“We like the Chinese. At least they don’t interfere in our internal affairs.”
Liberian Public Official
Last week, on our way back from Buchanan (Liberia’s third largest city) our car broke down. We stopped by a nearby village, asking for a mechanic. On the other side of the road, some dozen children gathered, screaming and waving: “Chinee’ woma’! Chinee’ woma’! Come come!” It took me an elbow from a colleague and a translation to realize that the cheers were directed at me. The road we were parked on links Monrovia to Buchanan, and was built with Chinese funding a couple of years back. The Chinese workers on that project were the only non-Liberian people to have stopped by these villages.
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A collection of remarks made by participants at last week’s high-level International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding that I found to be thought-provoking.
See previous post for what the Dialogue is all about.
Emilia Pires, Minister of Finance, Timor Leste:
- In response to donors’ concerns about corruption: If we put in place all the auditing measures recommended by donors, we won’t even be able to spend the money that’s given to us. That’s what’s happening in Afghanistan today. We must first relax the rules, to let the money flow into the economy.
Donors should be a little more patient with us, and give us time to learn things step by step. First, learn how to spend the money. Second, learn how to spend it well. Third, link our budget to performance. Speaking of performance budgeting – I just found out that most developed countries don’t even have that!
- To development partners: You don’t trust us! What happens if we stop being fragile? Does it mean you guys lose your jobs? Isn’t there a conflict of interest here? I don’t blame you – I, too, was a consultant one day.
- In response to concerns that the expression “fragile states” is stigmatizing: I like the word fragile. Fragility is beautiful; it is real. My Ministry of Finance is fragile. That’s why I’m asking you to take good care of it. Don’t put too much pressure on it, or it will break. Like this glass. (holding up a glass of water)
Brian Atwood, Chair, OECD Development Assistance Committee, and former USAID Administrator:
Brian Atwood and Bella Bird
- Developing countries played the aid game for a very long time, serving donors very well – without always serving their populations. This created dependency. Today, developing countries have stopped playing the aid game, insisting that donors align their strategies to their priorities. Development has changed, but it has not changed enough. You must insist that you want to take control of your own destiny. Tell the world what you need. Progress needs to be measured against what you need to achieve.
- We often ignore the needs of fragile states until they become news stories. And aid usually ends as soon as the country leaves the front-page. It doesn’t do enough to create a transition to development stages. We leave too soon, before helping solve the problems that created conflict in the first place.
- The donors sitting in this room know that what you are asking for is right. What they don’t know is whether they can generate political will at home to do what is right. You need to help them. When you can speak as one nation it is difficult to hear you. But when you speak collectively you are and will be heard. I can’t promise you every donor will change one day to the next. But what you are asking is not only realistic; it is also in the interest of every nation on the face of this earth. Peer pressure will produce political will. Speak collectively on behalf of your nations. We will listen – eventually.
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