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. 

No comments:

Post a Comment