You are hereBlogs / farjana's blog / Multi-stakeholder national consultation on CSOs and aid effectiveness: OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT

Multi-stakeholder national consultation on CSOs and aid effectiveness: OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT

By farjana - Posted on 13 July 2008


Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) play important roles in development. They are also important and distinctive contributors to aid effectiveness as a function of their independence, their advocacy and watchdog roles, their close connections to the poor or their effectiveness as channels for aid delivery.

As development actors, CSOs share an interest in the concept of aid effectiveness as an important one for keeping development efforts on-track, for drawing attention to outcome and impact level results, and for drawing lessons of good practice from accumulated experience. The shared pursuit of aid effectiveness provides a legitimate entry point for dialogue among all development cooperation actors, including CSOs. Recent discussions involving civil society and the Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (DAC) in Paris indicate that there is considerable interest in engaging in this sort of dialogue.

The March 2005 Paris DAC represents a landmark achievement for the international community, which brings together a number of key principles and commitments in a coherent way. It includes a framework for mutual accountability, and identifies a number of indicators for tracking progress on the part of donors and partner countries.

CSOs have a crucial role to play in aid effectiveness in their area of advocacy and monitoring. In most recipient countries, to date, there has been little or no collaboration between governments and CSOs in trying to make aid effective under the Paris Declaration. At the same time, there is a general recognition that the Paris Declaration is a crucial component of a larger aid effectiveness agenda that could engage civil society actors in a more direct manner.

Over the coming months, a number of processes that are linked to the Paris Declaration could provide ideal opportunities for civil society to engage more fully in the global dialogue on aid effectiveness. A key event in that dialogue will be the Accra High Level Forum (HLF), planned for September 2008, to review progress in implementing the Declaration.

Preparatory work for the Accra HLF is under the responsibility of the Working Party (WP) on Aid Effectiveness, the international partnership hosted by the DAC, which has struck a Steering Committee to plan the HLF. An Advisory Group on CSOs and Aid Effectiveness has been established by the Working Party with an equal number of representatives from North and South CSOs and donors and partner governments.

The Advisory Group (AG) has drafted a work plan based on its mandate to look into the two overarching functions of civil society as development actors in the broad sense, and more specifically in terms of its role in promoting accountability and demand for results. This work plan includes a series of national tripartite consultations in selected countries, five regional workshops, one regional CSO workshop for OECD countries, a delegated North South CSO consultation and a tripartite International Conference to be held in Canada in February 2008. Based on these processes and its own deliberations, the AG will propose to the Working Party avenues for addressing CSOs and aid effectiveness at the High Level Forum and beyond.

There is also a joint evaluation to be conducted by a number of countries, and which is part of the processes towards and beyond Ghana, and to clarify the roles of civil society in the reference group, as well as, the requirement to subject the preliminary results of the evaluation to a discussion with CSOs.


The National Consultation, the first of its kind on the issue in Bangladesh, intended to promote a process developing CSO participation in aid policy. The framework had been designed as articulated by the Advisory Group on Civil Society and Aid Effectiveness, which are:

1. Better understanding and recognition of the roles of CSOs as development actors and as part of the international aid architecture, and engagement of CSOs in general discussions on aid effectiveness,
2. Improved understanding of the applicability and limitations of the Paris Declaration for addressing issues of aid effectiveness of importance to CSOs, including how CSOs can better contribute to aid effectiveness,
3. Improved understanding of good practice relating to civil society and aid effectiveness by CSOs themselves, by donors and by developing country governments.

The Multi-stakeholder National Consultation also intended:

1. To initiate the process of multi-stakeholder policy dialogue on the implementation of the Paris Declaration and other issues on aid effectiveness,
2. To identify issues of immediate concern, and discuss issues and promote good practices,
3. To identify issues of future concern, including steps for further action.


Thus the daylong National Consultation took place at the auditorium of BRAC Centre Inn in Dhaka on September 10, 2007. A number of around 70 participants, representing donor agencies, local and international NGOs, think tank and advocacy groups, trade union leaders, youth groups, women, indigenous, consumers and cooperatives, participated in the consultation.


