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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

organised by ODI

The Listening Project - Update

CDA Collaborative Learning Projects

Reports from the Thailand and Kosovo Listening Exercises can be downloaded from the website below. Translations of these reports will be available soon and all of the past Listening Exercise reports (Aceh, Indonesia; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Ethiopia, Angola, Bolivia, Zimbabwe, and US Gulf Coast) can be downloaded there as well.

Click here to read the reports

Seeing the forest for the carbon?

Source: Bank Information Centre

December 3 marked the opening of the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP-13) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the international agreement under which the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions was established in 1997. As the leaders of more than 180 countries gather in Bali, Indonesia to discuss what kind of climate regulation regime will replace Kyoto when it expires in 2012, one of the hottest topics on their global warming agenda is tropical forests. Tropical deforestation is now widely recognized to be among the major causes of global warming.

The meetings, which are scheduled to run through December 15, are expected to be particularly important in charting the course for a post-Kyoto global agreement on carbon emission reductions.

Campaigners have been fighting to protect rainforests for years, citing their importance to forest-dependent peoples, their unparalleled biodiversity, and their medical, aesthetic and spiritual value for the planet, but it is their recently recognized significance to the world’s climate that has made forests an international priority today. While there is agreement on the need to stop destruction of the world’s rainforests, there is no consensus on how to provide the incentives necessary to do so, nor concurrence on how to calculate the value of not cutting them for the growing (though contested) trade in emissions reductions.

Even as the debate over whether and how to incorporate “avoided deforestation” into an international agreement on climate change mitigation continues, the World Bank has already proposed one solution. On December 11th in Bali, World Bank President, Robert Zoellick will launch its Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, formally setting in motion the first initiative to include emissions reductions from avoided deforestation into the global carbon market. This latest foray by the Bank into carbon ‘market-making’ only heightens concerns among environmentalists opposed to emissions trading mechanisms in general, on the grounds that they will only perpetuate excessive pollution in the North.

Click here to read the full briefing

The Better Aid Blog


The BetterAid blog has been launched, the new space for stories on how rich countries and multilateral institutions spend their aid money.

As part of the Better Aid website, this new blog is a collaborative effort that privileges the inside stories, gossip and juicy information on development assistance.

This is how you could participate...
1)Become an active author! You are encouraged you to contribute with your views and stories. If you’re interested, please let Rita Guerreiro ( know and she can give you the instructions on how to post an article.
2)If you don’t want to be an author, you can still contact them if you hear any news or gossip. They would love to publish the information you have.
3)Read and comment. Check the blog regularly and comment on posts. Discussions are very welcome, so feel free to make your comments and to be involved in conversations.
4)Recommend this blog to colleagues, networks and friends and put a link to it on your website.

Although the main interface of the blog is in English, you are encouraged you to write in French or Spanish.

Click here to go to the blog

Debt and Conditionality: Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative and Opportunities for Expanding Policy Space

Source: Third World Network

THE Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) was introduced in September 2005 to operationalise the political outcome of deliberations at the G8 summit in Gleneagles in July 2005. The MDRI is to provide 100% cancellation of eligible debt stock owed by eligible countries to four multilateral financial institutions – the International Development Association (IDA), the concessional lending arm of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)1 – and is separate from but linked operationally to the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative (HIPC-I).

This debt reduction is additional to the debt relief granted under the HIPC-I and taken together, it is expected that an estimated 40 eligible countries have already been or will be relieved of a significant amount of debt stock in the near future. The World Bank and the IMF estimate that both the HIPC-I and the MDRI will clear a total of close to US$90 billion in debt owed by developing countries to bilateral and multilateral creditors (Eurodad, 2006; IDA and IMF, 2006: paras 27-32). Twenty-one countries have already had their eligible debt from the IDA and the IMF written off and nine other countries are expected to complete the process in the near future. A further 10 countries have met the eligibility criteria for HIPC and are potentially eligible for MDRI relief in the future.

A critical question arising from these recent developments in debt relief is whether – aside from relieving the debt overhang of indebted countries and therefore clearing fiscal space for more productive and redistributive expenditure – the cancellation of debt, particularly from the international financial institutions (IFIs), results in greater policy autonomy for the countries concerned.

A significant constraint on national policy space in developing countries in the past two decades has been the uncompromising debt burden shouldered by these countries and the policy prescriptions which accompany country attempts to: (a) reschedule debt owed to external creditors; and (b) mobilise additional external financial resources to meet their resource gaps. Indebted countries have had to implement stringent economic conditionalities – especially those set by the World Bank and the IMF – in their bid both to renegotiate debt and to secure resources necessary for generating economic growth and financing social expenditure.

