Noble Sentiments in Paris

I’ve been doing a lot more thinking about the dilemmas of local ownership, particularly after delving deeper into the planning for our paper. One thing has become abundantly clear: we can drive ourselves crazy with the circular logic of the issue. Handicapping a community’s capacity to govern itself is undoubtedly a major drawback of deep, comprehensive local aid. Yet, pouring money into an opaque and corrupt system is out of the question. Yet, instead of pulling my hair out over this, I decided to have a look at steps the international community has taken to address the issue.

The major document dealing with this is known as the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. We can continue to bemoan the fact that the document was created under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an IO, but I’d like to suspend the initial disbelief to actually look at the contents of the document. It has five key steps that aim to address the issues of aid effectiveness, namely:

1. Ownership (Allows the host country to submit its own priorities and strategies)

2. Alignment (Donors are then supposed to align behind those requests and attempt to move through existing national institutions)

3. Harmonization (Donors are then meant collaborate to share information on their various initiatives to avoid duplication)

4. Results (The programs are supposed to include some concrete indicators built in to facilitate evaluation)

5. Mutual Accountability (The donor countries and donors are then held mutually accountable for the results)

While this is, by no means, an answer to all of our problems with local ownership, it is certainly a start. Laying the foundation for mutual accountability and ownership makes it easier for proposals with heavy domestic-international partnership to gain traction. It’s all very pie-in-the-sky (especially if the local institutions themselves are still duplicated or weak, as in the complicated and convoluted legal structure of Bosnia), but the precedent and acknowledgement by IOs is vitally important.

The Paris Declaration was followed up by the pleasantly alliterative Accra Agenda for Action. This consensus put more emphasis on capacity building and local partnerships. Again, talking about the issue (even if it has ACTION in its name), is only a small part of the battle for implementation. Perhaps I’m a bit naive for assuming the best in an IO, but my feeling is that the mere initiation of a document acknowledging and attempting to address issues of local ownership is a good sign. Even if there is no clear resolution, perhaps IOs are at least considering state building strategies that include a high degree of partnership more viable than the classic model.