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Ensure accountability of donors to make foreign aid effective, Development experts tell seminar

By voice - Posted on 10 September 2007

September 10, 2007

Staff Correspondent - Daily Star Metropolitan

Development experts at a seminar yesterday called for ensuring accountability of the donor agencies and cutting their dominance over the developing nations to enhance effectiveness of foreign aid in promoting development and ensuring human rights.
Experiences suggest that various conditions and dominance of the donors often have adverse effects on the development process in the developing nations, they added.
The observations came at a national seminar on 'Aid effectiveness and role of civil societies (CSOs)' organised jointly by Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment (Voice) and Reality of Aid Network at the National Press Club in the city.

“The donors must be under political dictate, but they want to dictate. That is the problem…and if the governments allow the donors to dictate, it is the governments' fault,” said Reality of Aid Network Chairperson Antonio Tujan Jr. He said relations between the donors and the recipient countries must be cooperative and not dominating because developments will not occur until the local contexts are considered while designing any development strategies. Putting emphasis on the CSOs, he said these are the organisations that are not meant to harmonise the policy prescriptions of the donors, but to play a role of watchdog on the accountability of the donors and governments. He defined CSOs as citizens' organisations that include trade unions, NGOs, community organisations, professional bodies, farmers' organisations and women's forums. “There might be differences in opinions and activities or fight against each other within the CSOs, because that is the democracy,” Antonio Tujan said, suggesting creation of a committee to hold the governments accountable on ODA (official development assistance).
Going even tougher, Prof Anu Muhammad of Jahangirnagar University said the global financing institutions including World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) actually dominate the developing nations like Bangladesh by giving aids.
“This is actually not aid, but a form of financing,” he said, adding that they do not give the money just as charity, but they have greater interests behind this.
On the other hand, the governments of such developing countries do not truly represent people, rather they represent the corporate bodies, Prof Anu Muhammad said, adding that these financers also push the governments to own their prescribed policies.
He said the institutions like WB and IMF have a strong influence on the financial sector of Bangladesh.
“You will often see the presence of the representatives of IMF or WB in the important meetings of Bangladesh Bank,” he added.
These global organisations are actually responsible for the gloomy picture of the jute industry and energy sector of the country, the economist observed.
Dr Zafarullah Chowdhury of Gonosasthya Kendra said, “Donors do not give money to the developing countries for nothing. They are interested in Bangladesh because it can give service charge.”
One day the civil society will have to face trial if it does not raise its voice for people now, he said, urging all to realise the global economic regime and stand against all sorts of dominance.
Voice Executive Director Ahmed Swapan Mahmud said the donors create pressure on the governments to be accountable and transparent, but there is no mechanism to hold the donors accountable.
He said the donors should act according to the home-grown strategies, but unfortunately, the reality is that they dictate the governments to follow their policies.
“Thus the aid could not be truly effective,” he added.
Ahmed Swapan said the bargaining capacity of both the governments and CSOs should be enhanced.
He also stressed that the output of aids should be critically assessed.
Proshika Deputy Director Omar Tareq Chowdhury, Coastal Development Partnership Coordinator Ashraful Alam Tutu, and WAVE Foundation Executive Director Mohsin Ali also spoke at the seminar.