Erbil Declaration on Development Effectiveness
Erbil, 22-23 June, 2013
The "Arab NGO Network for Development", in partnership with the "International Forum on Civil Society and Aid Effectiveness" and "Iraqi Al-Amal Association", and in cooperation with the parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan region and the ICNL, organized 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 in the first meeting organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Rome, to discuss how to activate the development aids, followed by a meeting in France in 2005, that had Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness. This meeting witnessed, for the first time, discussing a set of principles, including the principle of partnership between donors and beneficiaries, the principle of consistency between the policies and directions of donors to avoid duplication and the differences in standards, and the principle of compatibility with public policy and national needs in the beneficiary country, as well as the principle of ownership of democracy, including the ownership of decision, and avoid linking development aids with conditionality of policies.
The meeting in Paris was followed by another meeting held in Accra in Ghana in 2007, which was attended by representatives of civil society as well as governments, donors and the United Nations, that issued Accra Agenda for Action. The most important issues in this Declaration was the issue of respect for national frameworks and institutions, as well as to raise the level of participation of civil society to the level of full partnership. This progress had a paramount importance, as it reflects the recognition of governments and international donors to civil society as an active partner in the development process.
The civil society organizations started after that to organize parallel mechanisms and frameworks, as 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, Busan High Level Forums was held in South Korean Busan city in 2011, which was attended by representatives of civil society, for the first time, on an equal level with the representatives of governments, international organizations and donors. The forum issued a Busan Declaration that asserted on the partnership, including 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 relations between the parties involved in the process of development, the civil society organizations consistently started to develop the representative mechanisms, they established what was called the International Forum for Development Effectiveness, which launched a wider process of consultation with civil society across the world, with the participation of development partners from governments, parliaments and international organizations and donors.
Erbil Regional Conference is listed within this context, this city that is fast growing towards change and development, after passing the era of painful tyranny, which 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, this meeting symbolizes the solidarity with the Palestinian people who suffer from the occupation and genocide policies, to support their struggle to establish an independent State. Tunisia will be the last city by hosting, at the end of this month, the second semi-regional meeting, by the significance of the pioneer position represented by this country that witnessed the popular protest movement against tyranny, corruption and inequality among citizens and social groups. These three cities represent vital models in the course of the transition from aid effectiveness to development effectiveness. The debate concentrated, in these three meetings, on four core issues that can be summarized as follows:
First: Enabling environment
The civil society organizations 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 organizations 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 reflect the political will to accept the role of civil society and the right to independency, freedom of association and action.
• The nature of the relationship between civil society organizations at the national level and among donors, as well as international actors of the UN agencies or international NGOs.
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 civil society organizations and the media first, and among governments, civil society organizations and the private sector. In this context, it should tribute to the existing experience in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, that achieved a Charter which regulates the principle of cooperation among the vital three parties of stakeholders.
Third: Right-based approach
Which means the recognition of the right to a fair and comprehensive development, away from various forms of discrimination, and the development efforts should include various social groups, particularly the poor, disadvantaged and marginalized groups, and those with special needs. It also must involve, in the development efforts to benefit from its results, youth 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, the protection of sovereignty and the preservation of national unity. In addition to the need 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 the efforts to 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 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 materialize on the ground the localization of development objectives and indicators, the projects and schemes should not be imposed according to foreign agendas of the funding entities, away from the specifics of 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, still contradict in their trends with the vital interests of the peoples of the region.
In this sense, we can talk about the Democratic ownership of social agenda, also to activate the volunteer work, and urge governments to commit to the implementation of its international obligations, and the need to avoid the bureaucracy that empties partnership of its content, and brings us back to the path of overhead aids that worsen the situation and increase dependency.
While acknowledging the existence of disparities between countries in the region by virtue of the different paths and approaches, but challenges remain common, allowing standardization of methodology of confrontation to achieve development effectiveness.
The crucial circumstance, which the Arab region is going through from the Middle East to North Africa, and in the light of massive changes that were accelerated following the revolutions and uprisings, that is open for many scenarios that combine opportunities and risks, all this imposes on civil society organizations, as well as governments and the private sector, to be deeply aware of the importance of a commitment to development effectiveness, respect its principles and mechanisms, and work to provide appropriate environment, through the institutionalization of multilateral dialogue, and removing the restrictions on civil society organizations, 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.