In the morning session, Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE, gave a welcome speech and introduced the rationale and objectives of the national consultation. Prof. Dr. Badiul Alam Majumder, secretary of the network of Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan) and member of Committee for Revitalizing and Strengthening Local Government of Bangladesh, chaired the session, with Antonio Tujan Jr., member of the Advisory Group of OECD-DAC and chairperson of The Reality of Aid Network, Prof Dr. Mustafizur Rahman, research director of a think tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Farida Akter, executive director of Ubinig, and Abdul Awal, executive director of NRDS and president of a national network of NGOs and CSOs called Supro, on the panel.


Greeting the audience, Ahmed Swapan spoke briefed about VOICE, a research and advocacy organization working around the issue of aid since 2003. VOICE has already published reports and conducted a number of dialogues both at the regional and national levels. The organization has also been following the process of aid effectiveness since the Rome Declaration, and later as a member of Reality of Aid Network. Voice is working closely with the issue of aid effectiveness following the OECD-DAC process.

Ahmed Swapan said the consultation is an official process of the Advisory Group of OECD-DAC, which Tujan would speak about later. Ahmed stated that the objectives of the consultation were “to engage donors, government, NGOs, and CSOs to achieve effectiveness of aid in a more consolidated and coordinated way.”

“The Paris Declaration doesn’t necessarily cover all the issues we confront, even though it looks into a number of issues which we want to bring to the table. The output of this consultation will feed into the Regional Process and ultimately will into the HLF to be held in Ghana.”

ANTONIO TUJAN JR. (Member, Advisory Group of OECD-DAC and Chairperson, The Reality of Aid Network)

Tujan started his speech by raising two key questions: “Is Aid actually reducing poverty and achieving development? Or is Aid working in the form of loans and grants? ”

Tujan put forward an overview of aid effectiveness issues and processes and explained the Paris Declaration and 56 donor commitments in major five areas of Paris Declaration. He also gave a brief talk on the limitations of the Paris Declaration in the context of the national consultation taking place.

The paper he presented has been attached below.

Overview of Aid Effectiveness issues and processes : Paris declaration and donor commitments

* 56 commitments around Five principles

Managing for development results
Mutual accountability

CSO Concern

* Unprecedented broad range of commitments to reform aid system and aid delivery
* However structured narrowly on aid delivery rather than broader framework of development and human rights
* Commitments lack ambition on such key issues as tied aid, conditionality and accountability of donors

CSO Aspiration

* Partner leadership in development cooperation
* Democratic ownership of development
* Human rights and development for the poor

Aid Effectiveness agendas

  • Donor aid effectiveness
  • Accountability mechanisms
  • CSOs and other stakeholders
  • Partner aid effectiveness
  • Governance and accountability
  • CSOs and other stakeholders
  • International aid effectiveness
  • International institutions
  • Mechanisms where donors can be held accountable
  • CSO and aid effectiveness
  • Role and responsibility of CSOs
  • The role of civil society as a pillar of good governance
  • Its role in providing effective delivery of development programs and operations
  • Its role in the social empowerment of particular groups and the realization of human rights.

As donors, as channels of assistance and as watchdogs

Ghana September 08

  • High Level Forum to take stock of Paris Declaration implementation
  • CSO parallel process
  • Monitoring implementation
  • Advocacy to strengthen governance and accountability processes
  • Advocacy to deepen aid effectiveness of donors and partners

CSO and aid effectiveness agenda

  • Advisory Group of WP EFF on CSO and aid effectiveness
  • To look into the two overarching functions of civil society as development actors in the broad sense, and more specifically in terms of its role in promoting accountability and demand for results.
  • To facilitate a multi-stakeholder process that aims to clarify:
  • The roles of civil society in relation to the Paris Declaration
  • CSO aspirations to deepen the wider national and international aid effectiveness agendas
  • Key considerations and principles that will be internationally recognized by all of the relevant parties.
  • To advise WP-EFF and the HLF Steering Committee on the inclusion of Aid Effectiveness and Civil Society as well as other issues to deepen the aid effectiveness agenda in the agenda of the Accra Forum, in a manner that builds on the Paris Declaration.
  • To prepare, in consultation with the Steering Committee, the WP-EFF and civil society organizations, proposals on Aid Effectiveness and Civil Society for discussion as part of the Accra agenda.

