Note from CSN: The 4th High Level Conference on Aid Effectiveness, held in Busan Korea, brought together over 3000 representatives of governments, civil society groups and private interests from around the world to review “global progress in improving the impact and value for money of development aid…” Paul Okumu kept colleagues informed on the progress of the event through these emails, and has agreed to have them posted here. The meeting resulted in the document: Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.
Today marked the first day of what is going to change not just how Aid is delivered across the world, and specifically in Africa, but how Civil Society is going to relate with Governments and Donors. The meeting is as dramatic as it is critical. For the first time since the discussion on Aid Effectiveness begun in Paris, a record 300 CSOs (civil society organizations) will be allowed into the negotiating room with over 1,500 delegates from Governments, Donors and International agencies. Governments were allowed to nominate a further 600 or so CSOs from their own countries as part of the delegation.
It is therefore not surprising that a record 1,000 plus CSOs have turned up for a three-day preparatory meeting, knowing that the very survival of CSOs and citizen support over the next four years will depend on about 14 pages of document produced by Donors and Governments on the final day of the meeting.
It is also not surprising that big names, no less than the U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Billionaire and Philanthropist Bill Gates, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, and over 100 private sector players have insisted that they must not only come, but must be heard, and heard loudly.
So what is at stake, and what did CSOs discuss today?
First, there is a sense of apprehension in many of the delegates that if they do not agree on some areas before 1 December, they may pay the price for a very long time to come. This is because HLF4 is the final, and perhaps the last attempt by Donors and Governments to agree on how best to effectively deliver Aid so that it accelerates achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and strengthens Global Development. Everybody therefore knows that they have one chance to get it right, or lose out.
Secondly, CSOs have noted a marked and very sharp increase in hostility to Civil Society-the so called Organized CSOs. The Africa CSO Platform has engaged in this area for the past one year. In our analysis of the situation in Africa last year (you can read it here) we put a case for the Global Civil Society that the challenges to CSO space was not just about democracy or human rights. It’s a complex mixture of strategic interests, new relationships between Governments and Donors, and a rising perception that AID is just one of the many ways of achieving development- and democracy is not such a good indicator after all.
But today that matter was placed on the table....again. CSOs here admit that the situation is unlikely to improve significantly out of this meeting. This is because the discussion document released a few days ago (Read it here), known here as 5th Draft Busan Outcome Document (BOD) has not made any significant improvements in its treatment of the role and place of Civil Society. In fact it has done the exact opposite-focusing on state- to-state relations in what it calls a "New Global Partnership for Development."
Civil Society has one major issue with this model- Countries such as Kenya, Libya, Egypt, South Africa, India, Ghana and almost fifty other states confirm that Economic Growth does not necessarily lead to Development.
But it is not just the 5th Draft BOD that CSOs discussed today. Participants in the discussions on Fragile and Post conflict states discussed a Document that was developed and circulated last week. Known as the New Deal (everything seems new here!) that document looks very good from far, far from Good. In it there is a clear desire to strengthen engagement between governments in the North and those in the South, again with no reference to the place of Civil Society. You can read an analysis of the document here
Thirdly, the increased linking of Aid to multiple interests-Security, Business and other strategic interests-has made Civil Society almost irrelevant in the discussions on Development. While CSOs account for about 30% of development AID, this is no match for large Foundations and Governments that have specific interests. The result is that many Governments in Africa are getting more Aid, but it is ending in Budget support that leaves them vulnerable to manipulation and control. It is also making many of them rely less and less on taxes from its citizens, leading to a further alienation of citizen voices.
In Africa this has led to many governments not wanting to engage with their own Civil Society, especially those working in advocacy areas of Governance and Democracy. But in the North, the so-called Donor countries, governments are increasingly denying funding to their CSOs, particularly umbrella Networks who speak on behalf of their members. In todays meeting, CSOs expressed concern that with the denial of support in Donor countries, and the passage of restrictive laws and policies in Africa, Latin America and Asia, Civil Society groups are sitting on a fast sinking sand and by 1st December when the final agreement is reached, they may find that even that sand has been swept away!
The situation may appear to be pessimistic. But CSOs have a reason to be concerned.
So what can you do if you are not in Busan?
First, if you know any government leader or donor coming to this meeting (they are yet to arrive) please give them a call, and remind them that civil society groups are the voices of citizens. Muzzling Civil Society voices has its short term benefits, but in the long term it silences citizen voices and opens the state to a more difficult challenge.
