A school catering for children of Bawe resettlement camp. Mutarara district, Mozambique. Credit: Andy Hall/ Oxfam
Longer-term aid commitments and use of existing national aid systems are critical.

Donor resistance threatens aid talks

“Aid should strengthen local capacity rather than spawning parallel aid empires.”
Robert Fox
Executive Director, Oxfam Canada
Published: 2 September 2008

Breakthrough on real reforms urgently needed, says Oxfam

Accra, Ghana:  After a day of intense negotiations in Accra, Ghana, pressure is building for a breakthrough at a crucial global summit on how aid works. Key issues at stake include agreement from donors that they will make longer-term commitments of aid and use existing national systems rather than setting up parallel bureaucracies to deliver aid, according to international agency Oxfam.

Negotiators from donors and developing countries continue to meet behind closed doors to break the deadlock as the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness began its formal sessions today. But frustrations are growing as the deadline for an agreement approaches.

Making more long term aid commitments has been a sticking point in negotiations with the United States and Japan.

“The issue of reliable, long-term commitments of aid is critical,” said Oxfam International delegation head Robert Fox. “For developing countries to invest in health and education, they need to know what funding they will have available for the next three to five years. You can’t train teachers or extend health care services to rural areas if you don’t know whether you’ll have the funds next year to pay salaries?”

Another contentious issue is how directly donor countries should be involved in delivering aid programs. Most donors and virtually all developing countries agree that aid should be delivered through local systems wherever possible. However, at present less than half goes through country systems. When developing countries have improved their systems, donors aren't using them.

“The sooner we ensure our aid dollars are strengthening the capacity of developing countries to meet their needs, the better,” said Robert Fox. “Good development builds on the abilities and assets of national governments and local communities. Aid should strengthen local capacity rather than spawning parallel aid empires or relying heavily on contractors and consultants from the North.”

In Mozambique, for instance, donors were spending a staggering $350m a year on 3,500 technical consultants, more than four times the annual salaries of 100,000 Mozambican public-sector workers.

“Governments from developing countries have every reason to be frustrated," said Robert Fox. “They’re clear we urgently need big changes to the way we deliver aid and that tinkering with the status quo just isn’t good enough. Real commitments and action are needed. The key to a breakthrough is to put front and center the interests of women and girls, men and boys living in deep poverty.”

Notes to Editors

At the previous High Level Forum in Paris in 2005, the “Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness” was signed. It set 12 targets, with measurable indicators, to improve the effectiveness of aid, to be met by 2010. The 2008 Survey on Monitoring the Paris Declaration (pdf, 2.6MB) (to be officially launched in Accra) shows that there has been little progress by donors on meeting many of the Paris targets.

Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 organizations working together to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice. We work with more than 3,000 partner organizations in over 100 countries.