"The reason we demand accountability is because there is no trust. There is a general lack of trust. You cannot buy trust. Neither can you successfully impose it. So in order to get accountability, to get trust, you need to foster
it through shared responsibility."
Emilia Peres, East-Timor
Yesterday the two weeks of high-level getting together came to a close. The internet and live coverage made it possible to follow even all sessions that were planned simultaneously. At one time I found myself interacting with two sessions simultaneously using twitter ((#HPLF and #DCF) and two screens. The side-meetings on Disaster Risk Reduction and Open Data that both captured my attention.
Another side-meeting, that was not broadcasted for some reason, was the lunch-meeting where the Netherlands and Mexico as co-chairs of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) presented their key-messages to the DCF. Anyhow, their message also featured at session 5 of the Development Coopration Forum about accountability entitled: "Ensuring the quality and effectiveness of development cooperation." This session was moderated by Mr. Danny Sriskanderajah, Secretary-General of CIVICUS and reported on in this blog.
DCF's 3rd Global Accountability Survey
First Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, was allowed to present the results of the DCF 3rd Global Accountability Survey, a follow-up from the High Level symposium in Vienna in 2009. The survey was used by GPEDC as a basis for measuring their indicators for accountability. Though at the time of writing of this blog I could not trace a digital version online, a draft of the same document had already been presented at a DCF high-level meeting in Germany earlier this year. This survey identified key-enablers for mutual accountability:
1. solidified trust between governments and their development partners
2. balance owners of monitoring and reporting to free up capacites in developing countries
3. make better use of cost-effective modalities of predictable funding with limited conditionalities
Findings of the survey showed 'progress' with 46 out of 50 countries having development policies with locally driven monitoring and results frameworks scoring much better in aid delivery as a result. Lack of availability of useful information was seen as a major hurdle for effective accountability. Improved parlementary scrutinty of development policies is required.
Key-messages from the GPEDC
Secondly the GPEDC was allowed to share their perspective on accountability. Mr. Juan Manuel Valle Perena of the Mexican Agency of International Devleopment delivered the key-messages from the GPEDC. "We have a more flexible and informal setting at the GPEDC. The possibility to have actors that might not be here is also helpful." The latter was a clear reference to the possibility to invite multinationals to the forum having their say in world affairs. Mr. Juan stated that "The core business of the partnership is to improve the quality of international cooperation, ensuring transparency and predictability and alignment with countries' priorities and that there is a planning and implementation of these priorities in a result oriented fashion and that we can properly measure the results we get."
In terms of the relationship between GPEDC and DCF it was emphasized by GPEDC that their results based approach, inclusive dialogues and systemic gathering of evidence are complementary to the processes of DCF. Mr. Juan made reference to the ODA discourse and the financial logic stressing the need for alignment to what we want which is minimise the risks of our investments. Transparency and predictability and alignment with priorities of receipient countries is needed. Furthermore GPEDC wants to not only focus on LDCs but also include MDCs, acknowleding the flaws of GDP as indicator for development. The importance of mobilising resources improving taxation systems was emphasized. Furthermore southern expertise is to be valued better and cooperation with business partners as new partners in development is actively sought.
Civil society perspectives
The subsequent discussion brought some civil society perspectives to the forefront, clearly staged beforehand since the moderator knew name and affiliation of Codillia Lonsdale of Development Initiatives reflecting on the third question that was posed to the panel on how accountability mechanisms can incentivise positive behavioral change. According to Development Initiatives one way of achieving this goal is to harness the power of citizens participation and enhancing accountability providing feedback on public spending. She pointed to two practical ways of getting proper feedback that will drive change, based on experience in East-Africa and Nepal: 1) User friendly information about development projects has to get into the hands of sub-national decision-makers because that are well-placed to monitor impacts. Development actors should produce timely and forward looking data in a machine readable format that can be accessed and used by these stakeholders. 2) We cannot practically seek feedback without investing in statistical capacity at all levels. John Synclair from the North-South institute in Canada also emphasized the need for accountability getting to the poor themselves. How to engage the people that we are targeting with all these efforts displayed these days between DCF and GPEDC and the like.
