Busan: Hopes for more aid effectiveness after High Level Forum?

The development sphere is abuzz with anticipation, as the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness is set to take place in Busan, South Korea, November 29 to December 1st.

But previous aid effectiveness resolutions have fallen short of providing the desired impact. One of the reasons for their shortcoming is the following: by looking for identifying a universally agreeable standard (of aid transparency, for example), donors end up with a weak lowest denominator resolution. And the reluctance of some new donors like China and Brazil to increase their aid transparency could set the threshold even lower this year. As it stands now, the latest draft of the outcome document is still very general.

Owen Barder proposes an interesting remedy towards such vagueness: starting with the highest common denominator, coalition of willing donors should work in parallel to the official process to implement their own (higher) standards of transparency. They’d lead other donors by example and exert peer pressure on them. Taxpayers in non-complying donor countries should join in pressuring their governments for adhering to those higher standards (the full post is here).

The weakness of recipient countries in pulling their weight behind better standards partially comes from the fact that not all of them share the same priorities. For example, post-conflict and fragile states have been trying to highlight the uniqueness of their needs as aid recipients. (Here’s a good post about what success at Busan would look like for conflict-affected countries).

Amidst the variety of priorities and the political tensions around aid money in a climat of budget cuts, Busan is an opportunity not to be missed, for all parties involved.

UPDATE: a very comprehensive Busan reading list by the Development Policy Center is available here.

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