Subject: Fragile Nations Speak Up To Donors

also DEVELOPMENT: Listen to Us, Fragile States Tell Donors

DEVELOPMENT: Fragile Nations Speak Up To Donors

By Matt Crook

DILI, Apr 10, 2010 (IPS) - An international dialogue meeting in East Timor Saturday saw fragile states make giant steps in showing developed nations how aid can be more effectively channelled to achieve their key development goals.

The Apr. 9-10 Dili International Dialogue on Statebuilding and Peacebuilding broke new ground as a group of fragile states, collectively known as the g7+, united to tell international donors where mistakes have been made in giving aid.

"We welcome the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding as an innovation in the international system where countries experiencing conflict and fragility and development partners can jointly shape and guide international assistance to support peacebuilding and statebuilding," said Armand Borrey, head of cabinet from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ministry of Planning.

Key among the countries’ priorities is the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These are eight targets, including reducing poverty and child mortality, that the world’s governments had pledged to achieve by 2015.

"We recognise that it would be extremely difficult to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in most fragile and conflict-affected states by 2015," he added. "We urgently need to address conflict and fragility by supporting country-led peacebuilding and statebuilding processes."

More than 100 delegates from 40 countries attended the meeting, along with representatives from the United Nations, Asian Development Bank, World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of 30 mostly high-income donor nations.

Juana de Catheu from OECD’s International Network on Conflict and Fragility told IPS: "It’s quite clear that we are off track to meet the Millennium Development Goals in five years because there’s a group of countries that have fallen behind, and most of them are affected by conflicts, or another form of crisis."

Those countries that have fallen behind account for more than one billion people. In 2007, 37.2 billion U.S. dollars of official development assistance went to fragile and conflict-affected nations. But donor money could have a more significant impact if priorities and policies are changed, according to OECD data.

Olivier Kamitatu, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s minister of planning, said it is impossible to even think about achieving the MDGs without changes in the way donors work.

"The Millennium Development objectives of course remain pertinent, but unless we come up with the capacities, with the planning processes and with the necessary instruments, 2015 will become a short-term deadline. We need to change ways of thinking, we need to change procedures, but that takes time," he said.

Saturday’s meeting culminated with the presentation of the Dili Declaration, which outlines a plan of concrete commitments to improving how international assistance should support peacebuilding and statebuilding.

Bella Bird, head of the Governance and Social Development Group of Britain’s Department for International Development, told IPS that about a third of the world’s poor live in countries that have experienced or are experiencing conflict or fragility.

"We acknowledge we haven’t focused enough, helping to listen to the countries and what they need to do to achieve peace," she said.

"Sometimes as international donors we come in with our own ideas, rather than listen to the needs of the countries, and what we’re committing to today is to change that, and be much more focused on what countries themselves say are their priorities," Bird added.

"Today’s agreements have really reinforced the need to put things like growth and jobs much more central in our work," she said.

The Dili Declaration outlines challenges in peacebuilding and statebuilding, but more importantly lays the foundations for an international action plan.

"Delivering more effective support to peacebuilding and statebuilding will require a change in approach," the declaration said. The key areas of the action plan are capacity development, aid instruments, planning processes and political dialogue.

The dialogue meeting came on the heels of Thursday’s closed-door meeting of the g7+ fragile states, attended by delegates from Burundi, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal, the Solomon Islands, Sierra Leone, Southern Sudan and East Timor.

At that meeting, the g7+ came up with "a seminal statement which presents in a coherent and compelling way the needs of fragile states," said East Timor’s Minister of Finance Emilia Pires.

That statement provided the fodder for the Dili dialogue and this week’s meetings will now be used to shape future policy processes on peacebuilding and statebuilding.

Natty Davis, Liberia’s Minister of State Without Portfolio, said, "Building capacity is not one size fits all. First of all, the states themselves need to begin to define some of their own priorities."

On Friday, East Timor’s President Jose Ramos-Horta said donors do not always know what is best for fragile states. "Maybe some donors think they hold the Pope’s infallibility virtue…" he said. "Maybe some donors might think, ‘We are a bit like the Pope, ‘we are the ones who know what is best’."

