Busan: Can NGOs lead, as well as influence?

30/11/2011 at 3:58 am Leave a comment

There is a real sense of expectation in the air, at the second day of the Busan summit on better aid gets under way. The celebrities and ‘super stars’ are arriving, with security being ramped up as the likes of Hilary Clinton, Ban Ki-Moon, Queen Rania and the Korean President are making their appearance at the conference.

As with all such conferences, it is easy to get disappointed and cynical about the lack of progress that can be made through international negotiations. And in the heat of negotiations about phrases and commas in the final summit declaration, some participants tend to forget that with the statements and declarations are the beginning, not the end of a process.

Some of the key issues during the negotiations are, in fact, not the key issues at all when it comes to the practice of “Development Effectiveness”. For ultimately, when it comes to the question of how we can do “Development” better, the key issues are those of ensuring real impact at country level.

And that is not merely a question for donors, or for Governments. Although one of the potential breaking points of the negotiations here in Busan related to the text on “use of country systems” (an issue on which several of the African governments’ represenatives here have been very outspoken), the key challenge relates to ensuring that developing countries have developed (NB: through a genuinely democratic process) an inclusive national strategy, and a development model to benefit all their citizens.

Civil society representatives have been very vocal on the importance of democracy and inclusiveness, and their arguments have been echoed widely during the presentations and negotiations. And rightly so, as many Governments seem only too keen to use the Aid Effectiveness language to clamp down on domestic civil society.

But as the end of the summit nears, we now need to look at NGO practice too.

Hilary Clinton, Paul Kagame and Queen Rania were pretty clear in their speeches at the formal opening of the summit: Too many aid programmes (and those include many NGO programmes) create parallel structures, or islands of relative prosperity in a sea of misery. NGOs are being challenged to demonstrate that they can relate their efforts to the wider Development effort.

This should not mean blindly rowing in behind Government priorities. nor does it mean that civil society should concentrate on service delivery. But it does mean that we should challenge ourselves to implementing our roles as civil society organisations more fully in line with our own (Istanbul) principles. Can we go beyond the impact at micro (community) level and affect transformational change? Can we work in genuine partnership with other Development actors?

As Queen Rania put it: “As the global landscape is changing, it is time to change the ‘aid scape’ too.”

Judging by the proceedings here in Busan, civil society has earned its place as an equal in the setting of Development policy. And civil society principles, in the shape of the Istanbul Principles for Development Effectiveness, are an explicit part of the ‘effectiveness recipe’ emerging in Busan.
This should make it easier to win the battle for the right to do our jobs, and to advocate for the rights of people.

In addition, we NGOs must now get ready to take on the next battle: demonstrating that we can ‘walk the talk’ on Quality, Effectiveness and Impact.

A great and worthwhile challenge indeed.

Entry filed under: Development Effectiveness, NGOs. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Video Blog by Dochas Director Hans Zomer on Day 1 of Busan Summit Day 2 – Video Blog by Dochas Director Hans Zomer on Busan Summit

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