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Busan Forum Reveals Growing Democratization of Aid

Available in: Français, العربية, Español
  • Diverse community weighs in on aid effectiveness at meeting in Busan, Korea.
  • The past decade has seen a "laser-sharp" focus on results among both aid donors and recipients.
  • New Open Aid Partnership supported by 7 donors aims to map aid flows and avoid duplication of efforts.

November 29, 2011 —In 2003, 28 officials from aid-recipient countries and 40 representatives from multilaterial and bilateral institutions met in Rome to try to figure out how to get better results from aid.

Eight years later, the conversation at the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea, November 29 to December 1, involves 2,000 participants.

They're government ministers from industrialized and developing countries, representatives from mulitlateral institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations, civil society organizations, nongovernmental institutions, and the private sector. They've planned some 50 side events outside the official meetings.

The new diversity of aid actors reflects a changing world in which traditional donors face tighter budgets and developing countries propel world growth. In addition, aid-recipient countries are more willing and able to take charge of their future, World Bank Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati said in an op-ed this month: "In this truly multi-polar world, the traditional aid relationship of donors and recipients—which often implies teachers and students—is simply obsolete."

Bank Ranked High on Transparency

The World Bank goes to Busan with a track record of supporting developing countries in charge of their own development. More recently, the Bank has moved to tap the expertise of outside researchers and innovators by opening up information and data and offering new tools, such as Aidflows, to track financing.

A key focus now is on building institutions, so schools and health clinics operate smoothly after they're built, and, on increasing social accountability to empower citizens and improve services.

"We’ve implemented aid transparency ourselves and encouraged other donors to become more transparent; we’ve also urged partner countries to make their budgets more transparent," says Barbara Lee, manager of Bank's Aid Effectiveness unit.

Outside reviews of the Bank’s performance indicate that efforts have yielded tangible results. This month, the aid watchdog Publish What You Fund ranked the Bank as "best performer" in aid transparency out of 58 donors for the second year running.

The Center for Global Development and Brookings Institution ranked the Bank's fund for the poorest countries, the International Development Association (IDA), as top donor in its transparency and learning category in its Quality of Official Development Assistance Assessment. IDA was one of only three donors out of 31 that made it into the top 10 of all four dimensions assessed.

"Laser-Sharp" Focus on Results

One of the biggest changes over the past decade has been a "laser-sharp" focus on results among both donors and recipients, says Axel van Trotsenburg, Vice President of Concessional Finance and Global Partnerships, the group within the World Bank that administers IDA. That focus has translated into progress on Millennium Development Goals such as access to education, water, and health care, he says.

"The donor country wants the best value for the aid dollar, but maybe more importantly, the beneficiary country wants to improve the education of its children and ensure that kids get vaccinated and that families can bring their produce to market," says van Trotsenburg. "They want a better life."

To that end, the Bank has been working with governments, civil society organizations, the private sector and other development partners to expand access to better-quality human development and infrastructure services and to social safety nets during recent crises, says Joachim von Amsberg, World Bank Vice President of Operations Policy and Country Services (OPCS). In addition, "We have deepened our measuring, monitoring, and reporting on results, and will continue to broaden and improve these efforts," he says.

Aid-recipient countries and donors increasingly want to track aid flows and avoid duplication of effort. And a move to gather feedback on projects from people on the ground is just beginning.

Open Aid Partnership Introduced in Busan

Seven donors (World Bank, United Kingdom, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Estonia and Finland) have endorsed a new Open Aid Partnership that will expand the work of the World Bank Institute's Mapping for Results—a program that has mapped 30,000 World Bank project locations in 145 countries. Already, projects financed by 27 donors have been geocoded and mapped for Malawi. Nepal's aid flows and public expenditures have also been mapped under the program.

"Open Aid is about is how we go from knowing what one donor is doing in one country to knowing what all donors are doing in that country," says Aleem Walji, WBI's Innovation Practice manager.

Eventually, the goal is to geocode and map all public infrastructure and expenditures and to empower civil society organizations and citizens to provide feedback. "Technology is not just a way to broadcast information, but it's a way to listen better," says Walji.

Development a Two-Way Street

And development is also becoming more of a two-way street, with emerging donors like India and Brazil commonly providing assistance through knowledge exchange and sharing. The Bank's South-South Experience Exchange Facility has supported this concept through 73 grants to 52 countries in the last three years.

Several countries that once received assistance—such as China, Chile, Korea, and Turkey—became part of a global coalition to support the fund for the poorest countries. Emerging donors increased contributions from $800 million three years ago to almost $6 billion during last year's fund-raising campaign, says van Trotsenburg.

"We would like to see a much broader debate about development challenges, incorporating the excellent work of the traditional donor community, but benefiting from the unique experience of emerging partners who have themselves, sometimes in spectacular ways, reduced poverty," he says.

The Bank wants to "embrace all forms of development cooperation and build and maintain partnerships beyond aid," says von Amsberg. "We have to better leverage our limited resources by, for example, encouraging a greater role for the private sector and private foundations, and working with some of the middle-income countries that have become strong partners of development today."

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