Is aid getting better? Time to ask difficult questions | ActionAid UK

Iñigo Macías-Aymar

Aid & Development Alternatives Policy Advisor

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) meets in Mexico this week to discuss how best to deploy international aid for developing countries.  ActionAid UK's policy team is on the ground joining aid donors and NGOs to ensure that people in developing countries get a fair deal.

Although aid provided by donors won’t solve all the problems of developing countries (and is not intended to do so), it does represent a big chunk of public money earmarked exclusively for this purpose. Despite continued pressures on donors’ national budgets, development aid recently reached record levels, driven in part by increased amounts from the UK. While this is in itself an achievement, it goes without saying that it is vital that this money is well spent.

That is the issue that the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) High Level Meeting taking place this week in Mexico aims to address.

Hundreds of donors and as many business and NGO stakeholders will discuss how best to ensure that the international principles on aid effectiveness, notably those agreed in Busan in 2011 (download), are being implemented and what should be done to take things further.

Empowering countries to define their own futures

These principles concentrate on committing to put developing countries in the driving seat of their own development as much as possible. Donors also committed to be more transparent, better coordinated and more aligned with recipient countries’ needs.

It is fundamental that we all get it right this week, as the international community is currently working on a new post 2015 framework for tackling poverty over the coming decades, and aid must be used in the best way possible to contribute to delivering this new framework.

Unfortunately, the Global Monitoring Report, which evaluates progress since 2011, shows that we are way off track.  One of the key problems is country ownership.

After almost 60 years of development and a decade of commitment to let poor countries define their own future, donors still seem reluctant to completely deliver on this. Can countries end their dependence on aid if donors continue to bypass their governments and instead establish alternative systems and aid delivery mechanisms?

Problems with private sector solutions?

Worryingly, it seems this won’t get better as many donors are starting to resort to the private sector to solve their problems. There is concern that this does not focus on strengthening what already exists in the country but rather acts as a bandage, if not actually undermining governments.

Donors must be clearer about their intentions with the private sector and how they will ensure that aid delivered through these channels will respect the Busan Principles and not unravel them.

These questions are at the centre of the ActionAid briefing that we released today in Mexico.

I will be working hard this week with colleagues from ActionAid Zambia, ActionAid Italy and ActionAid UK to ensure that the final communique from the Mexico High Level Meeting provides us with clear answers!

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