S. Korea to Host World Aid Conference

S. Korea to Host World Aid Conference

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BUSAN — The world’s largest forum on international aid will kick off in this southeastern port city today.

Nearly 2,500 policymakers and experts from some 160 countries will attend the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness to seek more efficient ways of giving international aid while seeking a closer partnership between donor and recipient governments.

It will also look at how to persuade emerging giants, China and India, to take a bigger role in global aid efforts. The meeting will continue through Thursday.

This is the first time the forum is being held in Asia — the three previous ones took place in Rome in 2003, Paris in 2005 and Accra, Ghana, in 2008.

Key participants include President Lee Myung-bak, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Jordan’s Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Organization for Economic Cooperation, Development (OECD) Secretary General Angel Gurria and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“It is unprecedented that the international aid forum is taking place in a country which once survived on international aid,” said Park Enna, director general of the development cooperation bureau at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT), referring to Korea’s poor economy in the 1950-60s. “In this regard, Korea is a model state whose dramatic transition from rags to riches will help highlight the significance of international aid during the forum.”

Busan, the world’s fifth largest commercial port, was once a key destination for ships carrying foreign aid products.

Park said the forum will provide a stage for fresh forms of international aid, which include cooperation between two developing countries, called South-South cooperation, and public-private partnership.

“The Busan forum will open a new dimension in international aid,” she said.

Donors and developing countries have been trying for about a decade to agree on an international framework to improve the quality of aid, but critics say they have so far failed.

“The Busan meeting is an opportunity to mend the tattered global aid effort, and will have important consequences for the world’s poorest people,” international aid organization Oxfam said in a statement.

A key issue will be encouraging more emerging nations and private groups to join a combined effort to improve aid transparency, Seoul officials said.

“The big issue now is how to encourage BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) to take part, since they haven’t joined coordinated efforts among major donors,” an official said. None of the four fast-developing countries have yet joined the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee.

Rita Perakis of the Center for Global Development, a Washington-based research group, expressed hope that the Busan meeting will find ways to include emerging donors, particularly in sharing information about aid.

“The challenge in Busan will be to involve them and find a way to make it attractive to them to be part of the global effort, so that we can have standards,” Perakis said.

She said the Busan talks should also look at better ways to measure the effectiveness of aid rather than just financial figures.

Andrew Rogerson, a researcher for the Overseas Development Institute, a London-based think tank, called for more efforts to reflect the voice of emerging donor nations.

“A key success element would therefore be that China believes it has a real opportunity to shape any new principles and approaches to implementing them, not that it is being asked to underwrite ones which were developed by others in a different context,” Rogerson told AFP.

Blair urged donors to pay more attention to seek measures that lead to fundamental change in recipient countries.

“Aid has played a significant role in this progress, particularly the improvements in health and education,” the former British prime minister said in a contributing article to The Washington Post, Saturday. “But aid alone is not enough.”

He said development progress ultimately depends on governance and growth.

“All societies, no matter how wealthy, need governments that can deliver tangible improvements in the lives of their citizens and be held to account for the results,” he said. “They need economies that generate wealth and improved living standards for all. This requires a new approach.”

Busan Declaration

Topics discussed will be reflected in the outcome document, dubbed “The Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation,” which will be endorsed on the last day of the meeting, Thursday.

Today’s programs include a morning plenary session, “How Far Have We Come,” where scholars and aid professionals assess how much progress has been made in improving the effectiveness of aid. Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs and OECD Development Assistance Committee chair Brian Atwood will attend.

Other sessions will seek ways to build stronger ownership and accountability for donor and recipient governments while addressing aid fragmentation and predictability, capacity development and knowledge exchange, South-South cooperation and public-private cooperation.

The forum’s opening ceremony will be held Wednesday morning where distinguished guests, including President Lee, U.N. Secretary General Ban, Clinton, and OECD Secretary General Gurria are set to deliver speeches.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kim Sung-hwan will host a dinner for delegates later the same day.

On Thursday, participants will debate how to maximize the impact of development aid and seek a new consensus on aid and a post-Busan framework.

Seoul officials said the forum will focus on setting the development direction for developing countries and establish new rules for this.

“The forum will be an opportunity to share Korea’s turnaround experience from a recipient of foreign aid to a leading donor,” the Ministry of Strategy and Finance said. “Delegates will assess implementation of Official Development Assistance programs from the OECD and brainstorm future strategies.”