“Aid effectiveness” is the buzz word of the moment in development. But are civil society organizations (CSO) paying any attention? The overwhelming CSO turn-out at the preparatory meetings for the third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra (HLF3) last month says a resounding, “Yes.” Civil society groups, including a few like PAI working to promote family planning and reproductive health, are mobilizing around the aid effectiveness agenda, trying to preserve the positive elements of aid effectiveness while addressing and moving beyond the challenges.
I attended the recent Accra International Women’s Forum on aid effectiveness, along with 200 women and men from around the world. The main message from the Forum is that women, who, as a group, are often overlooked, are integral to development. There is no aid effectiveness without development effectiveness, and gender equality, human rights and environmental concerns must be recognized as crucial to this goal. The Women’s Forum statement also echoed many of the broader CSO concerns regarding the need for greater democratic ownership of development, and stronger accountability.
At the larger CSO Parallel Forum on Aid Effectiveness, many of the over
700 participants emphasized the need for countries in the global South
to end their dependence on foreign aid. We also recognized the stark
reality that aid–which includes low-interest foreign loans and
grants–is essential to make up for shortfalls in many countries’
budgets to fund essential services. Therefore, it is important to
improve the quantity and quality of that aid.
Take Ghana, for example. In recent years, Ghana Health Service has
lacked sufficient funds to buy contraceptive commodities to supply
local service providers, who face recurrent stock-outs and are forced
to turn away women who previously had access to modern contraceptives.
In 2004 the government, donors, and CSOs developed a plan to achieve
contraceptive security which includes the government funding a greater
share of the contraceptive requirement with its own resources. In
accordance with the plan, donors are scaling-back funding for
contraceptives. But currently, the government does not have sufficient
money to meet the demand, and is exploring new sources of funding.
Until the government is able to fund the majority of the contraceptive
need, the Ghana Health Service and concerned CSOs are looking for
donors to continue to help. In the meantime, more and more Ghanaian
women face the risk of unintended pregnancy.
Another issue prominent at the CSO Parallel Forum was that many
aid-dependent countries, while struggling with poverty, are not
necessarily poor; many are rich in natural resources like oil and
minerals. But the profits from resource extraction are going to a
select few people–often in the government–and foreign companies.
Participants stressed the need for greater government control over
profits from natural resources, increased government transparency and
“downward accountability” of governments to citizens, and greater
citizen control over the management and spending of government funds.
Globally, 2008 presented CSOs with great opportunities to mobilize
resources and improve the quality of aid, both from within and outside
the Paris process. June 2008 marked the first meeting of the
Development Cooperation Forum, a biennial forum for assessing aid
trends through the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations,
which issued a sobering report on the state of aid. In September, the
United Nations hosted a High Level event renewing commitments to the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which are off track. This November
in Doha, Qatar, governments will review progress implementing the
Financing for Development (FFD) process started in Monterrey in 2002,
where donors pledged to increase aid flows. The DCF and FFD processes
are facilitated by the United Nations organization, which is more
democratic than the donor-driven Paris process run by the OECD-DAC, and
offers more opportunities for governments of the global South to set
Did the participants at the HLF3 in Accra pay attention to these other
processes, both governmental and within civil society? Yes and no.
The Accra Agenda for Action (AAA) signatories pledged to “deepen”
engagement with CSOs “as independent development actors.” The AAA
mentions the meetings on the MDGs and FFD. It also highlights the need
to design development programs and projects that work for women (and
men), but fails to include any indicators to ensure that this and other
action items are implemented. It also pledges to make aid more
transparent, and to increase accountability. The AAA also makes modest
progress by recognizing the importance of human rights in development
and improving donor use of country systems, donor division of labor,
and predictability of aid among other issues.
Attention to aid effectiveness is here to stay, and CSOs are engaged in
the process, although some are more cautious than others. Now the
challenge for civil society is to continue holding donors and aid
recipient governments accountable to their commitments in Paris and
Accra to ensure that the modest steps forward are implemented.
Advocates of family planning and reproductive health have the added
responsibility of developing a better understanding of the implications
of the Paris Declaration and the AAA on funding for family planning and
reproductive health, to build a strong evidence base for advocacy.
For more information on the linkages between aid effectiveness, family planning, and sexual and reproductive health, check out:
- DSW’s Fact Sheet: Budget Support Consequences for Sexual and Reproductive Health