However, the recent series of debt cancellations – under both the enhanced HIPC and the MDRI – may offer eligible countries opportunities for expanding domestic policy space, enabling countries greater freedom over their macroeconomic and development policies, including options which were prohibited under the restrictive conditionalities of the Bretton Woods institutions.

This paper examines the key aspects of the MDRI and considers the opportunities this framework and completion of the enhanced HIPC initiative create for indebted countries to expand their policy space. The paper concludes that the recent upfront and irrevocable cancellation of debt of the 21 post-‘completion point’ countries and the potential debt relief for the nine ‘decision point’ countries in the near future under the enhanced HIPC initiative and the MDRI will create opportunities for greater policy space in these countries. Specifically, the debt relief will facilitate the release of countries from the economic strictures of conditionality and debt which have crippled economies in developing countries due to the damaging effect of their economic policy prescriptions.

Cancellation of debt stock has not only enabled the freeing up of fiscal resources in a number of previously heavily indebted developing countries but has also afforded opportunities for expanded policy space for countries to develop national economic policies alternative to the Washington Consensus policy prescriptions which have accompanied financing from the Bretton Woods institutions.

It will also enable the diversification of external financing sources for these countries, enabling countries to seek resources with more favourable financing terms and the decoupling of financial resources with economic policy reforms. Countries should take advantage of this increased policy autonomy to develop more appropriate policies which will generate economic growth in favour of social and economic development.

After all, the objectives of debt relief are not only about increasing revenue flows to developing countries but also freeing countries from the economic and political coercion of debt, including redressing the asymmetrical relationship between debtor and creditor nations and debtor nations and international financial institutions. This recent debt cancellation may afford developing countries the opportunity to break out of the cycle of debt and conditionality and to engender genuine ‘country ownership’ of economic policies.

Click here to read the full report

Policy Coherence: Aid, Trade and Investment

Source: North South Institute

In principle aid is used to assist low-income countries evolve an appropriate mix of policies and institutions to support their development goals. The efficiency and effectiveness of this process could be enhanced by increased coherence within and across the aid, trade, and investment policies which feature prominently in the donor-recipient relationship. Policy coherence exists when the gap between policy intent and outcome is minimized by using mutually supportive approaches in related policy areas in pursuit of a common goal. Policy coherence is naturally more complicated where national policy is significantly influenced by policy-making at the supranational level. In this case policy coherence requires harmonization through international cooperation around jointly determined and voluntarily accepted common norms and approaches.

Central to the aid relationship is a common understanding of development as societal transformation for the purpose of enhancing the abilities of all members of the society to shape their own lives. In this context, the goals of development combine income growth with poverty eradication and human development, while the “drivers” of development include macroeconomic stability, openness, good governance, quality infrastructure and strong institutions. Among these, openness and institutions are the most contentious and constitute the main sources of policy incoherence. In both cases, no general consensus has emerged regarding the best approaches, the adjustment processes and time paths for generating sustainable growth through policy and institutional reforms.

The aid relationship presumes an understanding that both sides share a common interest in achieving certain development objectives. It is characterized, however, by policy coherence issues arising from ineffective partnership and collaboration which in turn reflect donor prescription of policy and institutional reforms considered unacceptable by recipients, and unwillingness by donors to accept experimentation in these reform areas. Similarly, standard donor prescription that trade openness enhances growth and poverty reduction often clashes with recipient-country perspectives that are more nuanced because in low-income countries supply response capacity is typically limited, the adjustment process is slow and, hence, the expected efficiency gains are limited and/or delayed while up-front costs of liberalization are real and can be substantive. Finally, with regard to investment policy where donors have tended to push aid recipients towards full liberalization, the latter seem to prefer a two-track approach which promotes export-oriented foreign direct investment (FDI) through liberalization and attracts market-seeking FDI through protection.

In addition to policy coherence within each of aid, trade, and investment policy area, coherence across the three policy areas is also critical for enhancing the positive impact of development assistance. For instance, aid disbursement conditioned upon trade liberalization will lack policy coherence where the aid recipient’s economy has limited supply-response capacity or is patently unable to defray the short-run costs. Similarly, the donor provision of aid to particular low-income countries may be more or less offset when the donors simultaneously erect trade barriers against their exports. There are many examples of this conflict. For instance, distortions to agriculture in several donor countries lead to significant reduction in the real income of many aid-recipient countries.

