Women mobilizing for profound changes in development cooperation
FRIDAY FILE: The release of recent figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that, despite an increase over 2009, donor countries are way off track on delivering on their aid disbursement commitments. Women’s organizations are mobilizing for profound changes in the system to better meet development needs and guarantee respect for women’s rights.
By Ana Inés Abelenda and Anne Schoenstein
The OECD figures show that in 2010, official development assistance (ODA) from members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) was a mere 0.32% of their combined gross national income (GNI). This is less than half the 0.7% of their GNI, which they pledged as ODA 40 years ago. If they had delivered on this pledge, 282 billion dollars would have been available for poverty eradication and sustainable development said a statement issued by BetterAid, an open platform of more than a thousand civil society organizations (CSOs).
One of the cornerstones of aid effectiveness is aid predictability; meaning development planners need certainty that what is pledged will actually be made available. Stronger and more concrete government commitments to close the gap between pledges and disbursements; and profound reforms towards a just and inclusive development cooperationframework are at the centre of civil society demands in the lead up to the 4th High Level Forum in Busan, South Korea (HLF-4) taking place from 29th November – 1st December 2011. This OECD-led forum will not only assess progress made against the Paris Declaration (2005), and later the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA, 2008), but will provide an opportunity to commit to a bolder and more comprehensive reform of development cooperation.
It is crucial that the women’s movement, civil society platforms and human rights and gender equality advocates create a strong presence, collaborate and integrate gender equality and women’s rights on the road to Busan, the HLF-4 itself and its outcome.
Why should women's rights and gender equality advocates get involved or deepen their engagement?
Even though the AAA included important advances on paper regarding gender equality and human rights, much still needs to be done regarding the actual implementation and monitoring. This also speaks to the importance of gender sensitive and gender specific indicators in relation to development effectiveness outcomes.
National development plans often fail to reflect women’s rights and gender equality. Country priority alignment, while desirable, can negatively impact the lives of women and hinder the achievement of key development commitments when implemented in political contexts characterized by gender inequality and human rights violations. And while developing countries’ priorities are key, development plans should be aligned with international and regional agreements on human rights and gender equality (including the Beijing Platform for Action and CEDAW). Donors, in turn should refrain from explicitly or implicitly, applying policy conditionalities or tying their aid.
Democratic ownership implies that women’s and men’s voices and concerns are included in, and are central to, national development plans and processes. CSOs contribute significantly to the reduction of poverty and social inequalities, including gender inequalities. In order to preserve the strategic roles that they play, women’s organizations need to participate in development cooperation debates so that predictable, long-term and diversified funding is available for women’s rights work. This also ensures that their experience and knowledge gets integrated into the debates and decisions that are being made.
Between 1500 and 2000 development stakeholder delegates, including about 300 CSO representatives, are expected to attend HLF-4 in Busan. This presents opportunities to develop a legitimate, multi-stakeholder development cooperation framework and to resolutely address the power imbalances in donor and ‘recipient’ relationships that continue to undermine, among other things, democratic ownership and the right to development. It is imperative that the voices of women’s rights groups and other CSOs are heard and taken on board and history has shown that this is best achieved collectively through alliances.
How is ‘development effectiveness’ different to ‘aid effectiveness?’
According to the Paris Declaration aid effectiveness refers to how and to whom aid is delivered. It also refers to the relationship between donors and recipients. Development effectiveness is a much wider concept that is still being debated. From a CSO perspective it includes the impact of the actions of development actors on peoples’ lives; and examines the root causes and symptoms of poverty, inequality, marginalization and injustice. CSOs, including women’s organizations, have been pushing for a change in discourse from aid effectiveness to a human rights-based perspective on development cooperation and development effectiveness.
There is an urgent need to move beyond the mechanistic process into a political discussion on how to allocate and distribute resources that will have a real impact on the lives of all women and men. CSOs involved in challenging the Paris and Accra processes are promoting a vision where there is no aid effectiveness without development effectiveness. This means that gender equality, human rights, social justice and environmental sustainability must be recognized as crucial to development effectiveness and as such development cooperation.
How are CSOs, particularly women’s organizations, influencing development cooperation spaces?
