This article draws upon on-going conversations and debates about the aid effectiveness agenda. It discusses how the agenda can move-forwards in addressing one of its major shortcomings, the fact that it does not link the principles of aid effectiveness to the substance of what should be done to achieve development outcomes.
The Fourth High-Level Forum (HLF4) on aid effectiveness now underway in Busan, South Korea, comes at an important time for the international aid effectiveness agenda. The deadline for the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action commitments was 2010. Busan therefore provides the opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved so far within the aid effectiveness agenda as well as to decide upon its future direction.
Aid effectiveness and success so far
The aid effectiveness agenda emphasises that it is not just the amount of aid, but also how that aid is delivered which enables these financial transfers to be successful. The Paris Declaration identified ownership, alignment, harmonization, results and mutual accountability as the key principles for effective aid. It set 13 targets to be achieved by the end of 2010. Only one of these was reached. There seems to be a vast gap between aspirations and results.
Despite the limited achievement of the Paris Declaration, the DAC points to promising trends in some of the remaining twelve targets. The proportion of developing countries with 'sound' national development strategies in place has more than tripled since 2005. However, advances have been significant mainly for indicators where the responsibility lies primarily with developing country governments, rather than donors. While progress has been slow, the Paris Declaration has brought an improved approach of greater accountability and learning within the aid system. Aid effectiveness does matter to achieving the objectives of development cooperation which include the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Moving the agenda forwards to achieve the MDGs
An overriding limitation of the current aid effectiveness agenda is that it fails to link aid effectiveness principles to concrete development outcomes. Busan is the best, and last (before 2015), opportunity to revitalise commitment to the MDGs. To do this, discussions about the principles and processes of aid effectiveness need to be complemented by a focus on the substance of what needs to be done to achieve agreed upon development outcomes. After all, development...