The costs and benefits of consensus: the future of aid hangs in the balance

Three and a half thousand people have been meeting in Busan, South Korea to discuss the future of development assistance. The 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness is a tedious name for an important process - how best to organise the billions of dollars of development assistance designed to improve the lives of the poorest people on the planet.

Organising aid

Aid has traditionally been a disorganised process. Multiple donor organisations, often with their own pet priorities and projects, meeting multiple Ministers in recipient countries, and funding projects with little or no reference to the strategic priorities of the countries themselves has been standard practice for many years. A decade ago there was increasing recognition that this chaos did not work.

In 2004 and 2007 at earlier High Level Fora in Paris and Accra, donors and developing countries reached a deal. Donors would work with each other so that developing country Ministers could deal with a coordinated group, and this more coordinated group of donors would try to allocate their money to 'on budget' issues which the country itself had determined as its development priorities. Increasingly aid money took the form of budget support – direct funding of developing country government priorities. In return, developing countries would become more accountable for expenditure to their own citizens. Both developing and developed countries committed themselves to opening up their systems and publishing far more information about what money was being spent on what and with what purpose. Aid and budget transparency has increased as a result, and the Busan meeting has seen both Canada and the United States join the International Aid Transparency Initiative.

Aid has many critics but the choice of hosting this meeting in South Korea was designed as a riposte to some of them. In opening the conference, Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean President passionately paid tribute to the role aid had played in enabling his country’s transformation from a war-ravaged wreck to one of the most vibrant industrial and democratic success stories in the world – all in little more than a generation. Once dependent on foreign aid it is now an increasingly influential and confident aid donor, with an annual aid budget of $1 billion and a determination to substantially increase this in the future.

Mixing donor soup

  In Busan, this whole agenda has been tested as never before. It is facing two main challenges.

The first is that agreeing on a deal is a good deal easier than implementing it. The OECD DAC, to its credit, has been good at monitoring the implementation of earlier agreements and transparent when things have and haven't worked. There have been important successes; the number of developing countries with 'sound' national development strategies has tripled since 2005, and organised donor support to such strategies has improved.

Successes are, however, greatly outweighed by failures. Very limited progress has been made in enhancing the capacity of developing country citizens to subject aid spending or national development policies to real scrutiny. A progress report published by the DAC in advance of Busan argued that 'perhaps the most important overall finding on the implementation of the principles has been the clear and almost universal advance on making direct mutual accountability more transparent, balanced and effective.'

In total, only one out of nine key benchmarks set in Accra had been met. The background to Busan was one of failed implementation.

The second challenge is more serious still.

Despite the chill winds of the global economic crisis - felt keenly in the West and even more so by those dealing with high food and energy prices - the aid donors club is growing fast. South Korea is not the only new entrant on the scene; Brazil, India, China and other emerging economies are becoming powerful new donors themselves. Add to this mix the big private donors such as the Gates Foundation and the multiple global funding mechanisms, such as the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria and you get a rich soup of donors with very different agendas, cultures and ways of working.

A central tenet of the Busan meeting is that this expansion is badly needed. The Millennium Development Goals are off-track, the financial crisis is putting pressure on western development budgets, the problems of famine, food insecurity, energy and climate change make the need for development money ever greater. The main objective of Busan was to form a new 'Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation' which could accommodate new donor actors.

The potentially thankless task of getting common ground among this group has been one of the main challenges facing the OECD DAC in putting together an agreement. The process has struggled. A major aim of the organisers of this meeting was to get China to join this club. The hopes appeared to have been dashed when the Chinese delegation turned up and promptly announced that they would not be signing up to the declaration. In the event, China, Brazil and India and other emerging economies did agree that the declaration from the meeting would be a 'reference' for their development cooperation, but only on a voluntary basis.

There are many reasons why countries like China would not want to commit themselves more fully. It could ostensibly commit them to being far more transparent about where their money goes and for what purpose and intensify pressure to untie their aid. Besides, China like other emerging economies also see aid as south-south cooperation which historically has been politically rooted in efforts to counter Western hegemony. New models of 'triangular cooperation' are emerging, and a session at the conference on south-south cooperation focused on practical technical sharing of knowledge and experience between countries that had experienced similar development challenges. Nevertheless, joining what many developing countries see as a Western club of donors is a big step, particularly when so many of the rules of the club have been established before they have joined. Underpinning much of the debate at one fascinating conference session on the subject of Asian development cooperation was a deep-seated historical sense of national humiliation and a determination not to be in thrall to a weakened West regarded by many new actors as still bent on lecturing others on how to govern themselves.

