The Siem Reap Consensus

30/06/2011 at 5:23 pm 1 comment

By Garry Walsh (in Siem Reap)

Garry Walsh in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Garry Walsh in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Writing international documents is never a particularly easy task. Writing documents by consensus is even less enviable, particularly when there are over 200 delegates from over 80 countries trying to agree on the text of a global framework, and these delegates are representing thousands of civil society organisations across the globe. But thanks to the hard work of the drafting team, who worked long into the night, we now have an agreed global framework on civil society organisation (CSO) effectiveness, which is being called the Siem Reap consensus.

This framework is based on the hard work of the Open Forum over the last 3 years. It’s a very significant achievement for global civil society, who have taken the initiative and set their own agenda. As global civil society, we have now articulated what we see it is to be effective at development. We now have a framework that sets the standard on development effectiveness, and we can use this framework to hold ourselves to account.

The Siem Reap consensus is ambitious and progressive. Development organisations from around the world have now made it very clear that the key measure of the effectiveness of development cooperation should be that it eradicates the root causes – not only the symptoms – of poverty. The framework recognises that to be effective at development we need to use rights-based approaches, to work towards gender equality, environmental sustainability, and work in equitable partnerships within the communities in which we work. It goes well beyond narrow donor ideas of aid effectiveness as technical improvements in the delivery of bilateral aid.

The challenge now is to take this document and make these principles real. Implementing this framework in our work will be a challenge. As speakers noted, there is no CSO in the world that is currently fully implementing all of the principles. There is a long journey ahead and we need to build this day-by-day. Although this is the final Global Assembly, the task of bringing the Siem Reap consensus into our work as development actors is only beginning.

To aid this challenging journey ahead, an implementation toolkit is being developed to accompany the framework. This toolkit will guide CSOs as to how they can integrate the framework into their programmes, and how they can measure up against their commitments. In Ireland, Dóchas will build on the work we’ve been doing on development effectiveness, and help work with our sector to put these principles into practice.

For our Southern partners, many face challenges implementing the framework due to the growing trend of the shrinking of civil society space in many countries across the world. Colleagues from Asia, Africa and Latin America spoke of this growing threat, including restrictive laws and regulations on the ability of CSOs to operate, particularly those working on human rights and holding their governments to account.

It is a major success that this global assembly has resulted in the Siem Reap consensus. However, many challenges lie ahead for this new global framework. For us in Ireland, we will need to step up to the challenge of implementing the framework, and to work in solidarity with those in countries with restrictive enabling environments.

The conference finished with a reflection on how we can pressure donor governments to take this message to the Busan High-Level-forum on Aid Effectiveness at the end of this year. Hopefully, at Busan, donors will endorse the Siem Reap consensus, and work to challenge the growing restrictive practices on CSO space.

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Entry filed under: Development Effectiveness, NGOs.

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