AG sponsored processes

* National consultations
* Regional workshops
* Consultation of Northern CSOs
* North-South CSO meeting
* International Development Forum
* Other activities

Related upcoming UN events

o Development Cooperation Forum
o On development effectiveness
o Launch in July Geneva
o HLF in July 08 New York
o Monterrey FfD follow up in Doha 08

ABDUL AWAL (Supro), a panelist

Awal referred to an evaluation paper published by the NGOs on August 17, 2007 examining the achievements of the MDGs. Of all the MDGs, goal number 8, the issue of reducing poverty, is the one that Awal focused on. He also congratulated the initiators of the national consultation for bringing in such an issue which is very much relevant to the MDGs.

Citing the report, he said though government made some positive achievements in other issues; it hardly had any success in reducing poverty. Rather, it failed to address the issue properly. The number of extreme poor has not lessened in these years. The statistics say that the number of poor has been reduced from 20 % to 19.5%, which is much less than what was expected.

Awal talked about two types of global realities on the issue of aid. One reality is that the northern countries are not keeping their word in giving aid. According to UN statistics, the poor countries unfortunately get only 0.303% of GNI, lesser than half, although the northern countries committed 0.7% for aid. The other side of this reality is that, “we are being trapped in loan-traps instead of being ‘supported.’ Bangladesh pays an amount of around $750 million USD per year alone on debt services.”

Then he talked about the other reality, which is the effectiveness of aid. The issue had been raised in the context of MDGs and was reiterated in the Paris Declaration. The five principles of Paris Declaration are important in the fight against poverty, but there should be mutual accountability.

The CSOs are demanding to achieve MDG goals and the only way to make it work is to make aid effective and come out of loan-traps. He suggested that foreign ‘supports’ should come as support, not as debts. In order to let the poor countries breathe to fight against poverty, the huge piled-up loans should be cancelled.

For the donors, he suggested that it is time to rethink whether the aid-system is working effectively. Criticizing the government’s activities in reducing poverty, Awal said that donors also need to consider whether government activism is working properly. He suggested strengthening the local government system and grass-root activism as the central government is too over-loaded with other different issues.

In this context, Awal suggested diversifying the grants and said the donors should also intervene and consider how they can directly support CSOs. He also said that the donors should also be made accountable.

‘To work towards an alternative world, we want to see everyone, including the donor communities, working together’, he said.

FARIDA AKHTER (Ubinig), a panelist

“We are not much involved with the issue [in Bangladesh],” Farida admitted to start her talk. On the other hand, she was optimistic about the more ‘open’ politics in the country, and the fact that people can talk more frankly on political issues.

However, she expressed her concerns with the Bangladesh government signing a PSI (Policy Support Instrument) with the IMF, and how and in what extent the people are involved with the issue. [IMF representatives visited Bangladesh with the intention of signing a PSI agreement, but were unsuccessful due in part to public outcry from media and CSOs.]

Farida also said that the term ‘CSO’ needs further debate, as some communities like farmers and women are note represented. “I am not comfortable with the term CSO as it more refers to elitism and urban,” she said. She suggested the term NGO be used instead of CSO. She then pointed out that NGOs and CSOs do not talk/act politically when they go for a bilateral aid contact, as the donors do not like a political voice.

She also said that further consideration is needed on what Tujan said about conditionality, as “conditions in any form are bad.” Referring to a village in the Tangail district, which underwent a severe flood in 2007, Farida said the incident, though a natural one, is also as a consequence of constructing a bridge over a nearby river, a project for which the donors are responsible.

PROF. MOSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (the Centre for Policy Dialogue), a panelist

“Where has the aid gone?” asked Prof Rahman. The Paris Declaration is rather a reflection of the fact that aid is not working, and the issue brought here today is a “very timely” one. Prof. Rahman thinks aid is not that important for Bangladesh because it has successfully become a trade dependent country from aid dependency.

He also condemned the conditions imposed on the recipients by the donors. “We should think why we should accept the conditionality?” and he suggested laws should be improved to intervene the practice.

On aid management and aid effectiveness, Prof. Rahman said the two are interlinked, as only proper functioning of the first would bring result to the second one. He raised questions about the five points in the Paris Declaration such as ownership, alignment, harmonization, mutual accountability and managing for results, and whether they really mean what they declared. In this context, Prof. Rahman believes the CSOs can play an active role.

