The Reality of Aid – Asia Pacific (RoA-AP), along with the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) – Asia, held their annual Regional Meeting, “Accelerate Efforts; Amplify Voices: Bolstering Solidarity toward People-centered Development Cooperation”. The Regional Meeting aimed to strengthen solidarity, and to facilitate dialogue among members, donors, and development actors toward effective and people-centered development action.
The Regional Meeting was composed of various events such as The Reality of Aid Report 2020/2021 Asia Pacific Launch, Nexus Research Launch and Multi-stakeholder Dialogue, and the RoA-AP Regional Meeting.
The Reality of Aid Report 2020/2021 Asia Pacific launch
Last August 31, the Asia Pacific launch of The Reality of Aid Report 2020/2021 was held as the kick-off of this year’s Regional Meeting. The launch featured chapters focused on the region, with the authors from various civil society organizations discussing the findings of the report. With the subject of aid in the context of conflict, fragility, and the climate emergency, The Reality of Aid Report 2020/2021 consists of 21 contributions, with six from the Asia Pacific region, examining the Triple Nexus, the climate emergency, and the global response to the pandemic.
Aid in Asia Pacific
In the panel discussion moderated by Marie-José Saade of the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), authors presented the findings of their articles from the report, detailing the current state of aid in the region.
Rodolfo Lahoy, Jr. of IBON International asserted the need to confront the long-standing issues on the effectiveness of aid. An issue highlighted during the launch was how official development assistance (ODA) or aid, has long been donor-centric, with donors utilizing aid to forward their own political, economic and military interests.
Mara Bonacci of Aid/Watch Australia revealed how Australian aid is incorporated into the country’s diplomatic strategy. Through the Pacific Compact, Australian geo-political agenda is forwarded at the expense of the Pacific’s sovereignty, development and environment.
Likewise, Japan’s ODA, despite its supposed increase, has been heavily pursuing loans and infrastructure. Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC)’s Akio Takayanagi said that the modernization of ODA, which involves changing how aid is reported, is utilized for political and commercial interests. He also mentioned how Japan has utilized aid to forward the country’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy in order to counter China’s influence in the region.
In the case of the Philippines and Palestine, donor priorities have long shaped humanitarian and peace efforts, which have only compounded the roots of conflict and fragility. According to Lahoy, US aid provided to the Philippines is heavily militarized. For instance, the United States openly showed support for the Anti-Terrorism Law, in which several provisions have been evidenced to contribute to the erosion of rights of vulnerable peoples.
Firas Jaber of Al-Marsad highlighted how the lack of social security being provided to the marginalized and vulnerable in Palestine was due to the influence of neoliberal policies pushed for by the private sector, including corporations and international finance institutions (IFIs). The lack of social protection systems has pushed people into poverty and unemployment during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Moreover, according to Jiten Yumnam of Centre for Research and Advocacy- Manipur (CRAM), neoliberal policies and unsustainable development programs pushed by donor countries and multinational development banks in South Asia, are false solutions to the climate crisis and have only contributed to the large-scale displacement of communities in the sub-region.
During the moderated discussion, the audience was able to share their thoughts on the state of aid in Asia Pacific. From their inputs, several important points were highlighted, including how donor-driven aid contributed to how the pandemic has exacerbated long-standing economic and political challenges, and how the pursuance of neoliberal policies worsened poverty, inequality, fragility, and the climate crisis.
A call for transformative change based on the principles of solidarity, human rights, feminism, and poverty and inequality reduction, was advocated for by the speakers and audience alike. Collective action and ground swelling of people’s movements must be continuously amplified.
Towards genuine development
To achieve genuine and inclusive development for the region, system change must be pursued by the people. Transformative change must include the rethinking of current systems in place, namely the donor-driven international aid system and the neoliberal development model. As Yumnam stressed, “It is really important to rethink the current neoliberal development model, which has unleashed an onslaught not just on people’s land and livelihood, but also fostered the concentration of wealth to corporate bodies, and also promoted impoverishment and inequality all in all,” he said.
There is also a need for the continuous recognition of power relations and unequal dynamics between donors and partner countries. Donors and development actors must remain transparent and accountable to uphold inclusive, people-centered partnerships.
To ensure genuine development, Bonacci listed the following calls to donors: ensure giving aid to the people; genuinely listen to the people; respect sovereignty; ensure development effectiveness principles; and take responsibility for impacts.
