Throughout the network’s 30-year existence, issues surrounding aid and development have evolved into a more chaotic web of complications, prompting deeper injustices and poverty. Despite and because of this, any door of opportunity must be seized to magnify the calls of the people for rights-based, people centered development and for quality financing in areas concerning public services and climate justice, among others.   

Donor policies in the last 10 to 15 years have changed a lot given the multitude of changes in political and economic spaces and influences globally. Undoubtedly, several socioeconomic and aid policies have either served donor interests or minimally improved the lives of the marginalized. In addition, the war in Ukraine massively reorganized donor priorities which largely affected how official development assistance (ODA) is delivered, undermining other priority areas. Furthermore, COVID-19 recovery assistance dampened the state of ODA even more due to aid inflation caused by the reporting of recycled vaccine donations, as well as increasing in-donor refugee costs, debt relief, and allocations to private sector instruments. Given that the budget for ODA is already stretched in many donor countries, it is now more difficult to address global challenges which have been impeding us from achieving the SDGs and the Agenda 2030. 

On the other hand, a crisis of multilateralism has been plaguing aid efforts since the 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis and other similar events. As a result, many donor countries are now refraining from giving quality assistance to protect their own interests. Similarly, geopolitical priorities and security agendas also shape aid flows in the form of aid conditionalities. Terms and conditions set by donor countries do not usually consider the needs and contexts of the people and thus, must be challenged to not undermine the true intentions of ODA. With tensions between the United States, China, and Russia becoming more prominent, ODA is also at risk of turning into an instrument for and of securitization rather than responding to people’s increasing needs.  

Throughout the network’s 30-year existence, issues surrounding aid and development have evolved into a more chaotic web of complications, prompting deeper injustices and poverty. Despite and because of this, any door of opportunity must be seized to magnify the calls of the people for rights-based, people centered development and for quality financing in areas concerning public services and climate justice, among others.   

As global crises continue to challenge the world, especially the Global South, The Reality of Aid Network will engage in these three priority areas this year: 

  1. The increasing call to prioritize private sector financing to address multiple and intersecting crises undermines the historical mandate of donor countries for reparations and to alleviate poverty and inequality.

With the multiple and intersectional crises the world is currently experiencing since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is clearly a need to mobilize sufficient and effective financing to respond to multifaceted challenges faced by several Global South nations. Historically, donor countries have the responsibility to support Global South countries in reaping the benefits of aid flows that will finance people-centered and sustainable development on the latter’s own terms. By committing to share the burden through ODA, donor countries must allocate a notable amount of financing, with no conditionalities, to help in facilitating economic growth, and strengthening public services and infrastructures in developing nations. However, due to decades-long dependence on structural adjustment programs and austerity measures promoted by donors and international financial institutions, today’s financing situation barely alleviates the difficulties of the marginalized, and stunts the progress towards eradicating poverty and inequalities. Despite the fact that many global challenges are preventable, international institutions are refusing to reform their systems because geopolitical and market interests continue to drive their development agenda. 

Now, to substitute the lack of holistic actions, development and financial institutions resort to another neoliberal propensity of relying on the private sector to fund and implement development projects and provide social services. With the increasing prominence of the private sector, macro-economic stability and fiscal balance are prioritized, putting at risk basic social services for the marginalized. Concurrently, the responsibility of governments to monitor and assess private sector engagements is weakened because they are constantly being coopted for profit-creation. The development agenda of many political and financial actors continue to lean away from people-centered initiatives. Furthermore, there are no significant evidence that private-sector led projects contributes to alleviate poverty and inequality. In fact, the Private Sector Watch shows that such projects only resulted in more harm to the rights, livelihood, lands, and environment of the people. With this continuous trend in private sector-led investments and development initiatives, the marginalized will continue to reap the disproportionate effects of market-oriented solutions to public problems.  

2. The looming global economic recession risks the burgeoning debt of developing nations, emphasizing the need to cancel debt and other conditionalities attached prior to accessing ODA. 

As the world emerges from the pandemic, the Global South continues to be paralyzed by current debt conditions. On top of this, the global economy is once again at risk of collapsing which will greatly affect the disenfranchised, especially those in conflict-ridden areas – workers, peasants, fisherfolks, Indigenous Peoples, urban poor, women, and children, among others. Despite such challenges, the burden of paying off debt is constantly placed on the hands of the marginalized instead of channeling efforts through progressive taxation measures and other people-centered socioeconomic and development policies.

Even with the undue effects of the debt crisis to many, ODA remains lacking and are even bound by dubious conditionalities and are mostly packaged in the form of loans rather than grants. Thus, the cycle of acquiring unmanageable debt persists. Moreover, donor countries continue to be subpar in delivering their 0.7% GNI/ODA commitment as they prioritize their geopolitical interests over collectively addressing the world’s most pressing concerns. In fact, in the last 53 years since the commitment was made, donor countries failed to deliver USD 5.7 trillion in aid. Hence, there is a need to implement measures that promote debt cancellation, instead of continuing to anchor development and fiscal policies on the existing neoliberal order.  

3. Stronger conversations around “shift the power” from donor countries to aid receiving nations and local communities push development actors to rethink strategies toward reforming the aid system.

The flow of resources and financing to national and local organizations and communities is often undermined by overly bureaucratic processes that hamper the delivery of much-needed assistance to the marginalized and vulnerable. In addition, there are many instances where aid allocation succumbs into a one-size-fits-all narrative which fails to consider the unique realities of local communities. In response, donor countries and organizations must contextualize and nuance their approaches to cater to different situations, especially those fragile countries experiencing protracted conflicts and environmental degradation.

With this emerging demand, conversations around “shift the power”, mostly from the civil society, are growing stronger, asserting that funding, programming, and implementation of development projects must be proactively coordinated with and by local communities. Resources must be used congruently with the legitimate and contextualized needs of local communities. Particularly, the growing literature on and practice of localization emphasizes the need to strengthen local and national capacity development efforts to deliver the best outcomes according to people’s evolving needs.

With a challenging year ahead, The Reality of Aid Network, with the leadership of its International Coordinating Committee, together with its members, will continue to engage in vital policy spaces to assert Global South voices and their demands. We will maximize our efforts in 2023 to forge a stronger solidarity among Global South peoples and pave new ways for better engagements. Likewise, the network will continue to amplify the voices of the marginalized, monitor aid and development cooperation initiatives, and demand for rights-based, people-centered socioeconomic approaches. Now more than ever, consolidating and propelling Southern-led partnerships and initiatives become more relevant to achieve an equitable future.     

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