All this raises a question. Is there a point when the search for consensus among an ever growing set of actors comes at the price of effectiveness? Many of the emerging economies are pursuing their own national interests in their aid policies, just as Western countries have done. The carefully calibrated language of the Busan outcome document is that of the lowest common denominator. It is short on clear, time-bound indicators and hard targets. It is focused on setting out rules that can be agreed by the widest range of actors.

The drafts and final text of the declaration coming out of Busan have been tailored to make it more palatable to new emerging economy entrants. The danger is that the broader the consensus, the shallower it becomes and that some important things get left out. Are we moving now towards a development consensus that everyone can live with, but few really buy into?

The cost of consensus

  I must declare an interest in this debate. The BBC World Service Trust - a charity founded by the BBC that is legally, financially and operationally independent - is not an advocacy organisation but it does strongly believe that a free and plural media, strong investigative, financial and other forms of journalism, and open and connected societies are key to making accountability work in society. The media is also key to making the issues discussed at Busan relevant to and resonant with those who have most to win or lose from the outcome of these debates.

Our work has focused significantly on working with developing country media to enable citizens in developing countries to question their political leaders in front of millions on radio and television. In the run up to Busan over the last couple of years, we have also helped organise meetings with and worked alongside the OECD DAC to document the evidence base supporting the role of media as an accountability mechanism and to highlight its relevance of media to aid effectiveness.

The word 'media' does not appear in the Busan declaration despite recommendations coming from the preparatory processes and synthesis of findings on ownership and accountability recognising its role.

There are defensible reasons for this, and too many negotiations of this kind insist on listing every group in society anyone feels are important (faith groups, youth groups, political parties and many other actors who have engaged actively in the Busan process are also not mentioned and are assumed, like media, to fall into an overall category of 'non-state actors'). However, important emphasis is placed on parliaments and civil society organisations as key sources of accountability. The omission of any language on a free media as a source of political accountability looks odd.

The Busan process is a response to how the world is changing, particularly given the growing influence and development role of emerging economies. It has as one of its central objectives to make 'domestic' accountability work better and to address the problem that development strategies are too disconnected from the people they are designed to benefit. Few disagree that media is important to this, so it seems strange and puzzling that it appears to be so overtly ignored.

It is more puzzling still given this meeting takes place in the winter following the Arab Spring. It is not just the reconfiguration of power moving from West to East and North to South that is happening. Growing access to new communication technologies and independent media is enabling more power to shift from governments to citizens, from institutions to networks, from elites to masses, from old to young. The Arab Spring was just the most powerful manifestation of this shift.

The Busan process places a strong and welcome emphasis on issues of aid transparency and opening up access to information on budgets and government processes and on the importance of civil society. It seems oblivious however to these wider changes in how citizens are holding their governments to account.

A central hypothesis remains behind the Busan process that it is governments that shape development and that the South Korean example of the past provides a blueprint for the future. Perhaps, but the world is changing in broader ways than the simple shifting of international economic and power balances. Information empowered people, companies and civil societies are increasingly driving change. A central focus on the role of the state makes sense, particularly when this process is so focused on fragile and conflict affected states - a strong case for this was certainly made by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda in his keynote address to the conference. However, present that case to the citizens of many of the Arab Spring countries and you may get a very different perspective.

The Busan process is an attempt to reach a consensus, a consensus where commitments to support the more tricky and political elements of development assistance - such as free media and a right to information - might appear problematic. The consequence is a declaration that seems consensual and reasonable, one bent on accommodating as many actors as possible. Look here for a technical consensus on development effectiveness and you will find it. Look for a vision of development effectiveness, particularly a vision rooted in the creativity and innovation with which citizens are taking control over their own futures and lives around the world and you will look in vain.

This criticism is not aimed at those organising this meeting and those facilitating the process in the OECD DAC I know are not the dry technocrats implied here. The technicality and limitations of the declaration are the inevitable cost of achieving an ever broader consensus.

