Monday, February 25, 2008

Development aid: compensation for injustice or instrument for justice?

Source: CIDSE Advocacy Newsletter 38, February 2008

CIDSE has been engaged in intense discussions on aid effectiveness in the past, what this imperative means for a network of Catholic development organisations and correspondingly, its views on the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

In April 2007, a forum bringing together the Heads of Programme departments of CIDSE member agencies discussed the challenges and opportunities posed by the Paris Agenda and the need to develop a definition of aid effectiveness specific to the network context and informed by values based on Catholic Social Teaching. A Reference group was charged with the task of developing a paper addressing this need and soon involved a larger group drawing expertise from the policy/advocacy and monitoring/evaluation sectors of CIDSE’s members. A Write-shop, a technique used for the first time in CIDSE, brought together members of this mixed group to develop a first draft of this paper. The paper then went through a long process of in-depth discussion which raised important points meriting deeper reflections at various levels within the network.

The paper, currently still a working document, is titled ‘Development Aid: Compensation for injustice or Instrument for Justice?’ and captures some of these reflections. The starting point of the paper is that aid can only truly serve development in association with other means of seeking economic justice such as trade reform. That is, development aid needs to be an essential instrument of justice, not a mere compensation for injustice. Critiquing the a-political and largely technocratic nature of current political discourse on the issue, it provides a framework to broaden and deepen perspectives on aid effectiveness. This is done on the basis of the principles which have formed CIDSE’s perspectives of its own aid effectiveness. It goes further to provide recommendations that CIDSE hopes will constructively contribute to future debates on aid effectiveness.

The paper was shared with NGO colleagues on the eve of the Multi-stakeholder forum on civil society and aid effectiveness in Gatineau, Canada, February 3-6, 2008. This forum was convened by the Advisory Group on Civil Society and Aid Effectiveness established by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee and which included representatives from the donor community, partner governments in the South and civil society from all over the world. Joanne Mc Garry from CIDSE’s Irish member organisation Trócaire and François L’enfant from CIDSE’s Dutch member organisation Cordaid took CIDSE’s working paper to Canada to discuss it with other colleagues and government officials present during the three-day forum. The feedback received on the paper will be taken into careful consideration when finalising the paper. Moreover, recognising that the paper is not the end but the beginning of a process and appreciating the important questions that have arisen in its drafting process, CIDSE is presently reflecting on ways to further this discussion on promoting our aid effectiveness.

To know more, contact Jean Letitia Saldanha and Beth Masterson

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