Jaber also recommended that a people-centered social protection system, accompanied by universal health insurance, must be provided to the people, especially during times of crises.
In addressing conflict and fragility in the region, Lahoy asserts, “To leave no one behind, in terms of participation and rights, is to achieve a just and lasting peace. We maintain that an agenda of peace in addressing fragilities are matters of social justice, matters of rights and matters of people having the right to shape their own development path.”
The event ended with the audience raising advocacy calls, and a closing message from Jahangir Hasan Masum, the Chairperson of RoA-AP. Masum reiterated the need to transform and democratize aid in order to achieve genuine, inclusive and sustainable development in the region.
Nexus Policy Research Launch & Multi-stakeholder Dialogue
Last September 7, the Reality of Aid – Asia Pacific, CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness – Asia, and the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) held the Nexus Policy Research Launch and Multi-stakeholder Dialogue via Zoom and Facebook Live.
The event featured three-panel case study presentations contextualizing the Triple Nexus approach in Syria, Bangladesh, Lake Chad Region, Cameroon, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Mali, Guatemala, and the Philippines. The publication, Localizing the Triple Nexus: A policy research on the humanitarian, development and peace nexus contexts, highlights the need to integrate development and peace with humanitarian actions in addressing the roots of conflict and fragility.
On gender and conflict
The first panel of speakers focused on gender issues exacerbated by situations of conflict. Rosabel Agirregomezkorta of Centro de Estudios e Investigación sobre Mujeres (CEIM) explained, “Gender-based violence is intensified during conflict and disasters. The gender dynamics and polarization influences the socio-political order and delays the resolution of conflict.”
In fact, 83% of conflicts in 2019 occurred in contexts of discrimination against women and girls. With that, it is essential to include a feminist view of conflicts. Especially in the emergence of the global pandemic, there is a need to update indicators periodically, including human trafficking, reduction of civic spaces, hate speech, and the increase of fundamentalism and extremism in the region.
On behalf of Charles Bongwen Linjap of Investment Watch (I-Watch) and Asadullah Mohammadi of Scholarship for Afghanistan, Deewa Dela Cruz of IPMSDL gave an overview of their reports. Linjap’s report focused on the impacts on women and children of the Boko Haram conflict, and the military actions by the Cameroon government. Meanwhile, Mohammadi’s report tackled World Bank-funded education projects in Afghanistan.
Linjap asserted that development and humanitarian actions should complement security actions through human rights training and abuse monitoring to ensure a people-centered approach amidst conflicts. Women should also be given the platform to engage in peacebuilding efforts.
Both Linjap and Mohammadi’s reports highlighted the need to pursue long-term development paths for women and children in Triple Nexus projects. Job opportunities, quality and accessible education, and the provision of social services must be sought for long-term development in both Cameroon and Afghanistan.
On environment and fragilities
The second part of the discussion focused on case studies concerning themes of violated Indigenous Peoples’ rights and exacerbated environmental issues under situations of conflict.
Rikki Gono of Katribu Youth explained how dams constructed in the Philippines have caused displacement and loss of livelihood as these violated the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of affected Indigenous communities. “Projects like dams hinder long-term development, peace, and humanitarian goals. They have become a new scheme of land-grabbing, in wanton disregard of the alternatives being proffered by various sectors and IPs’ basic right to FPIC and self-determination,” she asserted.
Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines have long been suffering from development aggression and other forms of corporate and environment plunder. These have significantly escalated within the framework of the Duterte government’s counterinsurgency program, which is used as a pretext to silence Indigenous Peoples.
Following Gono, Jose Luis Siguil Lopez of Movimiento Tzuk Kim-pop discussed the lack of cooperation among development actors in Guatemala, despite facing conflicts, health issues and invasions. Lopez called for the government to manage aid effectively and to provide an enabling environment for civil society in order to implement the Triple Nexus effectively.
Lastly, Maggie Mwape of Southern Africa Youth Forum-SADC talked about how the climate emergency worsens humanitarian crises in Mozambique. In 2019, Cyclone Idai aggravated the displacement of peoples, disruption of livelihoods, and the lack of access to basic services, which were brought about by existing conflict. She highlighted the importance of restoring peace and stability, promoting people-centered sustainable development, resolving the humanitarian crisis, and enhancing disaster preparedness of communities, in addressing multi-faced fragilities.