The West has often messed up its development assistance. It has used aid to advance its own economic and political interests, lectured and hectored aid recipients and sometimes got things badly wrong. I would argue that it has also tried to learn from its mistakes and that, for all its problems, the aid effectiveness agreements of Paris and Accra were essentially progressive ones aimed at rectifying the mistakes of the past. They were designed to put developing countries in the driving seat, and to ensure that the accountability relationship was downwards to citizens, not upwards to donors.

That seems a precious achievement but it is built on a consensus that can only be stretched so far. The aid effectiveness agenda has achieved much that is important and all of that has been achieved through consensus. The absence of any language about the importance of a free media from the document may be telling us something about the cost of such a consensus. At some point this may become a price that stops being worth paying.

There were real achievements at this meeting. The benefits of consensus were clear - a fresh energy around aid transparency, a new and important agreement on aid to fragile states and the creation of a more global aid framework capable of accommodating very diverse aid actors.

The costs are less clear, but to this observer very real. We should get better at counting them.

James Deane is the Director of Policy at the BBC World Service Trust. The BBC World Service Trust is an international development charity which is supported by but operationally independent of the BBC. His views should not be taken to represent those of the BBC.

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Recent debates about aid

There have been a number of recent publications from Pambazuka Press related to Aid and aid (in)effectiveness that others might be interested to learn about.


Ending Aid Dependence
Yash TandonTandon cautions against the aid colonialism of the rich donor countries. Developing countries dependent on aid can liberate themselves from the aid that pretends to be developmental but is not – but it requires a radical shift in their strategy.



Demystifying Aid
Yash TandonThis pamphlet shows that 'development aid' is not what it purports to be - the effects of actions of well-meaning allies in the North who support aid to Africa for reasons of ethics or solidarity are, unfortunately, the opposite of their good intentions.


Aid to Africa: Redeemer or Coloniser?
As the global economic crisis raises alarm – not least for its likely effects on overseas development assistance – this book offers a critical analysis of aid to Africa from the diverse perspectives of African academics and activists.


Development and Globalisation: Daring to Think Differently
Yash TandonChallenging 30 years of misdirected policies, Tandon 'dares to think differently'. He offers alternative concepts and development paradigms for policy makers and peoples' movements on governance, industry, technology, climate, food, trade, aid and more.

The effectiveness of Aid has not been realistic enough

There are success stories that have futured in developing countries in rehabilitating communities affected by either natural desasters or wars through Aid. For the case of Uganda, nothern Uganda that suffered almost a 2 decade of war where thousands lost their lives, many people displaced: it is one of the most upcoming and developing regions. Gulu a regional town is fast growing and there are many children who were former child soldiers who have completed university and other tatiary institutions through aid. Watoto church in Uganda under the foundation of the American pastor has brought this to a testifiable level. This is very good.

However, my only concern is that where effectiveness of aid has not been realistic is in the case where it is channeled through the government, for re-allocation to the grass root projects (CBOs, FBOs, NGOs etc) that render direct service to the neediest of the needy communities.

Practically what i have seen in Uganda is that most projects ( That are really existing in good faith) do not get this money, instead it is allocated to some one with a single-handed and self again motivated goals, who is known to the minister in charge or the president or any influencial figure in government.

And such projects usually reach their desolution stages as soon as the "aid season or period elapses. My point is that if respective donors establish direct "grant and monitoring offices in such countries where such aid is sent, to do the assessment, the actual funding and monitoring of the funded grass root projects but only work with government in approving the goals and objecives of such small projects in relation to the national objectives and strategies.

I am a living example of this kind of story and i would call my self a victim if it was to be for my own and gain in my project that i started as a result of an a larming situation of high death rates ( due to AIDS) , high number of orphaned homes, early marriages and low level of girl child education scale up due to a culture of fishermen because where my project is located is a community that is characterized with lack of information on health issues, lack of surplies of any health related material due to remotness.

Des[pite of the efforts to feed the respective "would be concerned" officials for the back up, the issue of "tecnical know-who" comes in. This is the problem in Africa other wise aid would be effective enough to fulfill its purpose.

Bernard Balikowa

'What gets measured, gets

What gets measured, gets done' ... the problem is that nothing worth a damn gets measured. The people with resources only measure profit, GDP growth and stock market prices ... leaving most of the world's population out of the dynamic and without funds. I am appalled at the lack of 'effectiveness' in both AID and in society as a whole. Progress in science and technology has been quite amazing, while progress in society is a total mess. This is no accident ... it is a ubiquitous search for profit no matter what.

