"Will the legacy of our generation be more than a series of broken promises" 1
Nelson Mandela, 2001
Some seven years from the Millennium Declaration we are faced with the inevitable need to reassess the current levels of poverty, the instruments that are in place for tackling poverty and indeed the constraints that must be resolved both in SADC and elsewhere. The fact that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) represent an unprecedented commitment by all nations and institutions, including the International monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, to implement and realize the MDG goals and targets needs to continue to be emphasized at all stages. Part of the global ability to realize the MDGs is dependent on financing of such development. Aside being affirmed as part of Goal Eight in the MDGs such understanding has also been reaffirmed in the 2002 Monterrey consensus on enhancing financing for development.
The Paris Declaration and MDGs
The purpose of the 2005 Paris declaration on Aid effectiveness is to improve aid delivery in a way that best supports the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. It highlighted the importance of predictable, well aligned, programmed, and coordinated aid to achieve results2.
The declaration is an action-orientated roadmap for aid reform built around five main themes with corresponding objectives. The themes are ownership (partner countries should exercise leadership over their development policies, strategies and coordinate development action); alignment (donors should support partner countries' national development strategies, institutions and procedures); harmonization (donors should be more harmonized and transparent); managing for results (managing resources and improving decision making for results); and mutual accountability (donors and partners are accountable for development results).
The declaration is an international agreement of 22 donors and 57 partner-country governments marks a significant set of commitments to improve aid effectiveness for the stated purpose of accelerating the achievements of the 2015 MDGs and reducing poverty and inequality. SADC countries in line with this declaration have also proposed the Windhoek Declaration which calls for effective structures for dialogue, improved alignment and harmonization and proposes some key areas of cooperation within the region though with some lines on it with bilateral country programming. Nevertheless, SADC still needs to ensure greater coherence between the RISDP/SIPO and national development priorities. The capacity to absorb donor funds and implement projects in SADC is very limited considering their weak secretariat.
The MDGs include a 50% reduction in poverty and hunger, universal primary education, reduction of child mortality by two-thirds, cutbacks in maternal mortality by three-quarters, promotion of gender equality, and reversal of the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. A Millennium Summit of 189 world leaders in September 2000 pledged to meet all of these goals by 2015. A summit later this year will review progress towards the goals and set the development agenda for the next decade.
Of particular importance to this paper is Goal Eight outlining Northern governments' commitment to a global partnership for development - a late addition to the MDGs- If Goal eight is ignored it is hard to imagine the poorest countries achieving Goal 1-7. Goal Eight relates to issues of - debt cancellation, trade justice, equitable governance in global institutions, and political, social and economic rights for the poor - as an indispensable foundation for a politics that will enable sustained progress to end poverty in the South. It is an important goal for holding developed countries accountable in advancing the MDGs. This goal is particularly significant, as it requires richer countries to reform their policies and actions to contribute to the fight against poverty
Ownership referred to within the Paris declaration is problematic as donor imposed policy conditions and benchmarks are the most important barriers to ownership as they undermine the space for locally-determined policy options for development and poverty reduction. Without significant reform of the World Bank and the IMF, donors will fail to take into account the value of local knowledge and of locally determined appropriate policies that may contradict current 'wisdom' in these institutions. Mutual accountability in the context of highly unequal power between donors and recipients requires commitment to fundamental reform of the international financial institutions. Otherwise developing countries continue to have no say on IMF and World Bank priorities and their development policy blue prints.
In practice donors project local ownership most easily into the PRSPs, yet these though regarded as national development strategies are not actually seen to be nationally owned and participatory. In Zambia for instance, getting another national development plan apart from the inadequate PRSP is something the government has acknowledged. PRSPs could have engaged a wide spectrum of stakeholders but the acceptance of their input into strategies for different sectors was limited and discussions on the macroeconomic framework that affect the viability of these strategies remained off-limits. In essence, the PRSPs were assumed by both the ministries of finance and IFIs to help better target government expenditure, but not necessarily to offer new insights into macroeconomic policy especially monetary and fiscal policies.
Nevertheless, the Paris declaration is an important initiative to reform aid practices and attain the MDGs, which if implemented will contribute to more effective aid delivery to partner governments in the South. However, reform will be incomplete and limited in its impact on poverty if donors do not improve their relationships within the framework of international human rights law, which requires attention to the impact of their efforts on the ability of the poor to claim their rights.
UNDP(2002 ) "The Millennium Goals in Africa-Promises and Progress" Report prepared by UNDP and UNICEF for G8 Personal Representatives for Africa, June 2002, New York
See also the full document, "Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, Ownership, Harmonization, Alignment, Results and Mutual Accountability" on www.oecd.org.