Secondly, ask any government official you know to recognize that taxation-not full donor funding- is the greatest motivator of government accountability to its citizens.
- Finally, it is clear that unless as CSOs we do not work on our own accountability, connectedness with citizens, and independent sources of funding- we have a very difficult and rough road ahead.
Korea is indeed an emerging economy. And the Minister for Special Programs hosted us today for a dinner to reemphasize that fact. Korea may be ranked 18 in its amount of Aid among the 23 OECD countries. But its Aid increased 23% in 2011, higher than any OECD member.
The dinner was a fitting way to end the day because we desperately needed the relief from what must have been the most engaging day for Civil Society at the Grand Hotel, right in the middle of the city. Today delegates spent the day reviewing our options-what must remain non-negotiable, what can we give in on and with what consequence, at what point should Civil Society walk out of the room, and what will that mean.
CSOs are aware of some fundamental facts:
1. The Busan Outcome document is a loose agreement-more of a coalition of the willing. No one actually signs to it the way governments do with UN documents. The agreement is that being present, and not walking out, is a sign of acceptance to follow through with the spirit of the final document.
2. Almost 98% of the document is "sealed, signed and delivered"; and it is unlikely that after six months of negotiations, major changes will be introduced. In fact governments are trying to shorten the contents of the document.
So then you ask why CSOs spend so much time discussing 2% of a document?
First, documents are the foundations on which policy decisions are built. Even the wording of a text can have serious consequences. For example, in defining Ownership and Harmonization under the Paris Principles, Donors and Governments failed to define who these "owners" were. The result is that over the last four years, Governments have interpreted Owners to mean "Governments" or "States", and harmonization to mean "follow government direction"- leading to closure of several CSOs on grounds that they were not pursuing a government agenda.
Secondly, in many cases, the 2% are sometimes the little ink in a jar of water-it pollutes the entire water.
In this document, the 2% is the elevation of private sector to a higher role than even citizens, the interpretation of development as economic growth; the lack of explicit words guaranteeing space for CSOs to operate freely; the absence of a recognition that Aid should and must catalyze development, not just replace Taxation funding; and a non-realization that democracy and development are primarily about empowering citizens to own and demand their right to development. It demands that government demonstrates its role in development and not let Donors and CSOs do what should be the responsibility of the state, unless it can demonstrate that it has no capacity. This is what is described as Rights Based Approach.
CSOs here know that these issues are difficult and hard to push through. But they also know that we are here on behalf of citizens, and we will seriously short change them if we do not let their voices be heard.
We also revisited the difficult issues of Aid Transparency, Ownership of Development, Results Measurement and the Accountability of CSOs. The latter was the most difficult section of the discussion, with International NGOs coming under heavy criticism over their partnership models on the continent, especially in Africa and Latin America. It is sad that on a day when we should have rallied each other to engage on collective issues, we had to spend time addressing what we should have resolved two years ago-That International NGOs, especially the larger "Donor-INGO" CSOs are increasingly using their capacity and mobilization power to encroach on the funding, human resource and government-created spaces for National and Regional engagement, then sub-contracting national CSOs as partners.
This issue first surfaced in the Open Forum for CSO development Effectiveness discussions in 2010, and was a major issue in the CSO enabling environment meeting in Johannesburg last week. It appears that it is becoming more painful to the National CSOs that for over three years, INGOs have been unwilling to take on the issue and help National CSOs better understand their context and rationale(behind their actions).
So what can you do from where you are seated:
First, we all agree that CSOs must first deal with our own accountability-to citizens, ourselves and the government, as a first source of power to stop increased challenge to our legitimacy. Here there is no option, however much time we try to buy. This accountability is at three levels- Ethical and Moral (why we do what we do and why it matters to the larger society), Political (the decisions we make internally and externally to justify what we do) and Technical ( the stewardship of resources given to us on behalf of citizens).
Secondly many of the government delegation have begun to arrive-we realized this when some of our colleagues had to give up their hotel rooms- so for you who are not here in Busan, what is left is an email or a telephone call. Finally, if you have any ideas on how to phrase the 2% issues that are still the subject of contention, we would love to hear from you-but you have only two days to do this.
CSOs are optimistic that citizens will eventually emerge triumphant, even if they lose out on a document. They say that patience and time are the greatest weapons at the disposal of any negotiator.
