The Reality of Aid 2004: Report on Governance and Rights

6 October 2004 | Minutes

This year’s Reality of Aid report focuses on Governance and Human Rights in International Cooperation. It was produced by a global network of civil society organizations from both the north and south. Essentially the report calls for all actors in the global aid regime to entrench the discourse of human rights, not only in their policies but also in their practices for international cooperation to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the eradication of poverty.

The presentation was hosted by Interaction, and chaired by Patricia MacWilliams. Contributions were made by a panel of four speakers: Brian Tomlinson, from the Canadian Council for International Co-operation; Moreblessings Chidaushe, from AFRODAD; Vinay Bhargava from Operations and International Affairs at the World Bank and Louis Kasekende, World Bank Executive Director for Africa Group1 countries.

Brian Tomlinson, who began the discussion, emphasized many of the key messages of the report. These include:

  • The interpretation of ‘Governance’: This is often ill-defined, and has led to the donor driven interest of aid money. Instead, ‘governance’ must mean a framework based on democratic governance and human rights. Good Governance principles should also apply to aid institutions as much as to developing countries.
  • Imposed conditions are incompatible with democratic governance. They should be in line with the principles of international human rights and a rights based approach, and should not be used as a vehicle for imposing market based approaches. The line of accountability of PRSPs is essentially to the IFIs rather than local stakeholders, and is thus inconsistent with the principles of democratic governance and human rights.
  • MDGs are an expression of commitment to economic, social and cultural rights. Efforts to achieve them must be based on strategies to empower and recognise the rights of all people, and donors must comply with their obligation contained in Goal 8 to increase ODA to the UN target of 0.7% of GNP.
  • IFIs must not remain the monopoly providers of policy advice on governance reform or the gatekeepers on resource transfers.

The second speaker, Louis Kasekende, who represents 22 countries on the board of the World Bank outlined the need to improve the delivery mechanisms of aid in order to avoid heavy transaction costs. In response to the report, he claimed that PRSPs had gone a long way to enhancing country-ownership, and that the ‘days of the donor setting the agenda are over’. He did concede that there was a long way to go in order to advance and meet human rights. However, he also disregarded the universality and indivisibility of human rights, by raising criticisms to what he perceived as instances in which ‘human rights’ are promoted at the expense of ‘economic and social developments’.

Moreblessings Chidaushe who spoke next, stated the importance of ensuring greater and more effective aid to Africa. As an example, she referred to Tanzania, which has been receiving aid since 1970s, yet is one of the poorest countries on the continent. She also questioned the resource gap in African countries, citing the example of Nigeria, which is oil rich yet the 70% of its citizens lives on a dollar a day. She pointed out that the current aid regime has been responsible for undermining governance and violating human rights in many cases. She criticized conditionality, which for instance has prevented Zambia from qualifying for aid.

Vinay Bhargava opened by saying that the key to effective aid is north-south collaboration. He cited the example of the Green Revolution in India as a successful example of agricultural aid, and also clarified that positive conditionality does make a difference. He believes that PRSPs are based on good policies and institutions. He also found some of the human rights recommendations of the Report contradictory in the case of such countries as Myanmar and North Korea. He claimed that the World Bank is changing its policy on human rights, and for example has closely examined the Right to Development in relation to debt relief, international trade and access to markets. Lastly he asserted that World Bank work on such levels as empowerment, social accountability mechanisms and good governance are all pushing the frontiers.