To build a smarter partnership for development, where we meet for an honest discussion of what we have achieved so far, and how we should work together to finish the remaining distance by 2015, we need to do away with the three false dichotomies:

  • between aid and other sources of finance for development: we all recognize that aid is only one part of the overall financing package needed, but still aid matters, and the difference between the pledges and the deliveries matter
  • between aid quantity and aid quality: we who are in favour of aid must (re)capture the debate about effectiveness and result – we need more aid because we can produce more and  better results
  • between external resources and domestic policies: we know that domestic policies are more important for development than external resources, but we also know that without additional external resources, the process will be too slow for us to meet the MDG targets.

The global development partnership of the MDG 8, is about capturing the totality of development financing, but also about tracking aid deliveries compared to commitments, it is about making aid work better, and about using aid to support countries that have got their policies right, and about helping countries to get their policies right by sharing experiences.

And it is about letting the different traditions of development cooperation meet.  The DAC represent a rich 50 years aid tradition, with the Paris declaration in many ways being the expression of the lessons learnt from those 50 years. But there is also a parallel, and equally rich, tradition of south-south cooperation, where developing countries have found innovative ways of supporting each other and sharing experiences. In Bogota the lessons from that tradition were articulated. We must continue to let the two enrich each other, so that we can build a future, broadened development partnership on the lessons from both.

It is also about promoting development through real, effective and equal partnerships not only between governments, but between societies, including the private sector, civil society, parliamentarians, and local governments – to ensure that they are part of the decision-making on development.

And lastly it is about partnerships that are founded on evidence, on statistics and on sharing best practices. This is the core of the OECD approach in all areas, including development. And at the end of the day it is about results. Not results from aid, “owned” by donors, but results from the developing countries’ effort, owned by them, but helped by the development partners through aid and other types of finances. And also helped by the sharing of experiences, enabling countries to learn from each other, and make smarter choices and fewer mistakes.

The OECD has fostered networks in a wide variety of areas – from aid effectiveness to taxation to climate change – basing its support on solid principles:

  • ensuring that partnerships are built at the country level and determined by developing countries facilitating high-level and inclusive political decision-making
  • providing a broad platform for dialogue amongst all stakeholders, particularly taking care to raise the voice of partner countries and civil society
  • gathering evidence, facts and figures to inform policy and support technical solutions
  • promoting peer pressure to monitor commitments and review practices
  • providing instruments for dialogue on development at the country level
  • strengthening mutual accountability amongst all stakeholders around common objectives
  • working at the global level, to build strong links with the United Nations, the World Bank, and regional institutions and processes

How do these partnership principles – the “soft power” of dialogue, evidence and peer pressure – change the approach to development?

To begin with, it was evident that problems could not be solved by donors talking among themselves. More partners had to be around the table. The Working Party on Aid Effectiveness was born out of this realization. And the Working Party is not a “donor club”; it has 80 members, and is co-chaired by a representative from a donor institution and one from a developing country. From this group a broad consensus emerged on what needed to be done to produce better results. This consensus underpinned the agreements in the Paris Declaration (2005) and the Accra Agenda for Action (2008). Today, the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness is the international framework for improving the quality of aid.  This partnership focuses on how to deliver aid in a more harmonised, aligned and accountable way.

Putting developing countries in the lead is the key partnership principle promoted by the Working Party. Examples that highlight how partners have significantly reduced transaction costs by following local government procedures rather than a multiplicity of donor-imposed ones – a key principle of the Paris Declaration – are emerging. The recipe for achieving these results: focusing not only on how much is spent, but also on how it is spent.

The Working Party has also provided a platform for ensuring mutual accountability. While not legally binding, the accountability commitments fostered by the Paris Declaration have been shown to have real “teeth”, encouraging changing practices amongst donors, partner countries and other stakeholders. The Working Party’s mandate is to ensure that  donors and developing countries ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to meeting their commitments. One  tool for doing that is the survey on monitoring the Paris Declaration, which tracks implementation of the Paris commitments at the country level.  The survey shows that change is happening, but too slowly. Donors are using country systems, reducing parallel implementation units, and coordinating missions among themselves. And countries are strengthening their own systems to take control of their development, and broadening the domestic discourse about development. But the survey does not only provide information – it also promotes dialogue to improve aid practices at the country level and strengthens mutual accountability. This monitoring process attracted 34 countries in 2006 and 55 in 2008; an estimated 65-70 countries will take part in 2011.

Partnership is also about improving practices and monitoring performance on commitments through peer-to-peer assessments and open and frank discussion. The OECD’s Development Assistance Committee provides a forum for exchange of experience and peer reviews, while carefully tracking progress on financial aid commitments. The DAC remains the leading global group of donors, delivering USD 120 billion of aid in 2009 – a 6.8% increase in real terms over 2008.  And the OECD is extending its work to track financial commitments in other areas, including tax and development, innovative finance and climate change financing.

Could we wish that changes had been faster?  Yes.  Are there other and better processes producing quicker progress? Not that we know of. If they are out there, we must find them and learn from them! We have reached cross-roads in 2010 – the target date for delivery on the Paris Declaration commitments – offering the opportunity to review the quality of our partnerships on development in an honest and constructive way. This is precisely what we plan to do at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) in Korea in December 2011. But Korea also provides us with an opportunity to further deepen and broaden the partnership, and focus our work where it can make most difference.

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