Aid could make a real difference for people who need it most if promises are made and kept by development actors, reveals a new report from the Reality of Aid Network, based on evidence from 32 countries around the world.

The report, titled “Democratic Ownership and Development Effectiveness: Civil Society Perspectives on Progress since Paris”, finds that at best only two of the 21 aid effectiveness targets have been achieved since 2005, and these have not always translated into poverty reduction. This is a wake-up call for key actors to agree on aid effectiveness commitments for 2012 and beyond, to be finalized at the Fourth High Level Forum on aid effectiveness- which Hilary Clinton and Ban Ki Moon have announced they will be attending. The report’s results should push them to ensure that this time, the forum results in commitments that are kept, and ones that really ensure that the people most affected by development initiatives are being empowered.

The report finds that past commitments have had some positive influence on improving relationships between many country governments and their international cooperation partners.

“In Latin American countries Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, the decline in poverty rates is linked to sustained increases in social spending, in which development aid has been a factor,” said the chair of the Reality of Aid at the launch of the report in Paris last October 5 during the meetings of the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness.

In Indonesia, the Jakarta Commitment, forged in 2009, obliges donors to let Indonesia identify its own priorities for using the aid it receives. In Uganda, a new National Planning Authority ensures that citizens, and not just governments, are involved in development decisions. In Cambodia there has been some good progress in improving gender equality policy and plans.

But such policies have not always been matched with government action, or they have not helped to deal with the structural underpinnings of poverty. In Ecuador, “the continued existence of a patriarchal order, resistance of the political parties to admission of women, harassment and forms of violence, among other factors” still limit the participation of women in policy decisions.

In Bolivia, the report shows that increases in social spending do not address issues of employment and persistent vulnerability. There is little evidence that citizens have had a say in development decisions, and evidence shows that political space for civil society organizations is being undermined and is shrinking in many countries.

At the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in November, civil society organizations worldwide call on donors and recipients of aid to:

  1. fully evaluate and deepen existing aid effectiveness commitments (Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action);
  2. commit to a human rights based approach to development and development cooperation with gender equality, decent work and environmental sustainability at the centre;
  3. agree minimum standards to support the work of civil society organizations as development actors in their own right; and
  4. initiate fundamental reforms for fairer aid governance at the crucial high level forum on aid effectiveness which starts in November in Busan, Korea.
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