Aid effectiveness cannot work

Aid effectiveness cannot work unless the countries getting aid first get their acts together through effective planing and commitment to the plans - otherwise aid will keep on disrupting local development at the advantage of aid givers.



I still have a problem with

I still have a problem with stereotypes about West versus East and North South.  When I was in Mexico many years ago, a colleague complained that every visiting Japanese student did their theses on topics that would only help further Japanese business interests in Mexico.  That's an East country, not a West one.  Where's the evidence that only Western Countries give aid to further their own interests rather than Eastern ones?  Many countries prioritize their aid on that basis.  Examine closely why Burma just canceled the dam that the Chinese were building "for them."  Or the copper mine in Afghanistan that I heard about to be build by the Chinese.  It required that a railway line be built too to get the copper out.  The railroad line went towards China. 


The issue of self-serving, biased aid for development is valid.  It applies to all donor countries.  The Marshall plan in Europe that the US invested in right after WWII and after it experienced a horrible economic depression was a godsend to Europe and Japan.  I doubt the current US Congress or the people would pay for that now.  And yet decades later I heard Europeans say that the aid mainly benefited US business interests.  It did.  What they should have said was that the US was able to cash in on the development first because they were ready to.  In the long run . . . certainly helped Europe and Japan.  So, the issue is just not so simple minded as East-West, North-South.  What country gives away its taxpayer's money without taking it's own self-interest into account, apart from feeling good.  Larry K

For quite a decade ago, the

For quite a decade ago, the issue of aid have always be in lime light. the fact remains that it has been discussed does not give it a head way. I mean the smooth impactation that never reach the lives of the people. And again, who are the 'donars' to  the 'donees?' By your views i ordered you to carry out a feasibility research of the peoples lives  then you ll access the reality situation at stake. lfe is so short that we must know that the generation of our time ought to have partake the fruit of the said AIDS.

Aid perse is not bad but the

Aid perse is not bad but the recpient countries have failed to manage the  aid by;
- stealing the funds eg global fund in Uganda
- Diverting funds to purchase armies
Not sorting out their priorities
- lack of ownership by the govts to projects set up
The gvts cannot invest using the aid b;se they are ever expectant for more

Develpment aid

Aid should have levels at which it operates and not just mere hand outs as is the most case in the giving of aid. One does not have to use alot thinking to know that countries that require aid are those that have fragile economies and hence can't internally deal with human catastrophic disasters that more often happen due to poor infrastructure to prevent such disasters or reduce the magnitude of their destruction. The givers of aid ,in my personal opinion have a deliberate agenda to keep on giving aid. I thought by now it is common knowledge that what aid recipients need is technological transfer in addition to aid. Material Aid should be for the emergency phase, rehabilitation for the recovery  phase and long term planning should be characterised by technological transfer to prevent future external  aid nee,  if sustainability is to be attained. Otherwise the motives of aid givers will be misinterpreted by people that think like myself.

Molly Tumusiime


Why China will not commit fully on aid

What this tells is that the Chinese saw the future. this comes to mind when looking at the clamour being made by UK and US over gay right for AIDS.

I think its right time, African countries emulate China and development other alternatives than depending on West countries for AIDS.

25 years and little change!

Is good that we are again addressing-on scale-the issue of aid effectiveness. But we (as aid workers) knew that it was not 20 years ago-5 years into my overseas development 'career'. Many aid projects at all levels and across sectors were failing as soon as the money stopped flowing and sometimes before. 25 years later I still see the same problems of poverty, powerlessness and premature death when i visit Africa and Asia even though in that time the aid enviroment has significantly changed. So what it is still useful to ask the basic questions about aid effectiveness. To me the pivotal issue is trust/social capital-or lack of it, both between aid agencies and recipients and within countries. Aid is costly to deliver, aid conferences are costly to hold, aid workers are coistly to employ. Bednets, wells, education etc are cheap. Development cooperation, participation and empowerment are the solutions but this can only happen when we have more trust between partners. More trust requires better governance, democracy (or equivalent) and community based involvement. Aid agencies have tried to change government etc but with little success. The onus for change within countries and that will reshape aid and lead to far greater control by developing countries must come from within through collective action, mobilization, organisation and activism-could aid agencies support the begining of actions such as we have seen in N. Africa recently-we must in order to bring about the social and olitical changes that are necessary.