On harmonization, Rahman said joint strategy can be adopted and those should be monitored. CSOs can monitor meeting the targets determined by the government. He also believes that the donor funds also should be monitored. He also suggested that tied aid, which has macro, sectoral and micro level impacts, should be reduced.

He pointing out that there has been an aid surge and that we have to increase our absorption capacity. There is about $7 billion USD aid in the pipeline, while we are having an amount of around $1 billion USD, which passively indicates our capacity. He also suggested maintaining quality in increasing the absorption capacity; or else it would reduce the aid effectiveness.

He put forward the reality for imposing conditionality. One reality for donors imposing conditions is for our own failure. As CSOs, we should consider the issue, and so should the government. He also mentioned that the concession on aid would reduce as we grow mature.

He agreed with Tujan on increasing the pressure on the donors to meet the demands of the CSOs to make the aid effective. He also suggested to identify how we can monitor the target of the Paris Declaration and MDGs, and asked to get engaged constructively.

Prof BADIUL ALAM MAJUMDER (Secretary Sujon and Committee for Revitalizing and Strengthening Local Government, Government of Bangladesh, Chairman)

“AID or AIDS?” Majumder posed the question as Bangladesh seems to have a tendency for ‘dependency syndrome’. The corruption would have been reduced if aid could have been stopped. Rather, aid and corruption is interlinked here and aid had made severe damages to this country.

He also pointed out that Bangladesh does not have any uniformity in its civil society, as corrupt politics has politicized and polarized the civil society. The partisan civil society members played roles for or against the political parties and subsequently lost their credentials.

On the issue of aid effectiveness, the question of ‘aid effectiveness for whom’ rises. And who will measure that? There are also questions about the ‘targets’ and the ‘guidelines’. These questions have yet to be answered.

He also criticized the government for formulating a so-called PRSP, without the participation of the people. He suspects it was placed to get aid in concession following the demands of the donors. Hence, how does democratic ownership work? Although the PRSP has been formulated, there is no initiative to empower the local government, which is a must to make aid effective.


Tahera Jabeen of CIDA questioned the definition of CSO, saying it can vary from context to context. She criticized the one-sidedness of the panel, saying there should have been some representatives from the government. She raised the question: To whom are CSOs, especially northern ones, accountable? She suggested building up a capacity for joint decision making as there is a broad gap between the government and CSOs preventing mutual understanding.

Al Raji of PRIP Trust emphasized strengthening the local government, saying, “Top priority must be given to empowering local government as real development is not possible if local people are not engaged in development activities.” The National Bureau of Revenue (NBR) needs to be more effective, and political agendas must be met or the country will fall behind on reaching its objectives.

Suraiya Siddique of Nijera Kori criticized the past government for taking loans for projects which could have been implemented by local initiatives.

Jahangir Hossain of Muktakhobar asked whether the country needs any sort of aid at all. He blames the past governments for their weak planning and rampant corruption in the development projects.

Zakir Hossain of Nagorik Uddyoj said the government should not take any kind of aid, grants or loans, considering that the donors act more like credit agencies.

Ferdousi Sultana of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) prefaced her comments, saying they were her own and not on behalf of organization. “Whoever gives a loan is not a donor, bur rather a development partner.” She admitted that some of the donors sometimes impose conditions on recipients, but that these are as a result of societal realities. She also stated that, “if private sectors can flourish, dependency would be reduced and it would create jobs.”

CSOs can play a role in increasing the absorption capacity to take more aid, and monitoring the governments to make sure the projects are not implemented properly. She also said the donors are biased to the big CSOs, who should operate more co-operatively with smaller CSOs.

Farida Akhter here again joined the discussion, saying that conditionality in any form is bad. The donors use women as bait to serve their purposes, and thus the development stagnates. She also did not like how the donors created the term ‘Gender’ for women.

Prof Badiual Alam here made a comment saying as long as the patriarchy exists in the society, incidents like ‘Women’ becoming ‘Gender’ would continue. He also commented that the government is not transparent in their projects and they care more for the donors than for their people.