They say that coincidences are the things that God does and mankind chooses to let Him remain anonymous. That phrase rang in my mind today as four of us raced out of the hotel where CSOs are meeting and flagged down any taxi that cared to see us. The good thing with Busan is that taxis can stop anywhere-even on Pedestrian crossings!
The cause of our race was the news that our Lead Negotiator (they are called Sherpers here) had just delivered to the over 600 CSOs gathered at the Grand Hotel in what was supposed to be an exciting closing ceremony. It was not going to be. The negotiators had failed to agree on almost all key issues, no one was ready or willing to give in, and it was clear citizens were going to be the greatest losers in this four year journey known as Aid Effectiveness.
I will spare you the details, but it was clear that the political stakes are so high in this dialogue that it indeed qualifies as a High Level Forum.
We heard that The Emerging Economies (known as BRICS-Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) had introduced a document they wanted considered, even though they personally did not show up at the negotiation table. China was uncomfortable about any Human Rights language in the any Aid Effectiveness Document. Suddenly someone wanted discussions opened into Climate Financing-and a clear balance between commitment and responsibility. Another country did not like the language that had been included in a section on Fragile states, and needed several sections altered.
That is not all:
- Untying of Aid- No Progress
- Use of Country Systems to deliver Aid- No Progress
- CSO Enabling environment that recognizes the role of CSOs and respects their rights and the Rights of Citizens to organize and work in accordance to international Human Rights Principles- Rejected
- South-South Cooperation- China insists that the language must be based on its terms and make clear the distinction between South-South and North-South capacity building.
- Private Sector Elevation as Core actors in development- Governments have refused to back down on this.
- Definition of Development as equal to Economic Growth- no one wants to believe CSOs that this is not true. In fact the determination to make the private sector a key actor seems an economic thinking not many are ready to drop except.
- Rights based approach to development (a request by CSOs)-No agreement.
There is a major conference hosted by CSOs before the government delegation arrive. The Conference is intended to consolidate the position of CSOs. But the Conferences also serve as a collective power that allows CSOs to daily provide their views to their negotiators (about 4) led by a Chief Negotiator. Each party (Donors, Governments and CSOs) have their negotiators.
As I write this email, the negotiations are still going on, with every party hoping that the matter will be closed before midnight today.
But lest you feel that we have lost all, there are tremendous gains. The meetings offer CSOs excellent networking and sharing of ideas. It serves to reinforce their effort and work, and in many cases gives the desperate energy needed to continue in a work that rarely pays and rarely appreciates. It is also a chance to forge new alliances, build common ground and share our future aspirations for a better world.
Yesterday it was great to see CSOs shout "Occupy!" in a show of solidarity with citizens.
And so the curtains came down on the Busan Civil Society Forum, with CSO delegates left wondering what they will do if they discover tomorrow morning that they must now speak to their Ministers.
Tomorrow is the first Day of the 4th High Level Forum. You can tell by the level of security in town. When the main meetings begin, and government delegations begin to arrive, the meetings offer a rare bonding opportunity and an insight into the minds of the people who lead us. These lessons are invaluable, and they are worth every ticket and every hotel costs. I met a lady who travelled three days to reach here-and she has no regrets at all. So here I am next to the BEXCO Complex, the venue where the main meeting begins tomorrow.
Do you remember a few years ago when the Kenya government spent over USD 90 million to study " Where and How Poor are the Poor"! Really? Just sit with the single mother in the slums in Mathare Kenya, or the young boy in Cameroon, or the orphan in Somalia, or the refugee in Ivory Coast. Right there....not in Korea- is where you will find the solutions to poverty.
And they do not care how many meetings we hold, or how many issues we agree on. It is the tragedy of development...and sometimes I fear I may get caught up in this complex mix of attending conferences and High Level Meetings to resolve what my mother had already told me how to overcome.
So where does that leave the rest of us, and where is the place of civil society in all these?
First, it has given some of us a strong resolve that we must challenge the powers that have kept us in poverty for over 60 years.
Second I have realized that while it makes me feel guilty to sit here and say that I am here for the sake of the poor, it is clear that the only way the lady in Mathare, or the young man in Cameroon, or the orphan in Ivory Coast-the only way they will be heard is by some of us coming to sit here and let the world know that whatever it costs, the cost of poverty is much higher.
- They say that in Civil Society, you visit a country and all you see is the Airport and Hotel room. Nowhere is that more true than here in Busan. Many of us have never had time to get out of the hotel room until late at night. Even meal times have become strategy meetings, and a few of us have already lost the little weight we had left. When we are not in meetings, we are working together to develop negotiation strategies or finalizing some text. Everyday is unpredictable.