I partially agree with the Raymond Ablorh from Nigeria who said that Africa does not need aid, she needs trade.

In Malawi, the backbone of the economy has been tobbacco, tea, coffee and cotton. Peasant farmers work the soil with hoes to sell these cash crops. However, the buyers - who unfortunately is the West - offer very very prices. These guys are middlemen who buy direct from Africa to resell in the West, at a profit, and sell the processed goods back to Africa, at yet another profit.

The government of Malawi has always asked farmers to add value to their farm produce - but unfortunately they lack resources (financial or machinery). In Malawi, the government introduced the farm input subsidy programme where peasant farmers have bought fertilisers and improved maize seed at subsidised rates. However, this has not gone well with some westerners. But all the government is trying to do is to make every very poor (the poorest of the poor) to be food secure.

Africa is being given a raw deal in trade. PERIOD. and the west is pretty aware that given a good leverage, Africa can do well and not depend on their aid with 'strings attached'.


The west has attached its aid with issues of governance. this has been very tricky as most governments have not done well in this area. but who suffers? its not the politicians - its the ordinary villager. and these issues of governance - the west depend on media reports - the very media that has been 'left out' with the other non-state actors.

Governments of developing countries have been advised to set up institutions that check on governance issues. Like in Malawi, we have the Ombudsman, Law Commission, Public Prosecutor, the Anti-Corruption Bureau, and the Police Reform. However, these instutitions need donor support if they are to work independent of government influence. so there is need for direct donor support to such structures.

The donors have also attached their aid with their priorities. Like in Malawi, the hot issue is on minority rights - more especially gays and lesbians. Much as such practices do happen, they are culturally and religiously a taboo. The politician in Malawi can not come in the open to say they will advance or support such rights so that they get aid. They have the donor on one hand and the voter (general public) in the other. They must dump one or the other. No wise politician will dump the voter. The donors must clearly refocus on this.

In Malawi, we have Civil Society Organisations which advance issues of human rights, governance, HIV/AIDS, Agriculture - etc. Most CSOs are under the COuncil for Non Governmental Organisations in Malawi (CONGOMA). Most CSOs get direct support from the International Community. The media (radios, television, newpapers, bloggers, etc) does the checks & balances on both the government and the CSOs. But in case of newspapers and radios, if they critique the government too much - the government can decide not to give them business. Governments in most African countries are the biggest advertisers. So if the media can be supported to be independent, free, and self sustainable - the better it will be for transparency.

Governments in Africa should also be encouraged to pass the free access to public information bills. In Malawi, sadly, the Access to Information Bill is yet to be tabled in Parliament. The local chapter of NAMISA has tried to lobby for its tabling, but it seems the MPs have their own priorities. 

If only governments of developing countries and CSOs could together advance the priorities of the masses, and then the donors bankroll them, and the media check and report - what a better world we would live in.


Joseph Mtemang'ombe

Mzuzu - Malawi



Aid accountability is hollow without citizens participation

 By Mkama Mwijarubi

I agree with you on lack of mention of media and its participation in development agenda in unacceptable. Media cannot be summarized simply into non-state actors, for a number of reasons:

In Africa, where much of aid from donors goes, media is still a state enterprise. Where it is not state-owned, the state has a formal and informal grip on media mouthpiece.


Aid recipient countries lack well-functioning and substantive freedom of information acts. In Tanzania for instance, the Parliament rejected a draft freedom of information act, partly because of advocacy by media professional bodies. Now it is on the drawing board and has lagged for two years. Resurrecting such slackness cannot be left to non-state actors alone to deal with. Governments should be held to account through international initiatives to institute laws that empower citizens to hold their authorities accountable. The Busan meeting missed this opportunity.


Put it differently, I am of the opinion that Busan set up a stage for broader participation in aid effectiveness at donor level but overlooked participation of the beneficiaries recipient countries.


Looking at the participation and the results of this meeting I observe the following:

 Busan conference, attracted more Government participation that preceding Aid Effectiveness conferences.  AITI, the powerfully emerging global aid transparency initiative, registered signatures from US and Canada during this meeting, totaling 25 signatories who account for nearly 80 percent of official development aid. This diverse guest list shows how effectiveness of aid is gaining importance.

