5,44 milliards de dollars en 2012-2013, soit 0,30 % du revenu national brut (RNB) canadien, une diminution par rapport à 2010-2011 (0,37 %). D’ici 2014, on s’attend à ce que le ratio soit de 0,28 %, l’un des plus bas parmi les 22 donateurs officiels.
L’aide ne réglera pas à elle seule le problème de la pauvreté mondiale; la réforme des institutions multilatérales, les règles commerciales et les manœuvres en matière d’environnement durable ont toutes un rôle à jouer. Toutefois, si le Canada veut faire sa part pour atteindre les Objectifs du Millénaire pour le développement de l’ONU, il doit porter attention tant à la quantité qu’à la qualité de son aide.

(* ce texte s’inspire largement du document « Le défi mondial d’éliminer la pauvreté et l’injustice : un programme canadien en 10 points ». La 1ère partie du texte a été publiée le 21 décembre 2011)

Chantal Havard est agente de communication et de relations avec le gouvernement au CCCI.