Erbil Declaration on Development Effectiveness

Photo: Iraqi Al-Amal

The "Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND)", in partnership with the "CSOs Partnership for Development Effectiveness” and ”Iraqi Al-Amal Association”, and in collaboration with the Parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan Region and the ICNL, organised the Regional Conference for the Arab Region on the Effectiveness of Development, in Erbil on 22 and 23 June, 2013.

This Conference comes in the context of the “development effectiveness”, which was launched in 2003 at the first meeting organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation for Development in Rome, to discuss how to make the development aid more effective. The conference was followed by a meeting in France in 2005 which resulted in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. In this meeting, and for the first time, a set of principles were discussed, including the principle of partnership between donors and beneficiaries, the principle of consistency between the policies and directions of the donors to avoid duplication and the discrepancies in standards, the principle of compatibility with public policies and national needs in the beneficiary country, as well as the principle of democratic ownership, including the ownership of decision, and avoid linking development aid with conditions on the policies.

The meeting in Paris was followed by another meeting held in Accra/Ghana in 2007, which was attended by representatives of civil society organisations as well as governments, donors and the UN representatives. Accra Plan of Action was issued from the meeting. The most important principles in this Declaration were the issues of respect for national frameworks and institutions, as well as to raise the level of participation of civil society organisations to the level of full partnership. This progress had a paramount importance, as it reflected the recognition by the governments and the international donors of civil society organisations as active partners in the development process.

The civil society organisations started afterwards to organise parallel mechanisms and frameworks, whereby two international frameworks were launched, "Better Aid" and "Open Forum". The first one was accompanied by the first track of government, and the second one continued preparations on level of civil society.

In the same track, a High Level Forth Forum was held in Busan City/South Korean in 2011, which was attended by representatives of civil society organisations, for the first time, at an equal level with the representatives of governments, international organisations and donors. The forum issued a Busan Declaration which asserted the partnership, including partnership with the private sector for development effectiveness, stressing that the aid is a means to achieve and not an end in itself.

Following this development in the relationship between the parties involved in the process of development, the CSOs consistently developed the representation mechanisms. They established what was called the International Forum for Development Effectiveness (In Nairobi, December 2012 declared the establishment of “CSOs Partnership for Development Effectiveness”), which launched a wider process of consultation with civil society  across the world, in collaboration with the development partners from governments, parliaments, international organisations and donors.

Erbil Regional Conference is considered within this context. Erbil is a fast growing city towards change and development, after passing the era of painful tyranny. The city supports this path by embracing this important and qualitative step, in the wake of the semi regional meeting, which was held at the beginning of this month in the besieged Gaza city. that meeting symbolised the solidarity with the Palestinian people who suffered from occupation and genocide, and in support of their struggle to establish an independent State. Tunisia will be the last city hosting, at the end of this month, the second semi-regional meeting, with the significance of being in a pioneering position, represented by this country which witnessed the popular protest movement against tyranny, corruption and inequality among its citizens and social groups. These three cities represent vital models in the course of the transition from aid effectiveness to development effectiveness. The debate focusing, in these three meetings, on four core issues that can be summarised as follows:

First: Enabling environment

The civil society organisations are not working in a vacuum, but they derive their strength and effectiveness from the environment in which they operate. The elements of this environment are multiple, including:

  • Governance, based on the embodiment of the principles of transparency and accountability.
  • The extent of the capacity of civil society organisations to interact with the development agenda, influence it, and contribute to the embodiment of its objectives on the ground, in particular the extent of their right to access to information .
  • The quality of the legislative system that regulates the work of NGOs, which reflects the degree of political will to accept the role of civil society organisations and the right to independence, freedom of association and action .
  • The nature of the relationship between CSOs at the national level and among donors, as well as international actors of the UN agencies or international NGOs .

Second: Partnership

There is no possibility to achieve effective development without a genuine partnership. The partnership requires inclusiveness on one hand and equal and effective integration on the other hand. The serious partnership is based on the availability of capacity to frame the national aid, and this condition is governed by establishing a real partnership between CSOs and the media first, and among governments, CSOs and the private sector second. In this context, the experience in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which declared a Charter  to regulate the principle of cooperation among the vital three parties of stakeholders, should be praised .

Third: Right-based approach

This means the recognition of the right to a fair and comprehensive development, away from various forms of discrimination. The development efforts should include various social groups, particularly the poor, disadvantaged and marginalised groups, and those with special needs. It must also involve, in the development efforts to benefit from its results, young people and minorities, particularly women who have played a vital role to defend the values ​​of equality and freedom.

The right-based approach also focuses on the principle of the right to self-determination, sovereignty and the preservation of national unity. In addition, it is necessary to reconsider the indicators for upgrading the lives of citizens, meeting their basic needs without discrimination, and their enjoyment of the national wealth, i.e. not only focus on the growth rates, but consider how income is distributed fairly .

Fourth: Right to property

This right focuses on real participation by local actors in the preparation of options and the mechanisms that will lead to the actual disposition of their national wealth, by relying on national development agenda, that identifies its objectives and priorities through consultation, assistance and monitoring of the main beneficiaries of this partnership, which requires the establishment of representative and participatory forums and structures .

It is important to materialise on the ground the local development objectives and indicators. The projects and schemes should not be imposed according to foreign agendas of the funding entities, away from the specifics national realities and the interests of the beneficiaries. Many of the policies imposed by the influential institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), still contradict, in their trends, the vital interests of the peoples of the region .

In this sense, we can talk about the Democratic ownership of social agenda, stimulate the volunteers work, and urge governments to commit to the implementation of its international obligations, the need to avoid the bureaucracy that empties partnership of its content and brings us back to the path of high-level aid that worsen the situation and increase dependency .

While acknowledging the existence of disparities between countries in the region by virtue of their different paths and approaches, the challenges, nevertheless remain common, allowing standardisation of methodology of processing and confrontation to achieve development effectiveness .

The critical conditions, which the Arab region is going through from the Middle East to North Africa, and in the light of massive changes which were accelerated following the popular revolutions and uprisings, that are open to various scenarios combining opportunities and risks, impose on CSOs, as well as  the governments and the private sector, to be deeply aware of the importance of a commitment to development effectiveness, to respect its principles and mechanisms, and work to provide appropriate environment, through institutionalisation of multilateral dialogue, remove the restrictions on CSOs, work together to safeguard national sovereignty and the development of wealth, and equitable distribution of the achievements of joint action. The time has come to turn the right to development into a binding international convention.

Source: Iraqi Al-Amal Association