The world post-Busan: what’s in it for CSOs working on aid, transparency and accountability?

prepared by Paolo de Renzio, Senior Research Fellow at the International Budget Partnership

After a gruelling 35-hour flight, it took me a few days to recover and digest all that had happened in Busan last week, where more than 2,000 delegates gathered for the 4th High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. Overall, I thought that the outcome was fairly disappointing. The outcome document, called the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, is long on principles and short of commitments. It was endorsed by the emerging donors like Brazil, Russia, India, China on condition that it is not binding. Specific and time-bound targets for improving donor performance, such as those agreed in Paris in 2005, are absent. And all details about the new and more inclusive body expected to oversee the implementation of the document’s commitments are lacking, though a deadline of June 2012 for its establishment was set.

But not all is bleak. The document contains strong language on the need to promote democratic ownership of development policies and processes, and recognizes the vital role played by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in “enabling people to claim their rights, in promoting rights-based approaches, in shaping development policies and partnerships, and in overseeing their implementation”. It also retained the commitments related to improving aid transparency, including a deadline of December 2015 for implementing a common open standard for the publication of comprehensive information on aid flows. In fact, the International Aid Transparency Initiative, which was undermined by reluctant donors in the run-up to Busan, got a strong boost with the US Government joining it, alongside other large donors such as the Asian and Inter-American Development Banks. This means that more than  75% of information of total aid flows will soon be compliant with strong transparency standards. This will allow CSOs in both donor and recipient countries to track more closely how aid money is spent.

Donors also committed to using country systems as a default approach for development cooperation, something that could strongly enhance the link between aid and budget transparency, and to further untie their aid. Finally, the document talks about the importance of fiscal transparency in combating corruption, and about the need to “establish transparent public financial management and aid information management systems, and strengthen the capacities of all relevant stakeholders to make better use of this information in decision-making and to promote accountability”.

The results of the Busan HLF4 therefore create a reasonable framework to push forward issues that are of core interest to CSOs working on transparency and accountability. Yet, much remains to be done. In order to fully exploit the opportunities opened at Busan, the International Budget Partnership will work with others to:

  1. Monitor and influence negotiations on the establishment of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, ensuring that it adequately includes and addresses transparency and accountability issues (focusing particularly on aid and budget transparency, and use of country systems), with monitorable indicators and time-bound commitments.
  2. Work with the IATI Secretariat to ensure that aid information is increasingly compatible with recipient country budget systems and processes.
  3. Continue discussions on enhancing the linkages between aid and fiscal transparency with the smaller set of actors who were part of the Transparency Building Block at Busan, and who are committed to further and faster progress in this area.

If you are interested in joining, let us know!

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