Across the aid, trade, and investment policy areas, there is a fundamental difference in the perspectives of aid donors and recipients. The former generally expect that aid disbursement should go hand-in-hand with the liberalization of the trade and investment regimes of the aid recipients; while the latter contend that building their supply response capacity should have priority and, hence, that trade and investment policies must be coordinated and strategically linked and involve gradual, selective and differentiated liberalization.

Enhancing policy coherence and, thus, effectiveness of aid requires an appropriate mechanism for reconciling and accommodating these differences. This should encourage the aid-recipient country to articulate a consistent development program with coherent policies for dealing with identified constraints and indicating how and where external assistance is required. It should then permit donors to evaluate the program’s coherence and feasibility and, in the process, coordinate donors’ activities with the program as a basis for establishing a constructive and mutually beneficial partnership.

Click here to read the full paper

Stock taking paper on aid management

Source: Daima Associates

This report is one of three planned outputs of phase 1 of a 2 phase project commissioned by the Capacity Building Working Group, one of the three groups conducting the technical work under the SPA 7 programme. The project aims to improve the quality and quantity of aid in support of nationally owned capacity development approaches. Phase one of the project is the stocktake phase, which is the subject of this report and the second phase will draw from the findings and conclusions of the first phase. This report categorises aid recipient countries according to the level of aid management systems and effectiveness. Criteria that were considered when grouping countries included: aid policy documentation/clear aid strategy; aid management systems and procedures; Development Partner actions and expected requirements; aid harmonisation and alignment to country systems; the capacity in aid management; and capacity constraints identified and documented. The grouping exercise resulted in four categories. Group one included coutries that were rated highlu such as Botswana, Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda and Vietnam; Group two included coutnries that are doing fairl well but could still do better such as Burkino Fas, Cape Verde, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia and Mozambique; group three included countries trying to improve but in fragile situations, thus with still many capacity gaps such as Cameroon; and group four included countries with critical situations largely due to recent internal conflict such as Burundi, Sierra Leone and Haiti. The report also considers to what extent the Paris Declaration has been implemented, if, and to what extent coutnries have developed explicit aid policies, how effective are aid management systems and procedures, emerging lessons in aid management with implicaitons for capacity development, expectations from the Development Partners, Development partner support to Capacity development, best practices. Finally the report provides a comparison of Capacity Development for Aid management.

Click on the link below to read the full report

‘Mediating’ the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness

By Fackson Banda, SAB-UNESCO Chair of Media and Democracy, Rhodes University, South Africa

The role of the media in public finance management in aid-dependent countries is increasingly becoming an agenda item during meetings about development assistance. A recent workshop called by the OECD Global Forum on Development brought the issue into sharp relief. At the core of the discussion was the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, adopted in 2005.

The OECD meeting did not discuss the media as a central theme. And yet the workshop theme of ‘ownership in practice’ suggests strong citizen engagement in the development process. Perhaps, the ‘silence’ on mediation typical of most official documents accounts for the uncertainty usually exhibited about the place of the media in the matrix of development financing.

Indeed, the Paris Declaration does not acknowledge the role of the media. But it spells out many commitments which only active media engagement can help actualise. For example, it urges aid-reliant countries to elaborate ‘national development strategies through broad consultative processes’. It reiterates this by enjoining upon such nations to ‘encourage broad participation of a range of actors…’ It urges both donor and partner countries to curb ‘corruption and lack of transparency, which erode public support’.

These commitments are central to media engagement in creating a dialogic environment in which civil society can hold national leadership accountable for the utilisation of development assistance. And yet the declaration only assumes this. Its emphasis on broad consultative processes is much more than one-to-one consultation. It implies civic engagement on a large scale. While foregrounding the ends of consultation, ownership and participation, the declaration omits the means through which such processes can be realised broadly.

It is important, therefore, that any exposition of the Paris Declaration explicitly analyses the role of mediation in strengthening citizen participation in development financing.

Please send your response to this opinion to or click on 'add new comment' below

Preparations for the High-level Biennial Review of the Financing for Development process

Source: New Rules for Global Finance Coalition

The preparations for the High-level Biennial Review of the Financing for Development process and commitments is moving ahead very quickly, as are the preparations for the follow-up conference in Doha, Qatar the end of 2008.

The earliest date is actually October 11 for the informal hearing featuring civil society and the private sector.

The time is RIPE to send recommendations for action on any of the 6 sections of the Monterrey Consensus:

A: Domestic Financing for Development

B. Foreign investment

C. Trade

E. Bilateral and multilateral foreign assistance

F. Systemic Issues: dealing with systemic crises and governance of international financial rule making bodies

Please send your organization’s recommendations for action either to Daniel Platz (UN Financing for Development Office, Focal Point for Civil Society, or to—who will keep your name attached, making sure you both receive the credit for the idea, as well as any requests for further information or follow-up action/implementation. Please encourage your international partners to do the same.