Busan forum will also be remembered for putting new donor countries into aid effectiveness agenda. Probably this will be the greatest achievement of the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. China, Brazil, South Korea (the host of the meeting made their mark on this stage. Their entrance increases likelihood of donor accountability and openness in the future. Geopolitical issues are mixed with entry of emerging economies into the donor club. The agreement reached in Busan reflect the meeting’s emphasis on basic inclusion of new donors who did not want to dance with set rules.

It is an open secret that economic and national interests are attached to aid. Busan managed to get consensus of emerging economies by bending backward to make sure that new donors can be accommodated in a new global aid partnership and still use aid to pursue their national interests at the time when Western donors have been gradually working to create a global system that balance donor interests with recipient interests. In other words new donors have been given time to grow. But, at whose costs?

After Rome, Paris, even Accra, aid architecture has remained the same. Donors congregate together. Recipient countries lack capacity to hold donors accountable. Available and emerging accountability initiative are created on the demand side, therefore no matter how many members they gather, their interests in what aid data they deem important, how they promote incentives they attach to transparency and accountability reflect a donor perspective. Busan show promise to tip the balance, but it is too early to draw conclusions.


Emerging transparency and accountability initiatives follow the historical aid architecture. OECD DAC is dominated by donors, understandably. Initiatives like AITI and Publish What you Fund are dominated by civil society. Recipient countries lack similarly equipped initiatives to build capacity of citizens to demand accountability from their governments. Africa Monitor addresses this challenge in Africa, but it lacks enough clout.


These transparency and accountability arrangements that follow the historical aid architecture mold are not necessarily bad. However the architecture would have been balanced if the capacity gap in recipient nations was addressed.

 To attain ideal situation recipient governments should be transparent to their citizens about aid. But in reality citizens are in the dark about what aid should do for them. Recipient governments have not done enough and lack incentive to empower their citizens to follow up. CSOs in developing countries have not achieved this goal either. Without a citizenry that can demand accountability from its government in terms of better service delivery, the vicious cycle of aid will not be complete. Aid will remain an abstract issue of discussion in officialdom, as it is now, detached from very beneficiary.

Citizens Participation

Citizen participation is a must as the aid provided is for the citizen itself. Also the transperancy of the fund provided for the citizen should be there so that they can very well get the benefit from it.

business broadbandfr

For my almost 20 years of

For my almost 20 years of development aid management/supervision experience, i have seen programs and projects come and go and left nothing but vacuum, an empty space left for the developing country to continuously fill in with or without support from aid agencies.

While reading the article on aid effectiveness, i was just so tempted to air my pessimism and cynicism. This leads me to even think whether development aid is still effective in bringing positive transformation to developing countries, particularly as we wage war against environmental destruction, climate change and poverty eradication.

Is it still valid to think that the end justifies the means? Or better be that the means will justify the end? Following the result based management (RBM)/ MfDR parlance we often would say focus on the outcomes and impact and not on the outputs and activities. But isn’t necessary that before you can even claim contribution to the greater good (outcome and impact) that you need to be certain on what you have produced and accomplished in terms of outputs? This means therefore that the costs and benefits should be assessed at both outputs and impact levels. VALUE FOR MONEY is often left out in the equation for measuring development results.

In my view, we should go back to basics: we should again revisit the basic elements in implementing development aid. We should seriously account for what we have produced in terms of outputs, how much and how long and on what means?

When we are already certain on the “what and how much”, then we can safely claim with high degree of confidence that we have contributed to the higher level development goals.

The paper written for the

The paper written for the conference was pitched a too high a level of abstraction for me, and with language meant for political consumption.  In the excerpt below from whom I assume as James Deane, there is already a fundamental contradiction.   In the beginning an especially strong conclusion is prematurely stated that:


"A decade ago there was increasing recognition that this chaos did not work."


Then at the bottom the following statement is made by the host from South Korea:


"In opening the conference, Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean President passionately paid tribute to the role aid had played in enabling his country’s transformation from a war-ravaged wreck to one of the most vibrant industrial and democratic success stories in the world – all in little more than a generation." 