When the four of us raced out of to get a taxi, we were trying to salvage what had become a very difficult situation. And the man who helped us is a man I had met on a flight from Monrovia four months ago. By then he needed to know how to get a hotel in Nairobi before getting a connecting flight, and I offered to help him. Today he turned out to be our key person who helped us understand what was going on. Today he was the Chief Negotiator for one of the Key Government Teams!
They say in life there are two things you must never do:
Never ignore people for what value (or lack of it) you think they have-We are all equal, if you strip all the external things we call power and influence.
- The World is too small-do not sin too much- You never know where your sin (or lack of it) is going to cost (or save) your life.
That, friends, is the reason we are doing what we do.
Yesterday I stated that the rest of the HLF4 was about formalities. I was wrong!
I just learnt how poor I am in understanding the complexities of negotiations. Because, like Tony Blair said when he was going down and losing in the polls, "it aint over 'till it’s over".
Today saw so many changes we never knew what we were going to have at the end of the day. New Players.....new ideas....new allies....agreement, the suddenly no agreement... The small little room on the second floor of Busan Complex may be the hottest room in Busan!
But before I explain allow me to let you know what an exceptional leadership you have heard here in Busan. It is impossible for me to speak for every CSO here...there are about 500 of us and with over 150 countries gathered it, each with about five to ten delegations, the BEXCO Conference Centre is a swam of activities and movement that can mesmerize even the best of Conference attendees.
But allow me, and again this is my humble submission, to ask that you all sincerely salute the people you selected to negotiate on your behalf. It is not my responsibility to name names- you selected them and so you know them (if we really believe in inclusivity ourselves in law and practice). But even if you do not, just remember this: Many of us are coming from an honest background where we have spent our lives trying to make the world a better place, with mistakes, but with a lot of sincerity in many ways.
Yes, there are some of us who falter along the way....that is why we have a place we call earth and another we call heaven.
Remember also that this is the first time that CSOs are coming to such a High Level negotiation as equals. It is the first time, since the discussion on Aid Effectiveness begun in Rome, that CSOs were mandated to be fully included, to have a full voting right and to engage in all processes as equal actors.
Remember also that in doing this there are over 1 million of us-yes, over a million CSOs around the world. Africa alone has over 216,000 NGOs that are formally registered and recognized by governments.
And that is only NGOs-formally registered organizations- that does not include trade unions, citizen groups, CBOs, Private Trusts and Foundations.
If you appreciate these complexities, you begin to see how difficult it is to try and merge all these interests in a six page document that also must be agreed upon by politicians and donors and private companies and banks from 150 countries.
If there is only one thing you need to appreciate, let it be that your team has been an exceptional one.
In a given circumstance, like many of us, it would have been easy to just walk away, or accept some great compromise.... after all we all seem to find an easier way out. But I have not seen it in the team that has been here. The Better Aid has had to deal with a mix of challenges and multiple interests- we all have our own interests.
No. Even the great U.S. has had to back down in so many areas it was humbling to see Secretary Hilary Clinton trying to salvage some semblance of power. UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon had to personally make certain statements to move some areas that could not be resolved by the time he arrived. If these are people who have a dedicated expert team of negotiators, what about the humble CSOs who know how to work with the poor, the people? Then as soon as he left.....someone two governments) sneaked in a new document and demanded a new discussion!
So please, take a few minutes and do what you do best for those who have faithfully and consistently stood for you here in Busan.
If you pray...go on and do so.
If you toast, go ahead.
If you jump, go ahead.
Like Football, there are many spectators who will give an exceptional account of how it should have been done better. And indeed many things may have been done better. But if you are not the player, you are in the pitch, you may not understand the immense pressure that faced your team in the last few months.
Today I met your team leader Tony Tujan singing a Birthday song for one of the delegates who had forgotten it was his birthday today. That was well past 8:30pm. I was wondering where he still got the calmness to join a birthday celebration at the lobby of a hotel thousands of kilometers from his home.
So today I would like to dedicate the day to these team members.
The second team was the speakers....
In a meeting like this, you would have expected that each session had several CSOs. No. In many sessions, there were hardly any. Where allowed, it was no more than 1. I am not sure, but out of over 500 speakers, there were just about 80 CSOs, and each had just about 2 minutes to state the position and defend the cause of CSOs before the Global leaders. And it was made more intimidating by placing one CSO in the midst of seven government and Donor speakers!
