Jérome Sauvage is Deputy Director of the UNDP Representation Office in Washington, D.C.
Follow him on Twitter: @sauvage_coord
06 Mar 2014
In Washington, D.C., a number of U.S. Government agencies and think tanks are preparing for the forthcoming Mexico Ministerial Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.
At a recent prep meeting, I met enthusiasts and skeptics. The optimists pointed at the progress achieved from Monterrey 2002 to Busan 2011 and how the Paris Declaration started to align programs with developing countries’ priorities. This brought more harmonization and accountability between donor and recipient countries. The process now includes inter-governmental, civil society and private-sector actors and addresses gender equality, climate-change financing and the fight against corruption.
The skeptics think that the “aid business” is beyond repair, that the so-called aid effectiveness agenda does not measure "effectiveness" but "efficiency" — looking at bureaucratic processes rather than the actual impact of aid on reducing poverty. One of their spokespersons, American scholar William Easterly, attributes a good share of aid’s failings to a lack of feedback and accountability: “The needs of the poor don’t get met because the poor have little political power with which to make their needs known and they cannot hold anyone accountable to meet those needs.”
But optimists and skeptics seem to agree on one thing: the need to reform the aid architecture before the world gives in to fatigue — and to a free-for-all of disorganized and even less accountable initiatives.
This, to me, is the challenge of the Development Effectiveness process: to reform aid to the benefit and agreement of all actors, and firstly those we are meant to serve. As co-Secretary to the Chairs (Indonesia, UK, Nigeria) in Mexico, our organization can play a major role to help meet this challenge.
One angle of approach is UNDP's strong advocacy for the poor, at the field level and on the international scene.
One book provides a possible direction. Time to Listen (Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid) gathers voices, insights and lessons from people across 20 countries on the receiving end of international aid. It points out that communities overall wish to be better listened to.
Listening implies respect, information and participation. It secures greater sustainability. And if listening requires more deliberate, even slower delivery, that is a subject best discussed at a Development Effectiveness forum.
Talk to us: How can we put listening to the poor at the heart of development effectiveness?