Busan Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation – The Good, the Bad and the New?

17/12/2011 at 3:45 pm 1 comment

Guest blog by Abdul Ilal

The Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, recently held in Busan, intended to reach a set of principles, commitments and actions at global level, and establish the fundaments for a new global partnership, the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation. Following the various political declarations produced over the last decade (Monterrey, Rome, Paris and Accra), we are now confronted with a twelve page paper called the Busan Outcome Document (BOD).  The BOD includes lots of vague terms that are peculiar to the development business such as “on a voluntary basis”, “differential commitments”, “new, inclusive global partnership” and “social entrepreneurship”, some of which do not sit all that comfortably with our development and aid aspirations.

So what does Busan mean for Irish Aid and Irish Development NGOs? As the post-Busan dust begins to settle, it is now important to create some space for discussion and reflection on the key messages that came out of Busan and, most importantly, the possible implications this holds for the work of the Irish development sector.

Having taken a quick look at the BOD, I am delighted to discover some rather positive aspects, some of which, according to people who attended Busan, were introduced only after intensive advocacy and lobbying work carried out from CSO networks, from both, developing and developed countries:

  • A broad alliance of actors joined together in demanding a shift of focus, from aid effectiveness to development effectiveness. This shift may seem small, but it holds the promise of introducing a holistic approach to sustainable and equitable development for the first time.
  • New players on the development agenda, the emerging countries and the private sector, have been taken on board. The full diversity of forms and modalities of development cooperation (such as South-South co-operation, triangular co-operation, PPPs) have now been formally recognized.
  • The concept of democratic ownership has been introduced, in stark contrast to the previous hijacking of the aid effectiveness agenda by central governments of partner and donor countries alike, reaffirming the vital role of parliaments, local governments and CSOs, as key players in development.
  • BOD reaffirms the role of CSOs as independent actors (see also Istanbul Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness). This is welcomed, especially as we continue to observe a further shrinking of political and operational space for CSOs in many countries.
  • Some existing positive elements have been retained or strengthened, e.g. the use of the country system has been set as default, untying aid has been reaffirmed, aid predictability commitments have been underlined, mutual accountability has been reinforced, and finally, there is a new deal for fragile states.

However, my happiness is limited. I feel, a truly new era of development effectiveness has not yet started. A number of critical aspects highlight that we are far from an actual paradigm shift, many challenges still remain.


  • There appears to be a dangerously exaggerated focus on economic growth, and its role in the fight against poverty and inequality, and for the achievement of MDGs. In a zero-sum style, this seems to have been at the expense of important issues of human rights, democracy and governance.  There is no explicit, strong commitment on a right-based approach to development.
  • The Progress Report on Implementing the Paris Declaration states that “only one out of the 13 targets established for 2010 has been met”. Shockingly, at Busan there was no deep level of discussion on this failure to fulfill commitments and targets agreed in Paris and Accra.
  • Shifting geopolitical realities have been reflected in the document, as the role of the emerging economies such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has been recognized. But the fact that these new actors have not clearly endorsed the previous fundamental principles, commitments and standards can undermine the very spirit of PD and AAA. The adherence of BRICS to the PD, AAA and BOD common principles is on a “voluntary basis”.
  • Aid assistance is still seen more as provision of resources, mainly financial resources coming from donors, rather than a platform for knowledge and experience exchange and innovation; furthermore, little attention is devoted to domestic resource mobilization.
  • The participation of the private sector in the design and implementation of development policies is welcome, but capacity strengthening of partner governments is an essential first step.  In countries where governance is weak, state capacity to define the appropriate framework for development and adequate accountability mechanisms, there is a real danger that the fruits of private sector engagement will not lead to human development, and will even cause harm.
  • The urgent issue of shrinking CSO space in a rising number of countries was not explicitly addressed.
  • A monitoring framework with specific targets, indicators and timeframe, is not yet developed and agreed and it is unlikely that issues such as human rights, democracy and good governance will be taken into account in a future framework for monitoring and oversight of the commitments from Busan.