There are several spaces where development cooperation and development policies are discussed that permit different levels of participation for civil society organizations (CSOs). The G20, for example is a forum not open for CSO participation, and its self-selected nature means that it lacks the legitimacy to make decisions that impact the lives of people around the world. The OECD-DAC Working Party on Aid Effectiveness (WP-EFF), - the body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Paris Declaration and the AAA and which will report back to HLF-4 - granted CSOs membership through the BetterAid platform after the 3rd High Level Forum (HLF-3) on Aid Effectiveness in Accra in 2008. It is, however, still far from what CSOs have been demanding and only includes a selection of developing countries.
In contrast to the OECD-led aid effectiveness process, the United Nations Development Cooperation Forum (UN DCF) is a biennial forum within the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It works to support and enhance the implementation of the internationally agreed development goals (IADG), including the Millennium Development Goals, by promoting dialogue. The DCF’s multi-stakeholder nature, its strong focus on dialogue and its equal representation of developed and developing countries make it a rare space. AWID’s primer on the Road to Korea points out that, “CSOs see the DCF as an opportunity to establish an equitable multilateral architecture for determining policies and priorities for donors and developing country governments, although mechanisms for open and meaningful participation would need to be reviewed, especially vis à vis the participation of CSOs, including women’s rights organisations”.
The Women's Working Group on Financing for Development (WWG on FfD), an alliance of mainly women's organizations and networks that advocates for the advancement of gender equality, women's empowerment and human rights, has been actively engaging with the DCF process. BetterAid also regards the DCF as an important space and is engaged in it.
The road to HLF-3 in 2008 marked the beginning of a round of consultations by women's organizations across regions and the advancement of alliances between CSOs, which brought some progress on gender equality. However, advances in language were undermined by the absence of new targets or time-bound commitments to measure progress on these actions. Some key areas including decent work, policy conditionality, tied aid, mutual accountability and the reform of the aid governance system were left out or were insufficiently addressed. Thus the policy and advocacy work by women’s rights groups and other CSOs will continue towards and at the Busan HLF-4.
Many CSOs have joined the BetterAid Platform coordinated by the BetterAid Coordinating Group (BACG) whose overarching goal is to monitor and influence international aid effectiveness agreements such as the Paris Declaration and the AAA (with a specific focus on issues of democratic ownership). It also aims to broaden the policy agenda from the AAA towards development effectiveness, and substantial reform of the international aid architecture. BetterAid in cooperation with Open Forum has developed key messages and proposals from CSOs on the road to Busan.
Women’s groups within the BACG are also working to strengthen the gender position and are encouraging wider participation from women’s rights advocates across regions in the process. In a recent international strategy meeting in New York around 20 women's organizations, gender equality and human rights advocates from diverse regions shared information on the process and outlined what is at stake for women's rights. They strategized about advancing a gender equality and women’s rights perspective in development cooperation debates and what they aim to achieve in the HLF-4 in Busan and after.
Building on this meeting, women’s groups from the BACG will convene an International consultation on development cooperation, women’s rights and gender equality: "On the road again: Feminist visions and strategies towards Busan and beyond", 9 – 10 June 2011 in Brussels, Belgium and hosted by WIDE Network.
A space for information sharing about the aid effectiveness agenda and related processes particularly from a gender equality and women’s rights perspective has been created through the Google group listserv hosted by AWID: email@example.com If you wish to join please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Development cooperation is sometimes used inter-changeably with “aid” or “development assistance”, but includes more than ODA resource transfers. For example, BetterAid uses “development cooperation” to include a range of international relationships between governments or people for the purposes of achieving the Internationally-Agreed Development Goals in developing countries.
 The principle of ‘Alignment’ in the Paris Declaration refers to the commitment by donors to base their overall support on recipient countries’ national development strategies, institutions and procedures.
 Further information and debate in ‘Development cooperation beyond the aid effectiveness paradigm: A women’s rights perspective’ (AWID, 2011, p.12). Available at: www.awid.org/Development-Cooperation-Beyond-the-Aid-Effectiveness-Paradi...
 For more information on the key actors involved on the road to Busan, Korea, see Primer 9 of the Development Cooperation and Women's Rights series: "The Road to Korea 2011: Key official and civil society actors"
See the Friday File "Development Cooperation Forum Holds Some Promise For Women’s Rights Advocates", 04/08/2010
 Only civil society organizations can be members of BetterAid and can join via http://betteraid.org/en/about-us/join-betteraid/registers.html
African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID), WIDE Network, Coordinadora de la Mujer/Bolivia.
 The meeting was held from February 26-27, 2011, and was co-organized by AWID, FEMNET and WIDE with the support of UN Women.