This is the fourth and final article in a series on the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. The first article laid out why the HLF matters for conflict-affected and fragile states. The second article described the various conflict and fragility events at Busan and what to expect from them. Last week we looked at what to expect from the Busan outcome document (renamed the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation).
The Busan High Level Forum ended last Thursday with high marks for fragile and conflict-affected states. The Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation welcomed the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States and committed those who have endorsed it to pursue its implementation. By the conclusion of the meeting 36 countries and multinational organizations had endorsed the New Deal with more expected to join in the future. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set the stage nicely by welcoming the New Deal in his opening remarks. This was followed in the break-out sessions by several countries, Timor-Leste, South Sudan, Australia, and the UK included, specifically highlighting their intention to utilize the principles of the New Deal in their future aid partnerships.
The three events on conflict-affected and fragile states provided the evidence for why change is needed and the details of an agreed-upon new way forward enshrined in the New Deal. But they also went a step further by providing specifics. Australia, South Sudan, the UK, and others countries stated their intention to tie New Deal principles to existing frameworks. Bringing this level of specificity to such a forum raises the bar in ensuring that the words of Busan translate into actions on the ground. This is encouraging news. As we’ve seen with the tepid results of the monitoring of the Fragile States Principles, words and actions are often different.
Also encouraging was the focus on placing people at the center of New Deal implementation. The relationship between the state and its population is a core concept of the New Deal, but bringing that to life will require active participation and effort from government, civil society, donors, and private sector. So far civil society response is encouraging. More work will be needed with the private sector, which was generally silent during the conflict and fragility sessions.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set a positive tone by welcoming the work of the International Dialogue and g7+ in his opening remarks and reminding the crowd that no low income conflict-affected or fragile state has achieved a single MDG. More attention needs to be focused on peacebuilding and statebuilding and he encouraged all actors involved to continue with this work. Following the Secretary-General, Rwandan President Paul Kagame encouraged donors not to walk away when national systems are weak or ineffective, but rather to use assistance to help build them up. By having more actors invested in national systems there will be a greater motivation to seeing them improve. This was not directed specifically towards conflict-affected and fragile states, but it mirrors much of what the g7+ has been saying.
In the specific sessions devoted to conflict-affected and fragile states, several important announcements were made. Australia announced a partnership signed the morning of November 30th with Timor-Leste to support the Timorese National Development Plan by working with and through New Deal principles. South Sudan announced that its own Development Plan would be consistent with the New Deal and the UK pledged their support in taking this forward. The UK also announced a program of support with Afghanistan. Somalia stated its intention to be a pilot country for New Deal implementation.
In order to ensure that all these states live up to their commitments, monitoring of the process will be crucial. The New Deal contains a provision that by September 2012 a set of indicators will have been developed to track progress against the goals and work on this has already begun. But as Belgium stated, it’s not just monitoring that’s necessary, but a process of rationalizing existing efforts will also be needed to ensure that New Deal adherence doesn’t add to existing burdens. The examples of the Timorese National Development Plan and South Sudan Development Plan offer good starting points.
Considerable audience attention focused on ensuring the New Deal was inclusive of the wider society. Audience members reminded panelists that this must be seen as a New Deal with the people and not just between governments and donors. Women must also be purposefully brought into the conversation. Paul Okumu, Head of Secretariat of the Africa Civil Society Platform on Principled Partnerships, requested support to civil society, enabling them to “be the voice we are seeking to be.” He further recognized that conflict and fragility isn’t, at its core, a problem of financing. It’s a problem of people and this is where the focus needs to be.
Finally, it was recognized that much of the progress in getting to this point is due to the strength and organization of the g7+. In a comment from the floor, Somalia requested a “new deal” between the members of the g7+ to allow them to continue to speak with one voice on issues of conflict and fragility. Cohesion and unity of purpose among the g7+ has been a critical factor of success. It will be important for them to continue to engage with one another through their own structures going forward. What this will look like is still being determined, but the foundation appears to be strong.
As the Netherlands wrapped up session two they rightly said that the real work is only just beginning. Having specific commitments helps. But, the institutional inertia and resistance towards change in large bureaucracies will not be inconsequential to this set of challenges. The monitoring report on the Fragile States Principles has shown that donors are off-track in the areas of linking security, politics and development, instituting practical donor coordination mechanisms, contextualizing their programs and ensuring the centrality of statebuilding principles. All of these are relevant to New Deal implementation.
A redoubling of efforts will need to be made in order to ensure that the next round of monitoring, on adherence to New Deal implementation, doesn’t demonstrate similarly lackluster results. To make this happen g7+ countries must lead the way, civil society and the private sector must get engaged, and donors must be prepared to listen and enact change. Having consensus on the collective failures of the past will help to motivate reform, but more will be needed in order to institute the broad changes required. These changes range from the slightly more mundane human resource reform and merging of accounting practices to the higher level insistence of leaders that priorities, once set, actually do drive action. Most importantly, New Deal implementation must demonstrate that the new paradigm it lays out moves countries away from fragility and conflict towards resilience and peace. Only that will produce the incentives to usher in broad-based change.