Shamima Nasreen, a trade union leader of the garment workers, said, “Women are only being used rather than being developed.” She suggested that womens’ CSOs should monitor the projects on women more closely. She criticized the government for following the prescriptions of the WB and IMF that don’t have any real impact for the target community or the people. “The government should give subsidies to agriculture, and give priority to garments workers…mills and factories should be opened to create more employment,” she demanded, calling for more government as well as CSOs accountability, suggesting a central monitoring system.

Shamim Arefin from AOSED, Khulna, asked, “Is [aid] for the development of the donors or the target beneficiaries?” He lamented the country’s practice of using poverty as a commodity for trade since its independence. He called for the empowerment of the local government and traditional institutions on a grassroots level.

He also expressed his surprise that some of the representatives in the consultation gave their personal opinions instead of that of their organization, though they represent donor agencies or development partners.

Bayezid Dawla of Proshika again raised the question of CSOs, saying, “My understanding of CSOs is based in philanthropy and volunteerism.” He called for CSOs to be kept vibrant and strong for a democratic society.

MM Chisty from Khulna suggested considering the CSOs to evaluate how effectively they work. Referring to projects like the arsenic removal project, he said huge amounts of money was misused.

Mohammad Zakaria of Supro quipped, “Ownership is rhetoric,” adding that the Bangladesh government formulated a PRSP, but the people have no ownership in it.

Abdul Awal concluded, saying aid is a reality, as it has become a part of the cash flow of capital in the open market economy. He suggested preparing a participatory budget and forming an accountability mechanism, like an NGO accountability charter.


Antonio Tujan talked about the concept paper and issues paper attached in Annex 2.


Karim began his speech citing statistics to put forward the issue of aid effectiveness around the globe and in Bangladesh. He said only 0.3 % ODA of GNI of developed countries is given although they committed 0.7 %, and it would have increased the amount fourfold.

Putting forward the question of whether ‘globalization works for poor’, Karim states that the number of LDCs has increased to 50, though it was half that in 1970. For the LDCs only attract 2% FDI which is even limited to oil, gas and telecommunications. LDCs used to share 3% on export in 1950, which in 2000 came down to 0.7%, and unfortunately we find the same figures in exporting in agriculture.

In this scenario, Karim gave the poverty index of Bangladesh, by stating that the country has a population density of 1100 per square kilometer, the highest maternal mortality rate of 380, and a per capita income of only 480 USD.

So, he puts forward, Bangladesh deserves ODA, as the country has been striving for progress, but has suffered the most from climate change. One-third of the country will be submerged in the next 100 years, and one-seventh (20 million) of the population will become environmental refugees.

Then he put a fact sheet on ODA in Bangladesh, which says it has an outstanding external debt of 18,908 million USD, making the per capita debt is 151 USD. The net ODA trend is decreasing 37% of 1999 level. Debt servicing liabilities are 48% to WB, 26% to ADB, 11 % to IMF, and 13 % to the Japanese Government. The annual net requirement for MDG is 7.5 billion USD, which is in fact one fourth of the ODA received.

He pointed out weak political institutions, paltry civil society mobilization on ODA and its social audit, over-emphasis in services delivery especially among NGOs and WB’s coordination in the donor consortium as factors responsible for this scenario.

He also cited a statistic which said that in each 100 USD that came to the country, 25% goes to donors, 30% to bureaucrats, contractors, politician and commissioning agencies, 20% to rural and urban elites and only 25% goes to the poor.

He also cited two projects that came to failure. For the failure in one project, Karim stated four reasons: 1. Not having any participation of people during designing of the project and failure to find out the root cause of the disaster; No study had been done on the local environment, ecology and river management; Lack of any participation of the people during project implementation; and lack of transparency. The other project became a scapegoat of politicization in its implementation.

Karim gave a people’s agenda to make the aid work that includes linking to international mobilization to demand of more quality aid. There should be macro-level analysis, integration in national budget and civil society budget discourse. The grassroots people should mobilize in view of the Paris Declaration and to make social audits. He also suggested forming a national policy on long-term production policy for the use of foreign remittance and to protect public service from blanket commercialization.