I hope that this glaring contradiction did not go unnoticed in the conference and that considerable attention was given to how development aid, both North-South and South-South, played a role in the remarkable development that occurred in that country.  I was fortunate to work in that country during the 1970s, so I was able to witness first hand how and how rapidly the changes were occurring at all levels from the smallest villages to the nation as a whole.  I also had the opportunity to evaluate the national village development program and the Korean mothers club program at the village level.  Frankly, I did not see any of the "chaos" that is mentioned below in the blog.  Undoubtedly, mistakes were made, but the progress and ownership of the process was very clear.  There's a nice case study of one village leader's role in the success of the Mothers Club program in the book I coauthored with Ev Rogers, Communication Networks.  The role of external aid from the government, mass media influence and encouragement, and above all the internal dynamics of the women who participated is quite clear in this case.  Ultimately, some 15,000 local villages were transformed by this and related processes.  The international economic environment as well as internal dynamics played a role.  In the private sector, I had a chance to witness the development of both the Daewo and Hyundai automobile companies that were originally co-owned by GM and Ford, respectively, until the government required that majority ownership be Korean.  The success of these industrial giants today, not to mention it's one-time role as the largest ship-building country in the world (from a base of zero) or the leading role played by its electronic/tech companies such as Samsong, etc., is also well known.  Some of these industrial giants --like Apple and Microsoft -- started in what amounts to tin garages.   Huge international investments were made from the outside as the conflict among the giants who surrounded them subsided.  It's one of the few places in the world that found itself in the middle of armed conflict between superpowers from three major continents--Russia, China, Europe, and the US, not to mention Japan next door.  


As the development community focuses attention on countries that have not been able to accomplish this level of development, I hope it does not lose sight of the ones that did.  There are many.  Very few people besides myself still consider the US to be a developing country.  The nature and rate of its development should not be ignored either.  That it still faces serious challenges to its future development is becoming increasingly obvious.  Development is not a binary state that turns from off (0) to on (1) at some magic moment in history.  It's highly dynamic and a requirement for every country, not just poorer ones.  Any country that does not continue to find new ways to develop, locally and nationally, will soon find itself listed among the poorer ones.  You can trace the roots of one source of American development, as well a Europe, back to a policy implemented in Scotland in the early 1700s, some 50 years ahead of any other country: a requirement that every parish set aside one room or building for a school and hire at least one teacher, for both male and female students.  [Gender equity, in this sense, was assumed from the beginning.]  One of the consequences of this policy was a boom several years later in publishing companies in Scotland and the printing of something to read besides the bible,and, of course, all kinds of innovation and technological development.  This and other elements are documented in a book "How Scotland invented the modern world."  It's a serious study in the development of Scotland and how it affected the rest of the world, especially the US which immediately took up that commitment to education for both sexes.  Ironically, some of this was  proposed in Daniel Lerner's ancient book on modernization, which was highly criticized after it was written by scholars who preferred to emphasize local traditions and autonomous, spontaneous development.  The thesis was considered too liberal and American biased some ten years after it was published and it's main proposals rejected:  urbanization, education (literacy), mass media, and especially democratic, participatory political structures which follow from the former.   The authors all died before the fall of the Soviet Union, well before the changes we're now witnessing in the Middle East, and elsewhere, generated to a great degree by people with higher education and no economic opportunity, the mass media greatly supplemented by the internet that cannot be as easily blocked and distorted, and a passionate commitment to shared power via participatory democracy.  All of these factors in development were widely criticized during the latter part of the 1970s and the 1980s.  It's a thesis that deserves serious reconsideration by those looking for ways to accelerate the rate of development today in areas where it is not happening fast enough. 


 Larry Kincaid


Thanks for such an interesting reply.  I won't reply to the intriguing comments on modernisation theory, but did want to clarify how I introduced the issue of aid. 

I said there was recognition that "this chaos did not work".  The chaos I was referring to was not aid itself, but the way in which it was organised.   I was trying to reflect the fact that there are those who believe aid is critical to development and those (seemingly many people on the communication initiative site) who believe that aid doesn't work. 

