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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 Need to Break the Disproportionate Power Imbalance of the Current Aid Regime

By Opa Kapijimpanga, Institute for Policy Studies, Lusaka, Zambia

The current aid regime is characterized by a disproportionate feeling of ‘power over” by donors in relation to African governments. This expresses itself in donors continuing to impose their understanding of how African economies must be run. As an example, the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) is essentially an instrument which the IMF uses to define macro-economic parameters. For example the government wage bill is limited by the MTEF to 8% of GDP. This then sets the limits; including how many nurses or teachers Zambia can employ in a given year. The IMF denies this! Donors have also shown reluctance to directly deal with resolving the development constraints that they also visibly see. Their unwillingness to commit to meeting the MDGs is somewhat unacceptable.

The nature and character of the aid regime must therefore change. Some of the processes that might help in doing so include the following:

a) Donor support should be directed at supporting national development plans. The MTEF, a rolling three year framework must be the instrument for securing that plan targets are being met;

b) The relationship between donors and the recipient country should be based on an Aid Policy and Strategy drawn up by the recipient country. Such an Aid Policy should define the modalities for aid and also include a framework for evaluating the Donors

c) Donors, as a group, have to express their commitment to the Plan and Aid Policy through a Joint Assistance Strategy. This will help harmonize their behaviour and procedures; towards a more responsive aid regime;

d) Aid must be directed at resolving development constraints. And these are always clearly visible in any given reality. An assessment of how these are being resolved should be made on an ongoing basis.

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Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness

Background to the Process

Summaries of the latest related events

Challenge of the Current Aid Architecture: Addressing the Development Needs of Africa


"African countries like many other developing countries need external resources primarily to supplement their meagre domestic resources from their economies. The assistance countries receive redress the financial gap that arises from their development needs and act as catalyst and play a complimentary role in the implementation of the national development programs as well as stretegies. The articles concludes by saying that aid architecture must address political interests of both donors and recipient as well. Aid would only work with good public institutions and if policies are nationally-owned. Other important factors include the need to address weak public finance management systems, respect public systems by donors, and the development of Partnership principles are mutually agreed. Lastly engagement with non-state actors and parliaments must be meaningful if Africa is to make head way in improving aid architecture in the continent."

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‘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.

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PRSP Monitoring and Information in Ghana

Source: ISODEC

A progress report on the GPRS process issued by the Task Force for the GPRS in December 2000 acknowledged monitoring and evaluation as a key part of the design of the GPRS and promised that attention will be paid to defining processes or collection, analysis and management of data on poverty alongside key outcome and intermediate indicators (Task Force for the GPRS, Dec. 2000). However, to date there has been little progress in this area. Neither the Technical armonization Workshop Report (April, 2000) nor the report f the workshop on the GPRS presented at the National Economic Dialogue Preparatory Workshop (May 2000) contain any treatment of the information and monitoring needs of the GPRS1 . Neither these reports nor the outstanding GPRS time table provide for a programme of work to fill this gap. There is also no oordinated donor initiatives either within the CDF or any other framework to tackle the monitoring problem. This paper looks at the ingredients of an effective monitoring system, the state of the Ghana Poverty Information System, Poverty Diagnosis and the use of information in the GPRS, GPRS Monitoring indicators, Impact Assessment in the GPRS, Linking plans and targets to resources, using institutional mechanism for the use of poverty data and donor initiatives and coordination.

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Impossible Architecture: Why the financial structure is not working for the poor and how to redesign it

Author: Social Watch Report 2006

The Social Watch report is published yearly since 1996 and is unique amongst reports focussing on social development and gender equality in its “bottom up” approach. This is not a commissioned report published from a centralised international organisation, but a compilation of the findings of civil society organisations working on social issues, on how their authorities are implementing the programs that they have committed themselves to in international fora like the Social Summit, the Beijing Conference on Women and the Millennium Summit.

Those findings by citizen groups are complemented with statistics and innovative indexes developed by Social Watch researchers, such as the Basic Capabilities Index and the Gender Equity Index.

The main theme of this year’s Social Watch report is the international financial architecture and how it needs to be reformed in order to create an enabling environment for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals

Click here to view the full report

Reforming the international aid system: user perspective, Yaounde, June 2006

Workshop organised by the Commonwealth and La Francophonie, Yaounde, Cameroon, June 2006

Background paper
Resources list
Workshop report

Setting the context
The World Bank and Regional Development Banks
The UN Development System from a user perspective
The European Union (EDF and Budget instruments)
Paris Declaration and arrangements for aid at country level

Which way the future of aid? London, November 2005

Workshop: ODI, London, 14-15 November 2005 (Wednesday 16 November for Southern Participants only)


Scoping Paper
The purpose of this Scoping Paper is to serve as the basis for discussion at the Workshop that ODI is organising in mid-November with its collaborators from Africa, Asia and Latin America as part of its project on 'Southern Voices for Change in the International Aid Architecture'. The paper aims to provide an analysis of the forces shaping the structure and operations of the international aid system. Download the Scoping Paper (PDF)

Comments on the Scoping Paper

Proposed objectives of the workshop (for consultation)
• To promote informal discussions, learning and sharing of experiences among the participating Southern civil society organisation (CSO) representatives, Northern CSO representatives and donors, building especially on the experiences of Southern CSOs in engaging with the international aid system and on their interests and concerns about the future of aid.
• To come to a better understanding of existing Southern CSO inputs and/or responses to the ongoing debate on how to reform the international aid system.
• To identify areas of work where further Southern engagement with these issues would be desirable.
• To identify priority areas for research and next steps, asking in particular how Southern CSOs envision the Southern Voices project evolving and what kind of support they may need to continue and/or expand their engagement with issues related to the future of the international aid system.

Session notes
Session 1
Session 2
Session 3
Session 4
Session 6

Speaker Presentations
Moreblessings Chidaushe, AFRODAD, Zimbabwe Presentation notes
Alina Rocha Menocal, ODI, UK Presentation
Bill Morton, North-South Institute, Canada - Paper
Priyanthi Fernando, CEPA, Sri Lanka Presentation
Gaspard Ahobamuteze, Independent Consultant, Rwanda
Rosalind Eyben, IDS, UK>Presentation

Reforming the international aid system: user perpectives, Dhaka, March 2006

Workshop organised by the Commonwealth and La Francophonie, Dhaka, Bangladesh, March 2006
Background Paper
Workshop report

Speaker presentations
Setting the context
EU development cooperation
UN development cooperation
The World Bank and Regional Development Banks
Paris Declaration

Amartya Sen review of “White Man's Burden?

Amartya Sen, Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University, reviews The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly.

According to Sen the book offers important insights about the pitfalls of foreign aid. However, he criticises Easterly's attack on global "do-gooders" arguing that aid can work when implemented correctly.

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