Helen Clark: Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness

Nov 29, 2011

I congratulate our Korean hosts and the OECD for organizing the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness here in Busan. 

We are here representing governments, multilateral organisations, civil society, the private sector, parliaments, research institutions, and more. We are a very large and diverse group of development actors.

In that diversity lies opportunity. Experience shows that there are many paths to development, but we come together to signal our shared resolve, across the disciplines, perspectives, and countries we represent, to meet the Millennium Development Goals, thereby empowering people to build better lives and laying strong foundations for sustainable human development.

As we prepare for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development at Rio de Janeiro next year, and as the 2015 target date for achieving the MDGs looms, the task before us is urgent. 

That is why Aid effectiveness matters 

Evidence suggests that having principles and targets for effective development assistance is important and has worked. More aid is now untied, action is better co-ordinated, and evidence is increasingly being used to gauge success .

From trial and error as well as from concerted efforts such as the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action, we have learned what matters in aid effectiveness. 

It matters that development actors work in partnerships which reduce fragmentation, and that aid is transparent, predicable, adequate, and based on mutual accountability. 

It matters that developing countries drive their own development with priorities defined by the needs and aspirations of their citizens.

Capacity development support matters a lot too. National authorities managing development assistance need the systems, know-how, and tools to make the best possible use of aid for stimulating inclusive growth, meeting the needs of marginalised groups, advancing human rights and gender equality, and adapting to and mitigating climate change.

In conflict-affected countries, capacity building and development are particularly important. For security and enduring peace, countries need effective national justice and security systems, dispute resolution mechanisms, and the ability to meet the most urgent needs of their citizens.

Through its multi-stakeholder dialogue the UN’s Development Co-operation Forum is helping countries distil and apply best practices. In doing so it is helping to address the “unfinished business” of aid effectiveness, as well as to fulfill our collective commitment to achieve MDG 8 and establish global partnerships for development which address the challenges countries face in a rapidly changing world.

Meeting needs in a changing world

In that world the tremendous progress in many countries, from reducing poverty to improving school enrolment and child health, demonstrates that the MDGs are achievable. Two-thirds of developing countries are on target or close to being on target for all the MDGs.

Yet, the global challenges do make our task more difficult. 

The lingering global economic crisis, financial instability, high food prices, climate change, and increasing numbers of natural disasters have left the world’s poor more vulnerable. Increasing inequalities, between and within countries, also create cycles of poverty, violence, and instability.

Aid is not a panacea for overcoming these challenges, but used in catalytic ways, it can help address them. Those ways can include helping to grow capacity to trade, attract investment, levy taxation, and access climate finance and to put those capacities at the service of sustainable human development.  

Emerging economies are making ever more significant contributions to global development. Increasing numbers of citizens and civil society groups are making their voices heard, and contributing to the development of their communities.   

These trends present us with new optimism, energy, and opportunity. Here in Busan, we need to agree to harness this energy and pursue the opportunities before us. I make three proposals:

1.The gap in the financing needed to meet the MDGs needs to be closed.

In these difficult times, there is more reason than ever to invest in inclusive growth and equitable approaches to development.  

2.To maximize the impact of these investments, we need to agree on actions which will improve the quality and reach of development assistance. 

From its work supporting development co-operation, the UN has seen how mutual accountability frameworks, with clear targets and regular reviews, can help. In Rwanda, for example, targets have been agreed to assess the government’s efforts to implement its national development strategy, and donors’ efforts to improve aid quality. The framework is embedded in Rwanda’s national aid policy, and is endorsed by all providers. 

3.To keep pace with changes in development co-operation, we must shift from a focus on aid effectiveness to development effectiveness.

For development partners that will mean more coherence in their own policies, from trade to agriculture, migration, and development assistance.

For all of us, it means going beyond aid to maximize the use of all available resources of development finance. That also means working through partnerships which bring together diverse actors. 

The UN Secretary General’s ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ initiative is a good example of bringing a wide range of stakeholders together with its alliance of traditional donors, multilateral organisations, emerging economies, the private sector, and grassroots organizations. 

To keep pace with a changing world, we need to make forward looking and principled changes in the ways we work.

Through its convening power, the UN offers a platform for the wide range of development actors to learn continually from best practices, and improve on our collective efforts to achieve a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future. A bold and practical agreement in Busan can bring us all a step closer to reaching the goals we share. Over the next three days, the United Nations development actors present look forward to working with you to take best practice in development co-operation forward. 

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