Anthony Smith of DFID brought forward the accountability mechanisms used in the UK. He pointed to the need to be accountable to tax payers in the UK in terms of why the budget for ODA was made available: for poverty reduction and humanitarian aid. He dwelled on the importance to have the knowledge industry on board in evaluating the impact of development efforts spending 3% of the budget (300 million pound) on assessments, evaluations and research and transparency about the knowledge that has been generated. He also pointed to competing interest and admitted that coherence is something the UK has great difficulty to live up to. What helps is being transparent about the trade-offs and have a seperate development Minister which is represented at the National Security Council level. When it comes to accountability mechanisms the sticks are needed more at national level and carrots at international level, displayed by the multitude of voluntary initiatives.
Toikeusse Albert Mabri from Ivory Coast, agreed with the need for better statistics and the like and made reference to governance reforms already made by countries like Ivory Coast, Marocco and Rwanda leading to bette results. However, he also stated that donors must keep their promises and deliver on capacities for having better statistics at national and regional levels to enable governments to be assessed by internally and externally on development results.
Emilia Pires from East Timor was asked to share the experience of South-South cooperation.In an emotional contribution she pointed to the core of the problem being discussed. Coming in as new Minister of Finance with her Australian educaton she was trying to reform it. Asking for the one who manages the contracts she was referred to a low-raking officer copying the contracts and filing them. This to her resembles the way many countries were managing their contracts also in the context of the MDGs. "We should go through these 'contracts' together. We should understand what the MDGs are. I had arguments with the UN. The secretariat of the MDGs should be with me not with them. Because it is about me. This changed our behavior, making me more responsible for it, since it was about us."
First reaction to failing is often penalizing she continued. However, first we need to know if enough resources are available to deliver. "Everybody was to support East Timor. Nobody wanted to invest in the hardware. I had to fight International NGOs as we did not even have a chair and table or a car to go from A to B. Everybody wanted to invest in the soft stuff." She suggested the audience to change shoes. "I was working for the WorldBank and the UN. Than I became Minister of Finance. Than I understood how people were thinking. Do you trust me? Everybody wants to succeed, so depart from that point."
She made reference to the example of Guinee Bissau where all donor countries sanctioned it telling Guinee Bissau they first needed to organize a legitimate government. But how to organize elections without resources? They came out to East Timor and received a helping hand. "We had to buy the stuff from countries that were boycotting Guinee Bissau. Now that an elected government is in place everybody wants to associate with it. That is what is wrong with the international community. We have lost the compassionate sense of human being. We just have to go back to the basics."
Mrs. Nowveliso Nyukwana from South-Africa brought the perspective of the local government. "If you want to be sure that there is effectiveness that is measured if we recognize the role of local government. Because the people, civil society, businesses are there in the local space. From the local space upward. I am saying this with the experience I have from the local government. Peer-to-peer capacity building between South-african and Netherlands municipalities were brought to the forefront. The partnership and agenda is informed by local challenges, which in our case is unemployment. The relationship should be based on long-term partnership. Take the example of decentralisation. The local government is already knowledgable and has a broad range of succesful approaches."
Mr. Felix Mutati from Zambia gave a strong statement about one of the major preconditions for accountability. "Accountability must be centred on the people, their needs, their anxieties and their hopes. It must secure and be used as an instrument of promoting trust between the state and its people. You must start at the national level, clearly defining the responsiblity an dreinformecemnt mechangisms. From the parliamentarian perspective, The lack of independency of the spring audit compromises the effectiveness of accountability. We rely on the reports given to us by the Auditor Generals. Secondly, most support goes through the budget, direct budget report. Translating those agreements and an assessment mechanisms in order to hold governments squarely accountable is lacking. We have also seen the imposement side of accountability. It is on how do you ensure that you enforce accountability if you cannot respect the auditor report, if you are lacking information." The role of supreme audit institutions was also emphasized by an Austrian parlementarian.
Concluding Mr. Danny Sriskanderajah once again emphasized the importance of accountablity for public confidence and faith.The holistic nature of what we are talking about, you cannot buy and impose trust. We need accountability mechansims that are positive. On top of that better information and data is needed.
All-in-all it was the most interesting session where southern countries really challenged many northern development providers on their level of engagement, echoing the words of Robert Chambers with whom the first day of the Development Cooperation Forum was opened: The language dramatically changed over the years. Participation, relationship, power dynamics, complexity and the like have been exchanged for partnership, results-based-management and accountability. The soul seems to be out of the matter with agencies living of poverty and competing with each other for scarce resources. Hope the SDGs will be tangible goals that will be delivered on. The zero-draft has little to offer in that respect, despite the open working group wanting a transparent and inclusive process. Few agencies and member states have warmheartedly embraced the draft SDGs. I guess Mr. Sajdik has some homework.