Accountability is Key to Successful Development Programmes
Tunis, 4 November 2010 – Mutual accountability and general participation are essential for successful development programmes, delegates at the second Regional Meeting on Aid Effectiveness said on Thursday, 4 November 2010 in Tunis, where South-South development partnership was also drawing attention.
The two-day event, jointly organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Union and NEPAD, is being held in preparation for the fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, to be held in Busan, Korea, in November 2011.
Discussions during the first day of the event also focused on the main priorities for aid effectiveness. The panel comprised the co-chair of OECD-DAC Working Party on Aid Effectiveness; Talaat Abdel-Malek, the executive director of the Institute for Democratic Governance, Emmanuel Akwetey; former Malian Prime Minister, Soumana Sacko; and Kenya’s public service minister, Dalmas Otieno.
Opening the discussion, Mr Abdel-Malek noted that there had been “substantial change in the right direction” as far as development partnerships were concerned since the 1980s and 1990s. “The world is changing, and it is not always good news, but there is always a silver lining,” he remarked, citing improved dialogue between aid providers and aid recipients. Sometimes the dialogue was not easy, he added, but it was still positive. “The level of tension is rising, but I think that is a good thing,” he said.
Mr. Abdel-Malek wondered why partners were still reluctant to use country systems, and emphasized that with only a year to go before Busan, they needed to “really intensify their political commitment”.
More ownership and partnership were necessary, he said, and underlined the strong need for “mutual accountability”. Mutual accountability, he said, included “accountability to our own taxpayers”.
However, not enough countries had it, he said, mentioning a recent report that pointed out that “only seven countries have mutual accountability systems” and that while this was disappointing there were others “in the pipeline”.
He added that “Effective development will not take place without more viable institutions and human resources”, calling for more and better training. In the past, a lot of money had been spent on training, he said, but there was “little to show for it in sustainable development”.
For his part, Mr Sacko said that the mutual accountability concept had “been around since the 1970s”, and that until recently it had been “put on the back burner”.
On China-Africa relations, he explained that China had been involved with Africa for a long period. It had simply been less visible, particularly because in the past, Russia had been heavily involved on the continent. China was “more visible now because Moscow is not there,” he said
He added that Africa had relied too much on “imported ideas”, echoing similar remarks made earlier in the day by the AfDB president, Donald Kaberuka. Mr Sacko also emphasized the need for strong leadership; for “leaders who can say ‘no’ in defence of our interests”. He added that South-South cooperation “whether with Brazil or with China, is the way forward”.
Noting that multilateral banks such as the AfDB, the Asian Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank had their part to play, Mr. Sacko said that he would like to see them make more contributions to South-South cooperation.
He also underlined the need for Africans to be in control of their destiny, rather than be in the “passenger seat of a car, and not be the driver”. In that situation, he said, it was still Africans who were blamed if the car had an accident, even though they were not in control of the car.
“The hand that gives is always above the hand that receives,” he said, wondering if that would be the same situation with South-South cooperation. “We have to be vigilant,” he warned.
Mr Akwetey, for his part, also focused on mutual accountability and how it was linked to the growth of democracy in Africa. He said Africa had made a choice, and that choice was democracy. Dictatorships in Africa had not produced anything positive. Unlike the dictatorship that transformed South Korea, those in Africa did not produce any desired results, he said.
He noted that while development partnerships would be there for Africa for a long time, the continent “must become less dependent on aid, and be more self-reliant”. He recalled Mr Kaberuka’s earlier remarks, saying Africa could be stronger in trade negotiations if it could act as one country, and not as 53 separate nations.
Emphasizing the importance of domestic tax revenues, Mr. Akwetey, however, said that accountability was an issue. “We know what needs to be done, but we are not delivering because we lack accountability,” he said. “If you want us to rely less on donors, then you have to pay more taxes. That is mutual accountability,” he explained.
In any case, African countries needed to train people for public service so that they can “approach development issues competently and responsibly, Mr. Adel-Malek said, stressing the importance of good public services in every African country.
“If one of us is lagging behind, we are all lagging behind,” Mr Otieno concluded.