Nice, Fuzzy, Positive Language on Aid

By IPS correspondents

ACCRA, Sep 3 (IPS) – Ministers and senior government officials from around the world have reportedly agreed an action plan to make the system of aid more effective after days of hard negotiations that pitted some of the world’s poorest nations against donor giants.

But a negotiator for developing countries who did not want to be named told IPS the text agreed was entirely devoid of any time-bound measurable goals, due to objections from the United States and Japan.

“Whatever we said, they basically said ‘no’ to it,” he said about the final text of the Accra Agenda for Action — a document that has gone through at least five drafts and is due to be adopted by Ministers at the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness on Sep. 4.

“What we have is nice, slightly fuzzy and positive language, but there is no monitorable timetable-bound commitment.”

Developing countries wanted rich donor nations to agree to bring down conditionalities and phase out aid that is tied to the purchase of goods and services by 2010.

They also wanted donor countries to make the process of aid much more transparent than it is now — so that all aid figures were freely available.

But a key paragraph that was deleted from the final text read: “…in this Accra Agenda for Action (we) are agreeing to a set of accelerated actions to meet these goals by 2010.”

Some 1,200 delegates from 120 countries — representing governments, non-government as well as donor agencies — have gathered in the Ghanaian capital for the three-day meeting, called to review the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

Total aid from rich governments and their agencies amount to some 120 billion dollars annually, with private contributions adding another $20-25 billion.

But neither donors nor recipients are happy with aid. Donors say a lot of aid goes missing as a result of corruption, while recipient nations say they dislike conditionalities attached to the money.

Emerging from yesterday’s meeting, which ended with a round of loud applause by negotiators, Levi Oguike, the deputy chairman of Nigeria’s National Planning Commission, said the Agenda was along expected lines.

“We developing countries said nothing when we had the preparatory meeting in Paris in July. In a sense, this was a no-objection meeting.”

He said developing countries were not entirely happy with it: “A recipient country can never be comfortable with aid. You always want to be a donor.”

Neither were some developed country players satisfied.

Stefano Manservisi, Director General of the European Commission, told IPS/TerraViva, “It’s a good balanced text, but it doesn’t push hard enough. The situation requires more than just corrective balance.”

Manservisi said he would have liked to see countries pledge themselves to uniform financial managements systems such as auditing — a key demand of donor countries.

Malawi’s Minister of Finance, Goodal Gondwe, said: “The issue of ownership was very important to the African group that there would not be any compromise.”

“The present crop of African leaders are educated and know what policies to follow to bring about development in their respective countries. We are also aware of corruption and are doing everything possible to curb it,” Gondwe added.

There were also some important objections to the entire process leading up to the Accra Action Agenda with Prof Yash Tandon of the Geneva-based South Centre pointing out it was outside the United Nations system and therefore lacking in legal legitimacy.

— Miriam Mannak and Francis Kokutse contributed to this report

Action on behalf of justice is a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel.
Justice in the World – 1971 Synod of Bishops

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