But they never let you down.
Finally all the CSOs here have also been exceptionally calm, and ready to rally behind their leaders in ways I have never seen. Assembling early in the morning at 7:30am, some with faces showing little sleep, they listen.....and follow. Today the work was for us to show our solidarity with the poor. So immediately after the CSO speaker in the main Ceremony, we all stood together and shouted for the world to hear "Nothing for us without us!"
That phrase may have been a show of protest at just how the world treats the poor. But it became a rallying call for many governments later in the day. At a press conference today, a delegation from Sudan picked up and said to the Donors "nothing for us without us!" He was asserting the power and sovereignty of national governments over donors and foreign powers.
"What is the latest BOD? (BOD is the term used here to refer to the Busan Outcome Document- The Document that is under negotiations) The second question is "What do you want us to do to move the discussion forward?"
Some have picked up phones and called their government leaders. Others have quickly convened "side meetings" to plead for support. Others have personally sought and spoken to the negotiators, especially from their countries.
Friends, this has been an exceptional team. The next time you are seeking to send someone to a Conference, kindly ask. Are they attending to Learn, Teach, Share, Persuade, or Negotiate? Because each of these requires skills that may not even be present in the Executive Director.
Some of the best CSOs here are not even top leaders of their Organizations. But their organizations were smart enough to know they were the best for this type of engagement. Many of us have not managed to sit in more than three out of the over 50 Workshops and Exciting Conferences going on here alongside the negotiations. Reason? We all realized we were here for a larger cause.... the cause of 5 billion people. That is greater than a tour of Busan, a view of the city or a workshop to learn about Transparency...at least here in Busan.
So where are we today?
If you interested in what is known as the Political Statement you can read it here
For a summary of Secretary Hillary Clinton's Speech, read here
For a full speech by UN Secretary General, Read here
Rania, Queen of Jordan, was the eloquent speaker of the moment...reading a very well memorized call to the world to remember the women, the children.....and calling on all us to invest in women's education as the key...they grow crops that feed half the world, and when they are not doing that they cook, fetch water, take care of kids....
Read a summary of her remarks here
China pulled out, then in, then out.....then in..... Russia had its own issues, and so did Indonesia and many more. Rwanda, leader of Africa's delegation was the star of Africa...stamping its foot on use of country systems to as channels of Aid to governments. Nations rallied in large numbers behind fragile states in endorsing its new proposed anchor to MDGs-what is known as the New Deal. Read a summary of the New Deal here
But in the end, by about 5 pm Korean Time, there was the final 7th Outcome Document (if I am correct).
It is still not an official document yet, so sadly you will have to wait a little longer to see it, or read it.
When you finally do, which you must, please read every word with a tooth comb. As you read it, remember the following about Political Documents:
1. Words are carefully included to mean a very specific thing.....including a coma
2. Never take a political document on the phase of what is written....they are deliberately made to mean different things to different people....
3. Beyond Words, interpretation is the key......each word is intended to be interpreted in a given way...and that is why the negotiations are so intense.
I just would like to let you know that there were indeed some gains by Civil Society, especially on Enabling Environment, Rights based Approach and the support by many countries, including the US, to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and Publish What You Fund. But even that had to be watered down a little to accommodate some countries that wanted freedom to use other systems of Accountability. Fragile states may have been the greatest gainers despite an escape clause on the endorsement of the New Deal by the Global Partnership. Their New Deal was the talk of Busan, and the leaders are smiling all the way to their countries.
There are also some losses.....allow me to let you read for yourself what those losses are. That is the way negotiated documents should be.
The only sad thing is the way some governments have championed the protection of and support for the private sector with no corresponding support for the need for private sector accountability and adherence to social and development norms. The impression given here is that they are so critical that they need a full open door...what they do when they are in is left to their own moral judgment. If they choose to distort markets....like Airtel has done in Kenya....so be it. If they choose to take control of shops next to that of a poor mother selling vegetables.... Only the great side of the private Sector is being championed here-access to credit , jobs, raw material processing, Corporate Social Responsibility (Hillary singled out Unilever and IBM-check them out).....
With an agreement, the meeting has technically ended. Tomorrow will see the engagement in mainly Post-Busan discussions. So for once CSOs can rest...and maybe we can now go shopping or sightseeing.
Unless, like many, it is time to catch up on sleep ahead of a three day journey back home.