Question &Answer Session

In this part Tony Tujan defined what he meant by CSO and explained about different CSOs. He also explained why the donors prefer the bigger CSOs. How can the role of CSOs be officially recognized? How can CSOs engage when government and donors are not transparent? There needs to be changes in the aid system to create room for the CSOs to negotiate.

Q. Taking conditionality of the IMF in consideration, do we need aid? How do we address inequality?

Tony Tujan: Aid is an instrument of neo-colonialism. Aid advances a corporate agenda. Aid is a legitimate demand for our countries as recognized in the UN charter on the right to development. Countries have the right to receive legitimate aid, not the tied kind.

Here we talk about the quality of aid and to reform the aid system, but debt is a bigger issue. The quality of debt is more important than the amount or the size of debt. Neo-liberal prescriptions have led to developing countries being burdened with debts, with different shades and layers of conditionality, and unable to assert its sovereignty.

Q. What is the process of bringing in foreign remittance?

Tujan then gave the example of his Philippines, which is often quoted as an economic ‘success’ country, but the inner picture is different.

The country mainly exported people around the globe, and the remittance received from expatriates gave a boost to the economy. But it subsequently destroyed social relations, and tore apart the families. He blamed irresponsible policies for this.

Q. With all the realities of aid, which includes its conditionality and also the reality of the countries being marginalized, which policy is important? ‘To make reforms in the aid system’ or to say ‘No to aid’?

Rezaul Karim: Developing countries have a legitimate right to aid, because the developed countries have become rich looting the resources from the developing countries. Citing economist Sen, he put forward the example of the UK, that made its industry using the money taken from the then Indian sub-continent during the colonial period.

Besides, the developing countries would suffer more from atmospheric catastrophe/pollution for which the developed countries are responsible. He cited that US is produces the most carbon emissions.

Q. If we have all the resources, why is our country not getting rid of poverty? Where is the development?

Q. Aid actually increases inequality and so does globalization. In this reality is the human-bases approach more relevant?

Tony Tujan: Most of the aid in the system are not used for a human-based approach. Aid is given on a premise of human rights, but the poor and marginalized get less and less services in neo-liberal context. To address the issue of inequality, it is important to change the aid system…and here we are talking about how to do that.

Reza Karim: We are living in an impossible paradigm. The WB/IMF are the main culprits in Bangladesh that dictate our development policies. Let’s keep up the pressure to reduce the conditionality from the donors.

Amanur Rahman from ActionAid Bangladesh: Globalization made us poor. The key way to reverse the process is to demand transparency in donor-government activities. To strengthen the CSOs so that they can play role in development as well working as watch dogs.

Ahmed Swapan Mahmud: To begin, he suggested taking the issues to the grassroots level and encourage consultation of multi-stakeholders at different levels.


* The country should come out of loan/debt traps, discovering the reasons behind the failures in the aid system in Bangladesh
* People do not have any ownership in national policies such as PRSP or budgeting or aid system
* CSOs are restricted from bringing out political agendas
* Conditions in any form should not be imposed and tied aid should be reduced
* No uniformity among the CSOs and civil society and also government is not actively trying to make aid effective, while in the present context the CSOs should play a role as watchdogs
* Government should change its policies on agriculture and employment instead of following the prescriptions of donors
* Government officials from concerned ministry couldn’t attend this programme though they promised presenting government activity in line with Paris declaration


* Raise voices and demand IFIs cancel the debts. Diversify the grants, loans and aid and reduce tied aid.
* On the issue of harmonization, a joint strategy can be adopted and the strategy should be monitored by CSOs.
* Increase the absorption quality to receiving more aid. Bring mutual accountability of the donors and government, as well as the CSOs.
* Make participatory budgets and involve people. Form a central monitoring cell among the CSOs. Small CSOs should be given more space to work.
* Mount pressure on the donors for a quality aid system. And mount pressure on the government to make its decisions, policies and activities transparent.
* Create links with international organization and networks to mobilize for demanding quality aid.
* Encourage be macro level analysis. The integration of the national budget and discourse from civil society on the budget
* People at the grassroots level should mobilize in view of the Paris Declaration and make social audits. The local government should be empowered as they play the most important role in implementation.
* Form a national policy on long-term production policy for use of foreign remittance
* Protect the public service sector from blanket commercialization.