Beyond aid as we know it

Development Policy12 Sep 2011Denis Burke

How can the development agenda be expanded to be more effective and is Busan the right place to do it?

International aid as we know it has been evolving for sixty years now. Until recently, effective aid was seen as an effort to reduce poverty and maximize economic growth. Increasingly the importance of environmental, security, trade and agricultural policies – among others – in the development process is being realised. Aid does not take place in a vacuum. Meaningful development will require a holistic approach to all of these global issues.

Even the most dedicated proponents of traditional aid admit that it has had mixed results. Programmes were often undertaken with little consultation with the intended beneficiaries. Monitoring of money flows has sometimes been inadequate. Aid has been regularly tied to lucrative contracts for the donor country. Several rich donors were often operating similar – if not competing – programmes. One of the most difficult issues has been measuring the results of aid. As development does not take place overnight, gauging the real effects of aid has been particularly challenging. A growing awareness of these issues – among others – has led aid professionals, particularly in traditional donor countries, to debate how to streamline aid through increased transparency, greater accountability mechanisms, more coordination, and putting intended beneficiaries at the centre of aid programmes. The first three high level forums (Rome, Paris, Accra), and particularly the Paris Declaration, have been the culmination of those discussions.

However, those discussions have not looked more broadly at how development works in its entirety. The migration, trade, security and intellectual property policies of a country like the UK, Sweden or Australia play an undeniable role in the development and well being of other poorer countries. Integration of broader policy issues into the development discussion is as challenging as it is essential.

More often than not, international agreements on best practices in development are negotiated by people working within traditional development circles who, consequently, are not necessarily mandated to discuss issues like trade or migration. Moreover, politically these issues are very sensitive as many vested interests of domestic and foreign policy are at stake. However, both the credibility of traditional donors and, more importantly, the success of the development agenda are at stake if a broader approach is not taken to effective development.

But what is needed to broaden the development agenda to take all of this on board? Is Busan even the most appropriate forum for such a discussion considering the proliferation of high level (UN and G8/G20 for instance) development committees? How can these considerations influence discussions at Busan?

This leads us to discuss the following question in our blog: How can the development agenda be expanded to include broader international concerns, for example, security, migration and environment policies? And is Busan the right place to achieve this?