A Better Way to Better Aid: The Road to Busan

At ONE we spend a lot of time and effort making sure that citizens in developing countries get the resources they need to fight extreme poverty and preventable disease. We hold wealthy governments to account for commitments they made to increase development assistance, and we fight cuts to foreign aid—like in the US where it is less than 1% of the budget! But we’re not just about the money.

Greater financial investments are crucial to helping countries increase momentum and boost progress in the four years left to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—but without mechanisms in place to make sure that those resources are properly targeted, delivered, and tracked, we cannot ensure that the investments are reaching those that need it most and are actually achieving development outcomes. So we have to be just as concerned with the quality of investments made as we are with the quantity of investments made, even more so in a time of constrained budgets and scrutiny.

Governments know this. That’s why in 2005 a group of donors and developing countries came together and signed the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, committing to pursue a set of principles focused on improving developing country ownership over development priorities; aligning resources with these priorities; coordinating efforts among donors; focusing on development results; and holding each other to account. In addition, the countries agreed on a set of targets to achieve in these areas by 2010.

Fast forward to today and the majority of those targets remain unmet. Developing countries have made great strides on their side, but wealthy donor countries have made little progress in meeting their promises. Thus it is with a sense of renewed urgency and even greater resolve that we look forward to the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-IV) kicking off in Busan, South Korea later this month. With more than 2500 participants—from government ministers in donor and developing countries to civil society and private sector representatives—the stakes are high, but the potential for true change is even greater. While participants take stock of progress made on aid effectiveness commitments from Paris and Accra in 2005 and 2008, the true test will come in how countries and partners tackle key challenges to development effectiveness and commit to concrete action moving forward.

It’s not just about aid; other resources such as private investment, remittances, private philanthropy, natural resource revenues, and domestic resources all play a huge role in development outcomes in poor countries, so it’s just as critical that those resources are well coordinated and well managed to focus on development results. In order to go beyond aid effectiveness and to incorporate a broad range of international partners and the spectrum of development resources, we believe at ONE that key commitments around transparency, accountability, and results are necessary to put developing countries—governments, citizens, civil society and the private sector—in the driving seat.

In the next few weeks leading up to HLF-IV, we will be working internationally with ONE voice to ensure that discussions at Busan result in clear and monitorable commitments on transparency, accountability and results. We are also working to make sure that broadening the conversation to include more actors and issues beyond aid, is not at the expense of clear and monitorable commitments on aid effectiveness, and that previous commitments continue to be monitored. You can follow our efforts and updates on the ONE blog and help us keep the pressure on governments as we go into Busan!