Slow progress on Paris Declaration

Development Policy20 Sep 2011Denis Burke

Bernard Wood, leader of the international team to evaluate the implementation of the Paris Declaration on behalf of the IOD PARC, was invited to discuss the evaluation of the Paris Declaration.

Wood’s presentation focused on two main messages. Firstly, what he described as a global campaign to make international aid programmes more effective, including events leading up to Monterrey and the Rome- Paris- Accra- Busan process, is showing results.

Secondly, the improvements are slow and uneven in developing countries and even more so among most donor countries, although the changes expected of them are less demanding. Western governments elected since the Paris High Level Forum have often had different priorities to their predecessors who negotiated the Paris Declaration. Consequently implementation of elements of the Paris Declaration have slipped away. The global financial crisis – and the crises that followed – have almost monopolized political and public attention across the developed world. Finally Wood hinted at a lack of political will and commitment in many donor countries.

There was not enough room to rigorously assess donor countries for the evaluation using the same methodology as the partner countries. By Wood’s estimates some five or six donor countries are taking the lead and carrying implementation of the Paris Declaration forward, while some others have been free riding. Though Wood felt that added peer pressure would be an incentive for donor countries to meet their commitments, he was reluctant to name those he felt were dragging their feet.

He went on to discuss how success at Busan means different things for different people. Continuing the current global process to make aid more effective – in the form of a HLF5, HLF6 and so on – spells success while others see the Busan HLF4 as the end of the line.

Emerging donors

There’s a danger that people will overestimate the role of new donors in their discussions leading up to Busan. Private foundations, global funds and emerging powers are all front and centre in discussions around aid alignment, transparency and effectiveness generally but it is not, Wood said, a whole new world and questions around emerging actors in this field merit close examination.

Private foundations, global funds and ‘new’ donors all have a tendency to go after “low hanging fruit”. Infrastructure improvements and immunizations are needed and important but they are not impacting on bigger, more complex longer term ambitions like education and gender equality. These actors also have more to learn from this process than to teach, said Wood. The principles in the Paris Declaration are tried, tested and agreed upon by a multitude of actors from across the aid spectrum and they can certainly be useful.

But if Busan does not get all these actors around the table it will be a missed opportunity. It would be great to get all actors involved to agree to transparency principles at least. Thus the outlook in the run up to Busan is cautiously optimistic, though a lot more political will is needed all round to make the Busan HLF effective.