Leaders discuss effectiveness at global aid forum

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Leaders discuss effectiveness at global aid forum


Foreign reporters look around the venue of the fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Bexco, Busan yesterday. The three-day international convention will kick off today and bring in around 2,500 people from more than 160 countries. [YONHAP]

International aid, a major function of a global community, has faced growing pessimism over its effectiveness since the early 2000s, as its conventional flow from rich to poor countries is thought to do little for the recipients.

Only a few exceptions exist, such as Korea, whose transformation from a war-torn, poverty-stricken country into a major global partner over the past six decades is praised as a model to emulate for many aid recipients, despite its controversial era of impeded democratization in lieu of fast economic development.

The equation over the effectiveness of aid is getting more complex with the increasing number of involved parties - companies, civic groups and major emerging economies like the BRIC countries. In an ambitious attempt to crack a tough nut, an international gathering has been arranged in a major Korean city beginning today.

The fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan is expected to wrap up discussions on aid efficiency that was discussed at three previous forums in Rome, Paris and Accra over the span of the past eight years. Organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the three-day Busan forum will bring in around 2,500 people from more than 160 countries and 70 international organizations, as well as numerous civic groups and members of the academic community.

“Many players are being involved in a game of aid, but spending much of the aided money. Hundreds of billions of dollars are overlapping as the players seek their own way of giving aid, sometimes for the good of themselves,” said a Seoul official. “The Busan event hopes to put into order those chaotic scenes in the area of aid and get a new, coordinated way of channeling aid installed.”

The stakes are so high that many top leaders of the international community will be present at the forum including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton; Angel Gurria, director general of the OECD; President Paul Kamage of Rwanda; and Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan.

President Lee Myung-bak will deliver a welcoming speech at the opening ceremony today and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will also lead a panel discussion today.

A plenary session to be held under the theme of “Progress since Paris: How Far Have We Come?” will start the first day’s discussion. It will evaluate the progress made after the 2005 Paris forum which decided that respecting the recipient’s wishes on how to use aid, will be the standard for allocating aid.

That will be followed by thematic sessions aimed at reviewing progress and actions required to move forward on such aid-related topics as ownership and accountability, country systems, aid predictability and transparency. This will be followed by capacity development, rights-based approaches and public-private cooperation.

The second-day program will have a special session on gender equality and women’s empowerment for development, during which Clinton will speak.

The forum will also seek synergy between the discussion of aid effectiveness at the OECD level and the discussion of a development agenda at the G-20 summit level. Those involved in each of the areas will have a joint meeting on Thursday.

“As a country that put development as a major agenda at the G-20 summit and will hold an aid development forum, we are trying to coordinate various channels to help tackle this important global issue,” said an official of the preparation committee of the Busan forum.

“It will also be a way of highlighting Korea’s leadership in this area.”

Korea, which joined the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee in 2009, has donated around 2.7 trillion won ($2.3 billion) worth of aid so far, with the amount earmarked increasing 10 percent on average each year. The government plans to increase the amount to the equivalent of 0.25 percent of its gross national income by 2015.

Many small forums and workshops are also scheduled to be held on the sidelines including a parliamentary forum today to be attended by around 80 members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. A youth forum on the same day will provide the future generation with an opportunity to be involved in the discussion of aid.

Companies participating in aid and development through corporate social responsibility programs will also get together at a private sector forum tomorrow to discuss effective ways of cooperating with the public sector in leading aid and development.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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