Koenders’ recommendations for success at Busan

Development Policy29 Nov 2011Bert Koenders

The Busan Conference can be a make it or break it conference for the future of worldwide development cooperation. It can turn the page by being self-critical and encompassing many more players and actors.

The Busan Conference can be a make it or break it conference for the future of worldwide development cooperation. It can turn the page by being self-critical and encompassing many more players and actors. It can build the effectiveness and democratic country ownership that is crucial in times of fiscal crises and increasing challenges of delivering global public goods rather than supplying public bads and growing inequities. It can recognize development cooperation as a real catalyst for economic transformation and a boost to reaching the MDGs, or it can fall back in stale and old-fashioned debates and controversies.

Busan encapsulates great hope. Leaders and Presidents from all around the world will be present in South Korea. I am confident that they will supply the vision required, but also a wish to go ahead and take daring steps. Busan can get aid out of its isolation and make it an essential component of effective and inclusive development and a component of all our policies. Aid out of its silo and compartmentalization, into the real world of investment, social equity and sustainability.

Busan can also break the stalemate between the traditional donors, the BRICS and the partner countries around the need for sustainable economic growth and job creation. It is hoped that the DAC countries make clear commitments, that the USA leads on development and uses country systems as first option, that China sees the benefit of a global partnership for effectiveness, and that partner countries underline the zero tolerance for corruption. A New Deal is possible, which can give the decisive boost to reaching the UN MDGs. It can help to answer to populist criticism by emphasizing results and effectiveness, no luxury in times of scarce resources, and a need to transform the world economy in a time when we know that returning to business as usual is the worst answer to the problems at hand.

It requires not only a modern vision, but also specifics. Deeds more than words. That’s why I am proud of the concept of building blocks: partners showing concretely how to improve development and aid effectiveness, led by recipients, and scaled up, inviting more and more commitments, traditional actors and new players so that things change: in job creation, in public health, in fragile state compacts, in value chains for trade, in leveraging responsible investment in climate change etc.

We therefore need a new political pact on development effectiveness and I am glad that our idea about this will be part of the outcome document: ministers will have to guide the often esoterical language of the effectiveness debate. Effectiveness is not a technocratic term, it is highly political and requires action:

  • full transparency by a specific and daring date based on examples like IATI as a great building block that came out of Accra,
  • dare to use country systems in principle, comply and explain when one deviates,
  • make results a new focus of sustainability rather than quick wins, by reaching common agreement on issues like tied aid, scaling up public- private partnerships and south-south cooperation.
  • go for country compacts and realize that development is always about calculated risk and risk management.
  • take the initiatives of the G7- plus really seriously and agree on flexible agreements for transitional finance.

The world has changed fundamentally since the beginning of aid in the fifties and sixties. Power relationships have shifted and countries and people have emancipated. Good development cooperation is now more indispensable than ever. The Paris and Accra Agreements have changed the discourse: not only talk, but ensure that there is effectiveness and ownership. We owe this to the people we work for and with.

Busan can and should make the difference in the political economy of aid and its allocation. Results, transparency and ownership: don’t deviate from clear commitments. This is what the world can agree on in times of differences, it is in the interest of all. As Co-President until a few weeks ago I am watching the leaders with hope and anticipation from Abidjan. Busan can be the game changer. Walk the talk. Wish you all Good Meetings.