The BOD will have implications for Irish Aid and NGOs. The ongoing review of the White Paper of the Irish Aid is a good opportunity for reflection on the formulation and redesign of policy orientations and strategies to address the challenges raised in Busan and to reassess the policy and strategy focus for Irish development cooperation.

What should be done?

  • The rights-based approach to development needs to be efficiently and fully integrated into public policies and programmes. Thus, Irish Aid and Irish NGOs should continue to engage for the inclusion of human rights, democracy and good governance aspects into the global frameworks, following the United Nations Millennium Declaration.
  • The indicators and targets of the PD and the MDGs do not focus on human rights, democracy and good governance, peace and security, although the United Nations Millennium Declaration states these as key objectives. Thus, it is unlikely that these dimensions of human development will be taken into account in the formulation of indicators and targets in the post-Busan process. Consequently, Irish Aid and Irish NGOs should start putting these issues on the table for future discussions.
  • The broadening of the development agenda and taking new development actors on board is a good move. However, Irish Aid and Irish NGOs should select specific priority themes and issues (e.g. human rights, democracy and good governance, gender equality and women empowerment, civil society space, etc.) on the basis of where they want to see clear improvements. This will enhance targeted investment and appropriate resourcing.  These should be placed on the post-Busan table of discussions, at different forums such the UN and EU.
  • In the preparation and design of policies and programmes to support partner countries there is a need to conduct sound analysis of political economy; thus, Irish development actors, including NGOs and academic entities, should promote and invest more into this kind of focused analysis.
  • The mixture of aid delivery methods (various actors at different levels and various instruments), pursued by Irish Aid is a good approach and it should be proactively communicated and advocated for within the wider international community.
  • Irish Aid and Irish NGOs should assess the opportunities and challenges for increasing their work with parliaments, their forums and communities and local authorities in the South and North, with a focus upon reinforcing their capacities to ensure greater transparency, accountability and oversight, as well as their involvement in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes.
  • The issue of shrinking space for CSOs in partner countries needs to be monitored in a systematic and consistent manner as a matter of urgency; as improvements in the CSO enabling environment, especially in Africa, look unlikely, it is crucial that Irish Aid and Irish NGOs boost their advocacy work around Civil Society space. For instance, there is a need to improve the space for non-service delivery orientated NGOs, e.g. designing proper strategies to improve advocacy and policy capacity of those NGOs mainly working on service delivery.
  • Irish Aid and Irish NGOs should increase technical support to partners in the South in terms of their analytical capacities enabling them to actively participate in the post-Busan discussions.
  • There is a need to assess the opportunities and challenges for establishing stronger alliance with the private sector, e.g. exploring areas and strategies for collaboration and synergies, and advocating for respect of internationally recognized rights and standards, for this, more investment into political economy analysis and economic advocacy will be needed.
  • Increasingly, everyone speaks about the need to place more focus on results. I agree, but think there are still lots of issues around the very concept of results that need to be discussed. We should not dissipate our scarce resources “trying to measure what we can´t measure”. Indeed, one does not need to understand the law of gravity to realize that it is raining. For instance, the development for results framework – nowadays a MUST – should be shaped taking into account the specific country context and the complexity of the thematic area where it is being applied, so that one can develop appropriate outcome and process focused M&E indicators that demonstrate positive changes in people´s life. This is of course assuming we want a results framework to be more than an administrative task.
  • Organizational changes and additional staffing & training will be necessary in some Irish NGOs and their networks as well as their partner organizations in the South to address new strategic themes/issues, new working and learning platforms may need to be established (e.g. private sector development, business for development, transparency and accountability mechanisms for PPPs, innovative development finance, triangular cooperation, policy coherence for development).
  • In times of global economic downturns and having in mind the tough financial situation Ireland faces at the moment, it is crucial to continue support for advocacy, public engagement and development education for Irish citizens. We have a major responsibility to show the transformative change we affect as the Irish development sector and how the aid and development effectiveness agendas play a key role within that.


Further reading:

* Dóchas resources on Development Effectiveness

* Interaction blog post about Busan



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

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. goldie  |  01/02/2012 at 1:37 pm

    thanks for this!


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