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Forum for the Future of Aid

Southern Voices for Change in the International Aid System Project

The Forum on the Future of Aid is an online community dedicated to research and opinions about how the international aid system currently works and where it should go next

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Harmonization and Coherence: Where meets Monterrey and Cancun continues Seattle (Sticky)

By Edward Oyugi*

Though a major plank in the Monterrey consensus, harmonization and coherence in aid policy coordination, has its origins in earlier discourses – dating back to the ministerial declarations that saw the trade negotiation process succumb to the manipulative hegemony of neo-liberalism in multilateral politics. Policy coherence is naturally more complicated than taken for granted, particularly in cases where national policies are significantly influenced at supranational level; where any deficit in negotiation capacity can play havoc with the respective economies. The key elements of the current coherence agenda include: supporting the Doha work program (liberalization in goods, facilitating the dominance of pliable political authority systems in the name of good governance, services, and investment), capital account liberalization and channeling increased investment to developing countries.

In a world where neo-liberal orthodoxy is arrogating to itself the claim of universal application - as a frame of reference- and multi-lateral/bilateral behavior -regarding the way relationships between the powerful economies of the North and the Global South have been established- grossly antagonize the subaltern development needs of poor economies, harmonization and coherence can mean a reuse of uniformity behind which lark the insidious face borderless neo-liberal capital. There is no way efficiency and effectiveness can be enhanced through increased coherence within and across aid, trade, and investment policies which feature awkwardly in the donor-recipient relationship and which end up pitting the poor economies of the Global South against the neo-liberal interests of the hegemonic North.

There is no doubt that aid conditioned upon liberalization in trade, investment, procurement and asymmetrical removal of subsidies will lack policy coherence, particularly in circumstances where the aid recipient’s economies are ill-disposed towards the hegemonic demands of neo-liberalism as a framework not only of discourse but more dangerously in the realm of policy action. We now know, with unwavering certainty, that the magic bullet of Harmonization/Coherence agenda is not so much about efficiency and effectiveness as about creating new rights and privileges for corporations at the expense of the poverty alleviation in the Global South.

If harmonization is not to become a slippery slope to cartelization it must be internal to a national or regional political economy and not across conflicting economic interests. This could be the reason why the Indian Minister of Commerce Murasoli Maran warned that "we should be careful that in the name of coherence we do not create a networking behemoth which puts pressure on developing countries through cross-conditionality."

*Edward Oyugi is the Executive Director of Social Development Network , an NGO based in Nairobi and a member of the Social Watch movement and a member of the International Council of the World Social Forum. He also teaches Psychology at Kenyatta University, in Nairobi- Kenya.

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