On development and migration
The last panel of speakers focused on programs and policies concerning refugees in their respective contexts. Elle Ambler of Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN) highlighted the importance of the Triple Nexus as an orienting tool to address the scope and root causes of conflict. She also reiterated that attending to the concerns of refugees who hope to return to Syria under improved conditions must be prioritized.
“The allocation of funding to development in Syria should lead to substantial and sustainable improvements to Syrians’ quality of life, along with an opening to heal rifts between segments of the Syrian population,” she said, listing major concerns of refugees including violence, conscription, and lack of employment services and housing.
Following her discussion, Jahangir Hasan Masum of Coastal Development Partnership (CDP) revealed that country ownership is very important in any protracted refugee crisis situation, especially in developing countries.
In the case of the Rohingya refugees, the government of Bangladesh must uphold ownership of the Triple Nexus as the central operational framework of the Joint Response Plan for Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis (JRPRHC). While the JRPRHC has been fairly efficient in addressing immediate challenges, a long-term approach with a stress on peacebuilding must be pursued. To ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the JRPRHC, there is a need to develop local capacities for peacebuilding, with local NGOs as key nexus partners.
Ending the case study presentations, Leo Atakpu of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) recognized that the Triple Nexus approach is a good option for the Lake Chad region, and has potential to provide better coordination across humanitarian assistance, development support, and peacebuilding efforts. As the region is facing conflict, forced displacement and human rights violations, there is a need for a people-centered response to secure communities of their rights. “Saving lives through assistance and protection, enhancing interventions through humanitarian action, and strengthening resilience are needed to address the cause of conflict,” he said.
Collaborating and addressing multiple fragilities
After the sharing of country reports, Julia Codina Sariols of the OECD Crises and Fragility Team and Carina Staibano of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) responded to the presentations. Both of them agreed that there is still much to be done in implementing the Triple Nexus, and in responding to conflict and fragility more broadly.
In tackling gender and fragility, Sariols stated that “There is a need for further collaboration and joint planning on women security and the Triple Nexus agenda. There is also the need to talk about gender sensitivity and analyze how gender is affecting each context.”
She also suggested that analytical tools must be improved to effectively address issues circling gender inequality and conflict. Aside from discourse on women’s plight, there must be attention to the discourse on masculinity as well and its link to violence, gender expectation, and inequality.
Staibano highlighted the importance of localization, explaining that initiatives effective in one context can be impossible for another. Understanding the situation and contextualizing the response is needed to effectively address the needs of the people. Stronger coordination and policy guidance among humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors are crucial as well.
To end the launch and dialogue, advocacy calls were raised as Sarah Torres of RoA-AP wrapped up the event, reiterating that the event is just the beginning of succeeding policy and advocacy engagements and alliance-building opportunities to discuss how a people-centered Triple Nexus approach looks like and to forward genuine, rights-based sustainable development initiatives.
RoA-AP Regional Meeting
Lastly, the RoA-AP Regional Meeting was held on September 9, 2021. The meeting was attended by the Secretariat, the Steering Committee and the members. The Regional Meeting started with welcoming remarks from Georgina Muñoz Pavón, the Chairperson of the Reality of Aid Network. She asserted the importance of the network’s role during this time of multiple development and humanitarian crises. She mentions how RoA-AP and its members must continue to be agents of change, standing up for peoples’ rights and freedoms, putting people at the center. International cooperation and solidarity with national movements remain fundamental in addressing these multiple crises.
This was followed by a presentation of the Secretariat’s Report and a collaborative dialogue with the members, where suggestions and inputs to improve the network’s plans and engagement were raised.
The meeting was concluded by Jahangir Hasan Masum, who thanked the members for participating in this year’s Regional Meeting. He also encouraged the membership to remain involved and active in the network in order to sustain and improve RoA-AP’s engagement in the regional and global levels.
The various events of this year’s Regional Meeting were able to expose the long-standing issues of aid and development cooperation, which have contributed to its inability in solving the multiple humanitarian and development crises the world faces today. The publications launched and the discussions held raised the need for rethinking the current systems of development, addressing the roots of conflict and inequalities, and forwarding system change. In accelerating efforts and amplifying voices, the Reality of Aid-Asia Pacific calls for a people-centered, rights-based approach to the compounding crises of the Covid-19 pandemic, conflict and fragility, and the climate emergency in the region and beyond.