Aid effectiveness

Aid – through resource and knowledge transfers among countries and communities – is a valued expression of mutual solidarity that recognises our inter-dependent peoples and planet. This is all the more important in the context of a fast changing world where new needs, risks, insecurities and other vulnerabilities arise and interact in complex ways. At the same time, scientific and technological progress along with modern communications and networking methods are creating unprecedented opportunities to join effectively together to solve common problems and achieve common good.

Aid can play an effective role in catalysing sustainable development if its provision is aligned with partner countries’ own policies and strategies. This happens when states lead and own their development processes and their authorities are held accountable for effective delivery by their own communities. The will and capability to do this must ultimately come from within communities and countries but judiciously given aid may help to nurture and grow capacities to do so effectively.

Conversely, poorly designed and executed aid for development programming can be harmful when it creates dependency or disincentivises states’ own allocations to productive objectives. When that happens, the social contract between governments and their citizens that is so essential to the long-term stability and functioning of countries, is weakened. This is all the more important in the so-called fragile states.

Financial aid to meet basic human needs through measures that directly reduce poverty and vulnerability should never be linked to the requirement to procure goods and services from the aid providing country. This is for both moral and ethical reasons as well as on efficiency grounds.

Transparency and accountability for effective results should be considered essential conditions for aid provision not just to ensure that best value is obtained but also to raise standards and sustain the confidence of public, governmental and other donors in aid transfers and international systems for development cooperation.

Nowadays, most poor and vulnerable people on the planet live not just in the traditionally least developed countries but within middle and higher income countries. The relative aspects of deprivation are also changing as emotional and psychological factors as well as social exclusion and violence assume greater prominence alongside income poverty. The implication for aid effectiveness is in terms of its targeting to tackle divisive inequalities and in its design to meet more complex needs. This goes well beyond usual concerns over the volume of financial aid transfers.

A changing environment

In parallel, patterns of giving have changed considerably with the rise of philanthropic, corporate, NGO, and public donations in comparison with wide fluctuations in official governmental donor assistance. At the same time, resource transfers within countries and communities from the better to the less well-off are getting more significant especially in middle income countries. New government donors are also coming forward. This implies the need for wider inclusion and better coordination in designing regimes for aid effectiveness at both national and international level.

The principles in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action – domestic ownership, donor alignment and harmonisation, and managing for results with mutual accountability – remain as relevant as ever. However, the context for their application has evolved considerably. This is due to a world order that has altered so much in terms of power and influence between nations as well in the social and economic relations within them. In addition, cross-border communities and networks of interest are assuming greater influence across a globalised world.

In conclusion, a new deal for development cooperation that recognises these changing realities would increase aid effectiveness. This includes the explicit recognition that while governments bear ultimate responsibility for the welfare and well-being of their citizens, they cannot do everything in development by themselves. Thus the organised participation of their communities themselves is a vital contribution to progress. This is the context for the Red Cross Red Crescent role in development.

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