My view is that without aid, many health, education, social and other services will be severely impacted in some of the poorest countries and the prospects for development will be impaired, but that there is much that needs to be improved in how it works.  South Korea and other countries suggest it can work.  That broadly was why this meeting was organised - to make aid more effective. because it wasn't effective enough  The blog was not centrally focused on whether aid was good or bad, but to the extent that it is seen to be needed, how it can work better.   To me the meeting and the process behind it reflects an aid community that is changing and adapting to new realities and which learns from its mistakes.  As the blog says, I may not fully subscribe to the priorities and models that the aid effectiveness debate has agreed at Busan, but I also believe that the whole aid sector can be too easily characterised as a monolithic, unchanging, disconnected industry.  How aid works is changing....there are compelling perspectives that argue that the whole principle of aid is flawed, but for those of us who believe it is needed, the debate needs to be about how it can work better. My view is that the degree to which the aid sector doesn't really engage with issues of media and communicaiton is a major missing ingredient in the aid reform agenda and makes it less relevant to 21st century realities and to how it connects to those most in need of aid.  Unless there was this kind of debate, however, it would be difficult to make that case.  Aid is needed, the way it is spent is changing - it's best to engage with that process of change. 

James Deane


Aid does not necessarily = development

And the Busan declaration does little to convince me that we will see much change in the power dynamic any time soon. Yes a recognition of new players and of south-south cooperation, but not much on civil society or civil society organisations.

I argued in World Today (Chatham House) that we needed more from Busan

and feel that we will only see over the coming years whether real change can be achieved. I would agree that a free press as part of a vibrant civil society is an essential element of genuine development and hope to see more thinkers and doers (especially doers) responding to the call to empower local organisations at the same time as holding them to account.


Africa needs TRADE not AID

As far back as 1964, African countries were asking for better trade and not aid; sadly, today, we are talking more about aid than trade. When would Africans seek the exit of the global aid achitecture and stop begging for more unpredictable aid? One could definately not call himself or herself independent if his or her mouth resides in someone's kitchen.

It is no secret that the post- September 11 factors influencing global aid delivery have virtually nothing to do with the development needs and priorities of the African people; meanwhile, they continue to jubilate over fluid concepts like development effectiveness; aid effectiveness, etc.

Moreover, the question stinging many minds is how could Africa leaders utilize aid deliveries prudently towards the ultimate development of their people when they are unable to use their internally generated funds wisely.

Perhaps, the Busan forum was lackadaisic towards free media because participants are not committed to the principles of transparency and accountability as they claim. Otherwise, how could anybody talk about partcipation and citizens' ownership without free media. The best people to represent the citizens are themselves and they cannot be informed, educated and encouraged to get involved without the intergration of free media.

The emphasis should be on FAIR TRADE and not AID; and here, Africa should not be forever reduced to a large farm and an exporter of nothing but raw materials. Neither should this naturally rich continent be reduced to a supermarket where foreign good are retailed. THE MOST EFFECTIVE AID THE DEVELOPED WORLD COULD GIVE AFRICAN PEOPLE IS FAIR TRADE, NOT GRANTS, LOANS, ETC.




Yes to trade

Fair comment.

The aid effectiveness debate is moving to a "development effectiveness" agenda.  The Busan discussions were not just focused on aid, but on trade, reform of taxation and many other issues.  I chaired a session on "Illicit Corrupt Flows" focused on what the West should be doing in releasing or recovering the money squirelled away in Western bank acocunta by corrupt actors and other iliicit funding - that had nothing to do with aid.  The Busan agenda is an increasingly comprehensive one where aid is seen as a catalyst.  My view is that it could go further and understand better that the way in which economic, political and social change is increasingly taking place in many countries is being galvanised by information and communication empowered citizens, civil society and companies, not only by states, and that access to media and communication is shifting the way that change takes place.  However, my critique of the Busan declaration rests alongside a recognition and respect for an agenda that is increasingly realistic and comprehensive ins scope and analysis.  It is incomplete and weakened by the lack of recognition of media and communicaiton issues.

James Deane



Development Aid in South Africa by Michael Gogwane South Africa

During apartheid the Development aid played a major role in dismantling apartheid systems it funded many good causes that were directly or indirectly challenging system through education, capacity building of civil society organs, etc.

But, today in South Africa we have serious challenge of disappearance of good, credible and important organizations because of lack of funding. International donors have signed bilateral agreements with government hence the bulk of funds are channeled to government coffers. This arrangement had negatively impacted the civil society as many NGO's, CBO's and FBO's had to close their doors because of funding on the other hand South African government has set up structures that are supposed to finance development work these structures are not meeting their targets due to bureaucracy and incapacities.

For me aid work effectively and efficiently when all the stakeholders are part of the process in designing, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.