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A new approach to put international cooperation at the service of development

From assistance to partnership

By The Alliance for Rebuilding Governance in Africa (May 2006)

As long as rich countries continue to use development assistance as a tool to support their policies and further their influence in the realms of diplomacy and trade, the spirit of this assistance will continue to be led astray and corrupted by considerations far removed from officially expressed motivations and declared ends. Frameworks and mechanisms linking all partners could and should be set up to bring together all types of development assistance, rationalise it, and make it more efficient. With this goal in mind, we should, for example, give national partners that benefit from assistance the power to define objectives and set priorities, instead of having them imposed from outside. These principles need to be codified and systematically accepted by the parties concerned. Such an organisation requires the creation of a Charter for partnership in cooperation for development. Associated national and international institutional mechanisms to coordinate development assistance must also be set up.

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From assistance to partnership

  • Agree on a Charter for partnership in cooperation for development in order to redefine the partnership between donors, States and civil society organisations. One area in which indepth change is required before we can really talk about African States and African policies is the nature of relationships between donors and these States. The rules of the game need to be renegotiated to give national actors (the State, local authorities, non-governmental organisations) a true voice in determining national policy and attributing resources. African States should themselves carry forward the initiative to draft such a charter, and they should do so together, in the framework of regional unions, the A.U. or the EU/ACP.

  • Change the way the conditionality of assistance is viewed by reintegrating pre-requisites in capacity-building objectives. For societies in an “apprenticeship” phase, raising the level of “internalisation” in the conduct of development projects and programmes is another challenge. Seen in this light, development assistance should help liberate initiatives by relaxing the conditions required to receive aid and by encouraging a culture of apprenticeship, which necessarily has a cost. This can only be achieved if partners agree that development assistance should also contribute to financing deficits in the fields of democracy, the rule of law, management capacities, etc. inherent to the poverty and youth of these States.

  • Propose a long-term development strategy in which the various partners are invited to participate. To support the partnership charter, States shall set up national systems for the convergence and coordination of development projects and programmes and extend them to the sub-regional or regional level. This system shall be set up gradually and in the initial phase involve support for decentralised local authorities and the development of transborder zones. To guarantee the continuity of reflection currently in progress in some countries (ex.: Senegal), a ‘stock exchange’ for projects will be set up by the State in coordination with all institutional actors. On the basis of Local Development Plans (LDP) or Regional Development Plans (RDP) designed by these local planning levels, donors will be given precise information on the country’s development priorities in terms of themes, geographic regions and potential partnerships.

  • Make development assistance transparent to populations. If partners agree to relax the conditions required to receive aid, in exchange populations should get new capacities to obtain information on the management of public affairs and alert competent authorities if necessary. The creation of participative budgetary procedures would be one way to increase transparency. Another would involve the way in which community, local authority, regional and national performance reports are presented. In the spirit of participative budget making, the budgeting process should be congruous to a decentralised State and should set up a mechanism to enable the participation of various organised social and socio-professional groups. In this framework, it is important that the performance report associated with a budget that has been voted–on the local, regional or national level–be presented to the public so that the latter can assess how its money has been used.

  • Create spaces for learning on the national and sub-regional levels. Development assistance is implemented in political contexts characterised by the presence of a number of parties. These parties are more or less specific in their means of intervention, but globally aim at the same development objective. In keeping with the measures recommended above, reflection should focus on processes for mutualising concepts and approaches to support for development. This co-learning process should be organised on the national and regional (or sub-regional) level. Various mechanisms could be used to give impetus and direction to these co-learning spaces: cooperative agreements between similar programmes on the basis of similarities or thematic or eco-geographic complementariness; co-organisation of capitalisation seminars-workshops.