June 27, 2012

CSOs on the Road from Accra to Busan (Part 1)

It is a rare thing that we find the time to stop, reflect and evaluate what we have achieved in our work – whether as civil society, as organizations or as individuals. There is always so much immediacy in our daily work lives that thinking feels like a pure luxury.
BetterAid has been ahead of the curve on this, documenting the experiences and evaluating the lessons learned of aid-focused organizations in the lead-up to the 3rd High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-3) in 2008 in Accra, Ghana.
Reflecting on the value of that project, the day after the 4th High-Level Forum (HLF-3) in Busan concluded, BetterAid decided to commission a similar report to cover the trajectory from Accra to Busan.
Today at a Multistakeholder Dialogue at the OECD in Paris, BetterAid, in cooperation with the Open Forum on CSO Development Effectiveness, launched a new book CSOs on the road from Accra to Busan reflecting on what had been accomplished and perceptions by other stakeholders of these accomplishments, documenting the experiences of CSOs in the process leading up to HLF-4, and identifying lessons learned.
The book drew on the policies and position papers developed by BetterAid and the Open Forum, the processes that the organizations pursued, work done at the country level to create the conditions to advance the civil society (CSO) aid and development agenda, and interviews with donors, some country governments, and civil society organizations.
Brian Tomlinson – formerly of CCIC and author of the book - touched upon the unique aspects of the process and our accomplishments as civil society, and identified many of the elements that contributed to a truly multi-stakeholder process.
In terms of the unique nature of the past three years, this represented an incredible building process from the country to the global level that brought 300 CSOs from around the world to Busan speaking with one voice.  This has not happened in other global processes.
Secondly, Busan represented a truly multi-stakeholder process, allowing for civil society to be represented and participate in robust processes leading up to Busan, and as an equal voice at the table.
Thirdly, CSOs undertook a global process to establish the conditions and approaches that defined their own understanding of development effectiveness through the Open Forum. This was related to Busan, but emerged from Accra as a process independent of Busan.
In terms of accomplishments, Brian identified five strands:
·         Through various processes after the past three years, BetterAid and Open Forum managed to mobilize thousands of CSOs in an inclusive and open way. This engagement made a qualitative difference in terms of how CSOs could present themselves.
·         CSOs fulfilled a commitment that was made pre-Accra to establish a normative framework for CSOs  - the Istanbul Principles and the Siem Reap Consensus – that created some authenticity to the notion of CSOs as independent development actors in their own right. Brian admitted that there was still more work to be done in terms of implementation, but in terms of standard setting, CSOs had accomplished a lot.
·         Because BetterAid and the Open Forum came together ahead of Busan with a common set of policy demands and speaking with one voice, this deepened our legitimacy and credibility as CSO actors. We were able to draw on the diversity of civil society as actors, but still come to the process in a united way – and this strengthened our presence and our voice.
·         Our engagement in the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness was informed and constructive, and this helped transform the discourse on a number of different issues – development effectiveness, democratic ownership, and human rights as a framework for development.
·         Finally, with Civil Society at the table, this created an important benchmark and a shift in culture towards inclusive policy dialogue and partnerships. This is something that could inform future and much broader dialogues at the OECD and inform other multilateral processes.
(The second part of this blog will be published soon...)
Fraser Reilly-King, Policy Analyst

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