Global donors plot better ways to spend aid billions

November 29, 2011 6:25 am


Clinton is traveling to South Korea and Myanmar/AFP
BUSAN, Nov 29 – Major global aid donors began a three-day meeting on Tuesday, trying to coordinate efforts to lift millions out of poverty and bring influential new donors such as China on board.

The Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness groups policymakers and private experts from 160 nations, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon set to attend Wednesday’s session.

Clinton will urge emerging powers such as China to ensure standards for foreign assistance, a State Department official said on Monday in Washington.

Donors and developing countries have been trying for about a decade to agree on an international framework to improve the quality of aid, but critics say they have so far failed.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), co-host of the Busan forum, says members of its Development Assistance Committee spent $129 billion last year, the highest-ever figure.

But fast-growing BRICs nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China – are not members of the committee even though they collectively give billions a year.

Clinton, in a speech on Wednesday, will call on all donors to promote the rule of law, anti-corruption protections and a strong role for women, the official said.

She will recognise the growing contributions of emerging donors and highlight “the need for us all to operate by the same standards,” the official told reporters without naming China.

China, which has sought natural resources around the world to fuel its booming economy, has developed close ties with nations such as Sudan and Zimbabwe whose rights records make them pariahs to the West.

The official said Clinton would also deliver a robust defence of foreign aid, at a time when the United States and many other historic donors are under pressure to trim overseas assistance due to the economic downturn.

The three-day event will group 3,500 people from donor and recipient nations, international organisations and civic groups.

Participants also include OECD secretary general Angel Gurria and former British prime minister Tony Blair, who will lead a panel discussion on aid to Africa.

Britain will call for higher standards in monitoring aid projects, “ending the culture of throwing money at a problem and only asking questions after”, said international development minister Andrew Mitchell.

In a commentary in Tuesday’s Korea JoongAng Daily, Mitchell said increased aid spending must be matched by increased transparency.

“Aid donors must agree to a new standard in aid delivery, becoming much more transparent and focused on delivering results from effective programmes,” he wrote.

“Without international agreement, potentially billions of dollars of international aid from other donors could be targeted toward programmes that are poorly managed – with little evidence of whether they are achieving their goals.”

The Busan meeting, he said, is an opportunity for rich-country donors to start to work more closely and share lessons with donors from emerging economies such as China and Mexico.

The forum will follow up commitments at a meeting in Paris in 2005, when delegates agreed in principle that recipient nations should set their own development strategies instead of following directions from aid-givers.

Despite that commitment, Oxfam said donor nations were reluctant to see their role in deciding where money was spent diminished.

“Donors are refusing to concede to calls for an agreement which would give poor countries and their people greater say in how aid is spent,” Oxfam spokesman Gregory Adams said in a statement Monday.

“Right now, too much aid that donors provide is opaque, unpredictable, or tied to purchase of donor country goods and services,” Adams said.

“Better aid that is easier for poor people to track, access, and use could support much greater progress towards fighting poverty.”


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