From 'aid' to 'development partners': are the Rising Powers the new model for development cooperation?
The United Nations Development Cooperation Forum (UNDCF) met in New York City on 5–6 July 2012, bringing together a plethora of actors from across the public, private, and voluntary sectors, to debate successful national development policies.
In the wake of the Busan 4th High-Level Conference on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4), the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) – Russia excepted – continue to command attention, and enjoyed high visibility at the UNDCF, where they were considered the model for much of the discussion about shifting from aid to ‘development partners’. However, the BRICS countries were firm in arguing that aid commitments should be voluntary, given the internal political difficulties in justifying foreign aid while still dealing with domestic poverty. This was in sharp contrast to the regional clubs (e.g. ASEAN, Islamic Development Bank), which emphasised that all countries, rich or poor, could be both donors and recipients.
There was discussion of tighter integration between the DCF’s objectives and the Global Partnership for Development agreed at Busan, with a focus on development rather than aid effectiveness, and post-Rio+20, an emphasis on sustainable development, as well as on transparency and mutual accountability. The main concern was that if new development actors are going to participate in discussions about development cooperation, these should take place in multilateral governmental forums, rather than on an individual actor-to-actor basis.
The DCF prides itself in promoting participatory multi-stakeholder dialogue on major development cooperation issues, which meant there was extensive involvement from civil society and non-traditional donors, that is, who are not members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee. The Islamic Development Bank and Aga Khan Foundation presented in the general sessions and there were several side events on South-South Cooperation and non-traditional donors. Interestingly, there was next to no discussion on the New Deal for the g7+ and fragile states.
Civil Society from the Global South was represented, as was civil society more broadly, and they presented in the general sessions. However, their concerns – particularly regarding a financial transaction tax – were not taken up as part of the main agenda, nor were they emphasised by the other organisations present. In terms of how this compares to Rio+20, the perception at the DCF was that civil society participation in Rio had been at a record high, although being present is a very different thing from having others share your concerns.
private sector was discussed, but not present, which is curious given the
emphasis given to their role in proposed global partnerships for development. This
would seem to indicate some of the unwillingness of governments to share the
development finance space with the private sector and philanthropic
organisations. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how
this plays out, particularly in the lead-up to 2015 and the need to define
what – if anything – will replace or complement the Millennium Development
Goals. The Rising Powers’ stance on the complementarity of aid and trade is
rejected by many traditional donors, and seen with caution by others, but it is
evident that the role of the private sector – and Foreign Direct Investment more
broadly – in Africa has had a significant role in establishing the Rising
Powers as a development partner to the continent.
Photo: Sven Torfinn / Panos
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