More than 100,000 Timorese people died as a result of an Indonesian military occupation between 1975-1999. The nation became formally independent in 2002 but remains one of the world’s poorest and most in need.

Apart from contributing to September’s discussion on the Millennium Development Goals, the results of the Dili dialogue, including the international action plan, will be presented at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Seoul in December next year. (END)

DEVELOPMENT: Listen to Us, Fragile States Tell Donors

By Matt Crook

DILI, Apr 9 , 2010 (IPS) - "Work with us, not against us" was the message for international donors that came out of the g7+ meeting of fragile states, which met in Dili this week to discuss how they can make better use of the foreign aid they get.

Fragile states must take the reins when it comes to ways development partners give them official development assistance, East Timor’s Minister of Finance Emilia Pires told IPS. "For us to better guide our development partners and to contribute to a better management of external aid, we have to take the leadership," she said.

"We believe that we do this through establishing a long-term vision, which then should be translated into concrete national strategies in the country plans, which then the donors must adhere to, must align their programmes to, without working outside our plans," she added.

Thursday’s meeting saw the g7+ of fragile states - Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Ivory Coast and East Timor - uncharacteristically break rank from donors for a closed-door, no-holds-barred discussion of where development partners have been going wrong with their billions of dollars.

"We need development partners to be transparent with their aid. Tell us exactly how much, how much you dispersed, when and where did the money go," added Pires. "We want action. We are ready for the action. We will do our part and we want the development partners to also do their part."

At the end of their one-day meeting, the g7+ collectively agreed on four priorities that they think should be the focus of international support: good governance, economic development, social and human development, and security.

But Thursday’s brainstorming was just a prelude to what will come out of the ongoing International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding here, when those g7+ countries will deliver their statement to development partners.

Olivier Kamitatu, Democratic Republic of Congo’s minister of planning, said in an interview that this united front is a move towards concrete action. "We have overcome the monologue and decided to come together to share our experiences," he said.

"We have understood that we have to look beyond our borders, beyond our oceans, and we have realised that we as fragile states share common values. We understand that we have a common vision, that it is important to speak with one voice when speaking with donor countries," he added. Thursday’s meeting was also attended by government representatives from the Solomon Islands, Chad and Nepal.

"The g7+ is going to become a forum, an institutionalised forum that will meet on a regular basis with a view to assessing the efforts made by our respective countries and to look at the dialogue," added Kamitatu.

The final act to come out of the International Dialogue will be the signing of the Dili Declaration, which will provide a framework for the dialogue to shape future policy processes, including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Among the keenest listeners on Friday and Saturday is the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of 30 mostly high-income nations that give the bulk of development aid.

Juana de Catheu from OECD’s International Network on Conflict and Fragility said developed countries are finally starting to realise that their assistance has not always been delivered in line with what fragile states actually need.

"We want to hear about their perspectives on statebuilding and peacebuilding, so this is basically the culmination of a series of national consultations where we already had these kinds of exchanges on peacebuilding and statebuilding issues, and we’ve been hit with a few home truths," she told IPS.

"The first one is exclusion," De Catheu said. "We are obsessed with the capital (cities), and we should be, in the immediate aftermath of crisis because this is where the systemic, structural issues are being addressed…. But over time we should be looking at what’s going on in the districts."

This focus on a country’s capital has often led to populations in rural areas being neglected.

"Sierra Leone, for example, is going to be officially declared a post-conflict success by (U.N. Secretary-General) Ban Ki-moon this year. This is all very nice, but if you talk to people in the districts, they tell you they haven’t seen the dividends of peace yet, and it’s been 10 years since the end of conflict," she pointed out.

Thursday’s meeting was a "historic moment" for the g7+ countries because they had a rare opportunity to sit down without donor presence to exchange views on dealing with aid realities and what they think international partners should be doing differently, added de Catheu.

"There’s a lot of money going into fragile states, but we’re not leveraging the investment sufficiently well," she said. "When the rubber hits the road, we still do things the way we used to."

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao gave donors a snapshot of East Timor’s draft National Strategic Development Plan for the next 20 years, which outlined a fresh pledge to use more of the nation’s oil wealth to bolster economic growth and living conditions. 

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