In the first week of September, more than 800 representatives of multilateral and bilateral donors, developed and developing country governments, and civil society organisations (CSOs) will gather in Accra, Ghana, for the OECD-DAC (Development Assistance Committee)’s Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (2-4 September). Just prior to the forum, a civil society parallel Aid Effectiveness Forum will bring together more than 400 CSOs from 30 August to 1 September, to discuss and finalise their recommendations to the High Level Forum (HLF) decision-makers. At the last High Level Forum, held in Paris in March 2005, donors and governments signed onto “The Paris Declaration”, a five-year plan for reform of aid practices. The Accra HLF will review progress on these commitments, but equally importantly, the Forum may also establish an agenda for deepening these reforms over the next two years, leading to a successor Declaration to be agreed in 2011 in Beijing, China.
The Reality of Aid Secretariat noted in its 2008 report, "The reality of aid in 2008 is that it continues to fail to promote human development for the eradication of poverty, based on the core values of human rights, democracy, gender equality and environmental sustainability. This is despite the appearance of progress in the form of high-profile debt cancellations, new aid pledges, and the signing of the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness." Civil society welcomed the Paris Declaration and its principles, but questions its narrow and limited focus on technical reform of aid delivery – the efficiency of moving money from donor accounts to those of governments in developing countries. Experiences of aid on the ground raise questions as to whether much has actually changed in aid practice, pointing to weak commitments to untie aid, persistent high numbers of conflicting policy conditions attached to aid, and limited use of developing country systems. They have called for deeper and more far-reaching aid reform and its measurement.
The signs are not good. When donors and governments come together in Accra to measure their progress, for example, there is not one single indicator that explicitly relates aid reform measures to improvements in human development, in gender equality and women’s rights, or in the ability of people to claim their rights. However, the HLF in September is a unique opportunity to set in motion ambitious actions for meaningful aid reform. Civil society organisations in support of Better Aid have high expectations of the donors and government officials who will gather in Accra in early September. They stress the need to see concrete commitments to positive reform.