Listening Project Update August 2007

Source: CDA

Here is the latest update from Dayna Brown, project leader, on the progress and and plans of the Listening Project.

Reports from Listening Exercises

The new CDA website is up now and most of the reports from the Listening Exercises (including some of the translations), as well as the primary project documents and report from the February Consultation are on there-just click here to read more or download them. We welcome any feedback on the usefulness of the reports and/or changes made in your work based on what the listening teams have heard so far in Aceh (Indonesia), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Angola, Bolivia, Zimbabwe, Thailand, and the US Gulf CoastPlanning for future Listening Exercises

We are in the process of organizing several more listening exercises over the coming months, and exploring a few others. Since this is a very collaborative project, we welcome your suggestions on where we should go, organizations/people that could/should participate, as well as organizations/people we should listen to in each place. Please let us know if you or your organization is interested in participating in or helping out with any of these exercises.

· Kenya---Local Capacities for Peace International (LCPI) is helping us to organize a listening exercise there from September 27th--October 9th. A planning meeting will be taking place in the next two weeks in Nairobi--let me know if you want more information on when and where the meeting will be held or how to get involved.

· Sri Lanka--Consortium for Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) is hosting the listening exercise there starting September 24th. There will be a planning meeting at the CHA offices in Colombo on August 27th at 3pm, so if your organization is interested in getting involved, please let us know and plan to attend that meeting.

Senegal--one of the LP facilitators will be visiting Senegal to meet with potential collaborating agencies the week of September 10th, and we hope to schedule a listening exercise there in early December. If your organization is interested in meeting with him or in participating there, please let us know.

The Gambia--one of the LP facilitators will be visiting The Gambia to meet with potential collaborating agencies the week of September 10th, and we hope to schedule a listening exercise there later this year or early next year. If your organization is interested in meeting with him or in participating there, please let us know.

Cambodia—Oxfam America is hosting this listening exercise which will start November 1st, and they will be holding another planning meeting in Phnom Penh in the next few weeks to finalize the dates and regions to be visited. Let us know if you want to be involved.

Ecuador--Catholic Relief Services is hosting this listening exercise in the latter half of February 2008, and has held several organizational meetings in Quito, though we are open to additional participating agencies.

Afghanistan—we have decided to postpone the listening exercise there which was tentatively planned for the fall, and will reevaluate the feasibility in the spring for summer 2008.

Others we are exploring for 2008 include:

East Timor/Timor Leste
Caucasus and/or Tajikistan

External Meetings

Mary Anderson met with a number of international aid and peacebuilding agencies and donors in Oslo and Geneva in mid-April, and Peter Woodrow met with a number of Australian aid agencies in Sydney in May, to share what we have been hearing and to encourage more European and Australian agencies' participation in the Listening Project. I met with a few representatives of UK-based International NGOs, the Humanitarian Accountability Project--International, People in Aid, and the Overseas Development Institute in London in July to discuss potential participation and collaboration with their initiatives to improve the quality and accountability of international assistance. We expect to have broader participation among international assistance agenceis in the upcoming Listening Exercises.

Click here to go CDA's website

Invitation to International Seminar on development financing

Source: Global Policy Forum

Money may not be everything, but ...

Civil Society Perspectives on Financing the International Development Goals

Bonn, Germany, 15-16 October 2007

co-hosted by Global Policy Forum Europe, terre des hommes and Social Watch

Towards the end of 2008, the United Nations plans to hold its 2nd Global Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) in Doha. This conference will review progress on decisions taken at the first FfD conference in Monterrey in 2002 and the Summits of the following years (World Summit 2005, G8 Summit in Gleneagles, etc.). In addition, the conference will discuss what new financing initiatives are necessary to achieve the International Development Goals, particularly the MDGs.

The UN General Assembly decided to hold a High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development on the 23 and 24 October 2007 at UN Headquarters in New York. This event will mark the starting point of the preparatory process leading up to the Doha conference. Many NGOs will use this process to assess progress and identify obstacles and constraints. Based on this analysis, they will formulate expectations and demands for the Monterrey follow-up conference.

Our international seminar seeks to contribute to this process. We see our seminar as a brainstorming session. We invite participants to share experiences and expectations and contribute to the formulation of civil society benchmarks for the Financing for Development Conference. Unfortunately, travel and accommodation costs cannot be reimbursed by the organisers.

For full program and registration for the event, please click here

Jens Martens, Global Policy Forum
Peter Mucke, terre des hommes
Roberto Bissio, Social Watch

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