Press Conference: From Paris 2005 to Accra 2008: Will Aid Become More Accountable and Effective?

A Press Conference was held on January 24, 2008 at the Dhaka Reporters Unity titled ’From Paris 2005 to Accra 2008: Will Aid Become More Accountable and Effective?’ in the context of the Paris Declaration and the upcoming High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, Ghana in September 2008. The conference was organized by the Aid Accountability Group, a newly-formed group of civil society organizations.
A Press Statement was read out by Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE and coordinator of the Aid Accountability Group, examining the perspectives of civil society regarding Aid Effectiveness and the High-Level Forum. Dr. Piash Karim, Professor of Economics and Sociology at BRAC University, Omar Tareq Choudhury, Director of Proshika, Zakir Hossain, Executive Director of Nagarik Uddyog, and Saiful Huq, General Secretary of the Workers Party of Bangladesh also presented speeches in the press conference.
In his Press Statement, Ahmed Swapan explained that donor agencies and governments of developing countries, including Bangladesh, signed the Paris Declaration in March 2005. Government representatives and donor agencies will meet at the High Level Forum in Ghana in September of this year, to evaluate the progress of the Paris Declaration. Analysis and criticism on the issues of accountability, gender equality, and human rights will be brought to the table at the High-Level Forum in Accra. Civil Society organizations are also working side-by-side to improve aid effectiveness.
The Paris Declaration emphasizes five issues: ownership, alignment, harmonization, managing for results, and mutual accountability. These would allow developing countries to empower themselves in relation to donor countries by deploying ombudsmen and supporting a democratic management of funds. Unfortunately, the reality is different from what was promised in Paris. Donor countries are still
imposing conditions with loans and grants, which present an insurmountable challenge to many countries’development.
Ahmed Swapan read out 16 recommendations which were put forward in a policy paper prepared by the International CSO Steering Group. These recommendations include, among others, the recognition of the centrality of poverty reduction, gender equality, human rights and social justice; the termination of all donor- imposed policy conditionality; the adherence by donors and Southern governments to the highest standards of openness and transparency; and the creation of an effective and relevant independent monitoring and evaluation system for the Paris Declaration and its impact on development outcomes.
Dr. Piash Karim mentioned that 14% of our country’s budget is spent for loan repayment, compared with only a 6% allocation in the health sector. Foreign aid represents only 2% of the GDP while capital flow from the global South to the North tops 750 billion a year. In the
present context, the Paris Declaration and the present evaluation mechanisms are simply insufficient. Saiful Huq, General Secretary of the Workers Party of Bangladesh, said that foreign aid did not bring any significant change for Bangladesh. 70-75% money of foreign aid goes back to donor countries in the name of consultancies and by other means. Foreign aid has transformed
the market of developing countries intro a global capital market. He added that the problem of aid effectiveness is not just an economic one but a political one: only a democratic, people-centered government can manage foreign aid in an effective manner and build a self-reliant Bangladesh.
The conference emphasized significant issues relating to the effectiveness of foreign aid and the future of aid in Bangladesh in particular. A 10-minute video, produced by VOICE, entitled ’Perspectives on Aid Effectiveness’ and consisting of short interview segments on this topic,
opened the conference. Omar Tareq Choudhury, Director of Proshika and Zakir Hossain, Executive Director of Nagarik Uddyog also spoke as representatives of the Aid Accountability Group while it was attended by CSOs, NGOs, trade union groups, journalists, human rights activists, and women leaders.