Governance and Aid Effectiveness: Towards Busan

Donors are keen to play their part in improving governance in developing countries and see the inclusion of governance on the aid effectiveness agenda as an important entry point in this regard. But the role that donors can play in directly shaping the landscape of politics and governance in developing countries is – and should be – limited, for reasons of leverage, understanding and legitimacy. The most helpful thing that donors can do is to nurture an environment of transparency and accountability within which locally-appropriate solutions can emerge.

To inform the agenda on governance and aid effectiveness in the run up to the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, the Belgian EU Presidency – in collaboration with ECDPM and the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s Network on Governance (GOVNET) – organised a roundtable on Domestic Accountability and Aid Effectiveness as part of the European Development Days in December. The roundtable brought together experts from Ghana, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Nigeria, Ecuador and the OECD, giving a strong southern focus to discussion.

I had the task of producing a report from the meeting, bringing together some key messages about how donors can best support the strengthening of domestic accountability in developing countries. The report welcomes the fact that the aid effectiveness agenda is paying more attention to governance, but strikes a cautious note – urging donors to think carefully before they go full steam ahead, again, trying to use aid to shape governance in developing countries.

The full report is available here. The key messages are:

  • Domestic accountability, legitimate governance and well-balanced state-society relations are crucial for good development outcomes.
  • Donors make a difference to the workings of domestic accountability in developing countries, including through the ways in which they provide aid.
  • Donors have a responsibility and an interest in ensuring that aid strengthens rather than undermines domestic accountability. To do this, donors should provide aid through country systems and help to build the capacity of key organisations such as parliaments, the media and civil society organisations to exercise effective accountability over the use of aid and domestically-generated resources.
  • Domestic accountability is, however, driven primarily by domestic politics. This has implications for what donors can effectively do to support the strengthening of domestic accountability.
  • Rather than encouraging the adoption of particular models of governance, donors should seek to nurture the environment of transparency and accountability out of which appropriate solutions to the challenges of development might emerge, led and owned by local stakeholders. 
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