The Reality of Aid – Asia Pacific (RoA-AP) is a regional network of The Reality of Aid Global Network (RoA) that aims to transform aid relationships by ensuring democratic ownership, accountability, and development results for the poor and marginalized so that developing countries will be able to reduce aid dependency. It is governed by its own Steering Committee (SC) which is comprised of six representatives from each sub-region in Asia Pacific: Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa, and the Pacific.
The Reality of Aid – Asia Pacific and its members actively participate in RoA’s global meetings and advocacy activities, and has engaged in high-level fora and other events of the Organization for Economic Cooperation – Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC), the United Nations (UN), and other multilateral institutions in the region such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), among others.
RoA-AP also facilitates regional platforms such as the Asia constituency of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) and the Peace & Security Thematic Working Group of the OECD-DAC CSO Reference Group. RoA-AP’s members are active in these platforms too, as well as in the Southern CSO Alliance on South-South Cooperation. Apart from engagements, RoA-AP regularly publishes research and monitoring reports on aid and development cooperation in Asia Pacific and organizes annual meetings and workshops for the capacity development of its members.
RoA-AP’s CSO Aid Observatorio is a CSO-initiated and maintained database or platform of development projects funded through the Official Development Assistance (ODA) or funded by International Finance Institutions (IFIs).
ODA or simply known as “aid” is defined by the OECD-DAC as government aid that promotes and specifically targets the economic development and welfare of developing countries. Therefore, ODA must be utilized for poverty reduction initiatives to enable developing countries to be self-sufficient and sustainable.
However, the aid architecture is quite fragmented as donors individually decide on their priorities, which are often driven by their foreign policy objectives or their historical relationship, among others, and do not necessarily align with the recipient countries’ priorities or with sustainable development objectives. This maintains the underlying power asymmetries existing between aid providers and recipient countries. Moreover, the fragmentation and complexity of the current aid architecture reinforce the policy incoherence among different global institutions, each one with its own mandate, membership, and policy space.
Thus, RoA-AP established itself as a credible network of CSOs that monitors, analyzes, and advocates for the effective and efficient use of aid in order to protect the rights of the poor and marginalized. Aid is especially crucial in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic and the global recession, in which CSOs are calling for donors to provide new or additional finance that will benefit the hardest hit and most vulnerable.
Tracing back to the colonial histories of developing countries, ODA’s role in development cooperation goes beyond donor countries showing solidarity with fragile and developing nations, but actually repaying debts for centuries of exploitation. Such exploitation, however, still exists today and ODA is being catalyzed to leverage private flows including investments coursed through IFIs, which is a threat to the integrity of ODA’s supposed public interest mandate.
Traditional IFIs, such as the World Bank Group (WBG), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have met strong criticisms and protests from civil society and grassroots communities because of aid conditionalities that impose market-driven, export-oriented, neoliberal policies on developing countries. These conditionalities and projects that IFIs finance in the region continue to undermine human rights and domestic democratic processes, and have resulted into negative social outcomes which include (but are not limited to) persistent underdevelopment and poverty, violations of individual and collective rights, and environmental destruction.
IFIs also play a role by providing financing for partnerships that bolster the private sector’s role in development, which contribute to the privatization of natural resources and public services, without clearly establishing safeguards, accountability mechanisms, and other human rights standards. This practice is also prevalent in Southern-led IFIs such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB) despite their commitment to abide by South-South Cooperation (SSC) principles.
RoA-AP’s CSO Aid Observatorio, thus, offers on-ground narratives and evidence-based analyses of development projects in fragile nations and developing countries. The impacts of the projects are monitored and evaluated in terms of Development Effectiveness Principles, South-South Cooperation Principles, and of the following areas: 1) human rights, 2) democracy, 3) peace and security, and 3) environment or climate. Relevance and linkage to achieving the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are also assessed.
As a regional network that leads aid and development cooperation processes including the effectiveness agenda and capacity development for over 80 member CSOs in the region, RoA-AP sees its unique role in continuing what it has started years ago – facilitate capacity development of CSOs for their participation in the implementation of effective development cooperation at the national level, facilitate peer learning among CSOs in the region, and bring the voices from the communities and reflect these in advocacy and policy work at the regional and global levels.
In realizing its vision, RoA-AP aims to institutionalize the CSO Aid Observatorio, the network’s main aid monitoring tool that is accompanied by capacity development initiatives for its members and the communities they service as well as by knowledge products analyzing emerging issues in the development cooperation landscape.
The Aid Observatorio wants to:
Promote awareness and transparency on the management of aid by recipient governments and other providers (i.e. IFIs) in the region,
Aid research and analysis on the trends and impacts of development projects and public-private partnerships in the region,
Assist engagement of CSOs with recipient and donor governments and other providers for the effective and efficient use of public funds and for the protection of human rights and democracy,
Assist advocacy campaigns of communities or grassroots and peoples’ organizations for the assertion of their democratic rights and for seeking transparency and accountability from governments and other providers, and
Facilitate shared learning and discourse among CSOs, policymakers, academia, media, and activists for the promotion of a human rights-based, people-powered sustainable development and forwarding of critical solutions or recommendations.
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