History of the Process

HIGHLIGHT: Download the Documentation Report:

CSOs on The Road From Accra to Busan - CSO Initiatives to Strengthen Development Effectiveness,

by Brian Tomlinson

The report tells the story of civil society processes, milestones, and challenges - from the official recognition of CSOs as independent development actors at the 3rd High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, Ghana (2008) to the first contribution as full and equal stakeholders at the 4th High Level Forum in Busan, Republic of Korea (2011).
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For about a decade, there have been a series of on-going processes that are shaping the future of international aid. One of these processes is led by the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness at the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD DAC), which has organized a series of High Level Forums (HLF) related to aid effectiveness. While the first of these took place in Rome in 2003 (HLF1) (with a focus on harmonization), it was not until the 2nd High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF2), held in Paris in 2005, that the aid effectiveness agenda gained prominence.

At the 2nd High Level Forum, donors and partner country governments signed the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, a five-year plan for reforming aid practices to improve the delivery of aid. In that agreement, signatories committed to undertake actions under five principles: country ownership, alignment with country priorities, donor harmonization, management of aid for results, and mutual accountability for these results. While the principles of the Paris Declaration have been commended, donors’ definitions of those principles and the indicators used to assess their implementation have drawn criticism.

In terms of the Open Forum, the perspective of CSOs was largely absent from this OECD-led process. Though organizers of the 2nd High Level Forum invited 30 CSO representatives to the signing of the Paris Declaration, CSO participation was limited to the reading of a statement. At the same time, CSOs were beginning to combine their efforts to more systematically organize their engagement in this process. A CSO steering group – now called BetterAid Coordinating Group - to coordinate advocacy around aid and development was formed in early 2007. Additionally, with the support of some donor governments, a temporary multi-stakeholder Advisory Group on Civil Society and Aid Effectiveness was formed in 2007 that created a formal link between CSOs and the OECD.

The Advisory Group facilitated CSO engagement in the 3rd High Level Forum (HLF3) in 2008 and submitted recommendations to this process. The 2008 3rd High Level Forum, which took place in Accra, Ghana, set an important precedent in terms of the extent of CSO participation in what were previously discussions between bilateral and multilateral representatives. During this process, CSOs challenged the implicit assumption of the Paris Declaration, namely that more efficient delivery of aid will automatically lead to improved development results. Donors and partner countries issued their own challenge, calling on CSOs to demonstrate and account for their own effectiveness.

CSOs took up this challenge by launching the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness. CSOs concluded that the Paris Declaration cannot serve as a measure to judge their effectiveness – hence the need to develop measures of effectiveness specifically for CSOs. This is based on a realisation that the roles of CSOs in development goes well beyond the delivery of international aid. Please browse this site for more information on the CSO activities being undertaken by the Open Forum.

The 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4) in Busan, South Korea, represented a milestone for CSO as they participated as full and equal actors during the negotiations. The outcome agreement of this event, the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation acknowledges the outcomes of the Open Forum 3-year consultation process; the Istanbul Principles and the International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness, both officially recognized in the Paragraph 22 of the Busan agreement.

Key events feeding into the creation of the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness

March 2005: Governments and official donors adopt the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

January 2007: The Advisory Group on Civil Society and Aid Effectiveness was established by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee: CSOs are invited to contribute to the OECD-led process on aid effectiveness through a series of regional and international consultations.

February 2008: The final consultation of the Advisory Group took place in Gatineau/Ottawa. One key outcome of the consultations was that CSOs do not consider the Paris Declaration applicable to them, but welcome the intention of its sigantories to improve the technical and management dimensions of their effectiveness. During informal talks, CSO representatives resolved to start their own process to establish a global CSO-suitable effectiveness framework.

June 2008: Over 70 CSO representatives gather in Paris for the Exploratory Meeting on CSO Effectiveness to discuss how to take the global process towards agreeing on a CSO-suitable effectiveness framework forward. They decided that it should take the shape of an open forum, accessible to all interested CSOs - the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness was born (see report of the Exploratory Meeting and the Progress Report).

September 2008: In the Accra Agenda for Action, official donors and governments "welcome the CSOs’ proposal to engage with them in a CSO-led multistakeholder process to promote CSO development effectiveness".

April 2009: Discussions start with donors on their support and engagement in the Open Forum. A donor core group - including bilateral aid agencies from Austria, Sweden, Canada and the UK - to coordinate donor engagement with the Open Forum was formed.

June 2009: A multi-stakeholder task team - including donors, partner governments and CSOs - meets for the first time in Prague, Czech Republic, to discuss how to move the discussions on development effectiveness and enabling environment forward. This Multi-Stakeholder Task Teamis part of Cluster A (ownership and accountability) of the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness.

November 2009 to March 2010: The Open Forum conducts regional seminars to consult with stakeholders and prepare for the Open Forum process

March 2010: Launch of the Open Forum national consultations

September 2010: Open Forum first Global Assembly and endorsement of the Istanbul Principles

March 2011: CSO Strategy Meeting and agreement on CSO Key Messages and Proposals for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness

June 2011: Open Forum Second Global Assembly in Siem Reap, Cambodia that led to the the Siem Reap CSO Consensus on the International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness.

November-December 2011:
- Busan CSO Strategy Forum that brought together 500 CSO representatives from all over the world to meet and discuss a collective strategy around the priority issues for HLF4 and beyond.
- 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan South Korea where CSO participate as full and equal actors.

December 2011: After extended negotiations, 18 sherpas, including one CSO representative reached agreement on the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. This declaration for the first time establishes an agreed framework for development cooperation that embraces traditional donors, South-South cooperators, the BRICs, CSOs and private funders. This marks a turning point for international development cooperation. The Busan Partnership explicitly recognizes the Istanbul Principles and The International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness on its Paragraph 22.

January 2012: Launch of the Toolkits accompanying the Istanbul Principles and the International Framework: “Putting the Istanbul Principles into Practice”, an implementation toolkit to help guide CSOs through a process of planning to implement the Istanbul Principles in the wide variety of conditions and contexts of CSOs experience; and the “Advocacy Toolkit” to provide guidance on how to advocate for a more enabling environment for civil society in diverse contexts.

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