Bringing Realism to Paris in Busan

The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness

Between November 29 and December 1, 2011, the major donors and most recipients of foreign assistance, together with various multilateral organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), consultants, and others will gather in Busan, South Korea, for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. The first forum in 2003 met in Rome and agreed to codify a set of principles to improve aid effectiveness. The second, in 2005, produced the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, signed onto by over 100 ministers of donor and recipient countries, as well as representatives of multilateral organizations. The third forum, in 2008, “reviewed progress” on implementation, found it wanting, and generated the Accra Agenda for Action, which recommitted the parties to the Paris Declaration and concentrated on recommendations to strengthen its implementation.

Hopefully, the Busan meeting will assess the Paris Declaration itself, not just its implementation. If so, it should expose substantial weaknesses in the declaration and recommend major explications and modifications. However, if this fourth forum does not revise the basic tenets of the Paris Declaration, in particular making them more realistic, the declaration will almost certainly become a dead letter: gathering perhaps formalistic allegiance by donors, continuing demands by recipients for actual compliance, ritual high forums in various capitals bemoaning lack of compliance and making additional recommendations for implementation, but no practical effect on the delivery of aid or its procedures, let alone its effectiveness.

Gerald Hyman
Senior Associate (Non-resident), Office of the President