Accountability and Ownership: The role of aid in a post-2015 world | Poverty

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In September 2015, world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)––an ambitious new agenda to eliminate poverty and achieve a sustainable world by 2030. The role of aid in achieving the SDGs, in which national accountability and ownership are paramount, should not be underestimated. As the world marks one year since the signing of the Sustainable Development Agenda, Oxfam has outlined a new vision for the role of development aid. This paper sets out how more effective aid can support poor people to become active citizens, while also supporting effective and accountable governments to plot their own path to achieving the SDGs. This vision of aid enables countries to take ownership of the development process. It overcomes barriers to accountability, participation, and decision making, thereby strengthening the citizen-state compact. While economic growth is crucial for development, trickle-down economics does not work by default for the poorest and most marginalized, and we cannot rely on the momentum of economic growth to achieve the SDGs.
  OXFAM BRIEFING PAPER SEPTEMBER 2016 Charles and other schoolchildren are the beneficiaries of the Oxfam school latrines project in Haiti. Oxfam has installed latrines into five schools to be used by 504 children. Photo: Vincent Tremeau/Oxfam ACCOUNTABILITY AND OWNERSHIP The role of aid in a post-2015 world Despite substantial development progress globally since 1996, hundreds of millions of people still live in extreme poverty. In September 2015, world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals—an ambitious new agenda to eliminate poverty by 2030 and tackle key challenges around inequality, hunger, and climate change. But what is the role of public development finance (aid) in a post-2015 world? Achieving the SDGs requires the international community to adopt a new vision for aid. In this vision, aid enables countries to be owners of the development process and supports the citizen-state compact by actively breaking down barriers to participation, decision-making and accountability. More aid, as well as more effective aid, can support people to fight inequality and become active citizens, while also supporting effective and accountable governments to plot their own path to achieving the SDGs.   INTRODUCTION  Aid from rich countries was important for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It saved millions of lives by reducing the burden of preventable diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, allowed millions of children to go to school, and helped millions of farmers adapt their practices to a rapidly changing climate. The MDGs showed that even the poorest countries can make dramatic and unprecedented progress with targeted and time-bound interventions, sound strategies, adequate resources and political will. Aid was most valuable when it was delivered for priorities that were championed by developing countries and communities themselves. Since 1990, more than one billion people have escaped extreme poverty. Yet, over this period, the poorest 20 percent of the world’s population—who live on less than $1.48 per day—have been virtually locked out of developmental progress, capturing less than one percent of the benefits of global economic growth. People trapped in poverty are denied many of their basic rights and are unable to meet basic needs. They lack income, assets, access to basic services and opportunities, and suffer from discrimination, insecurity, and limited opportunities for development. People living in poverty are often stuck in a vicious cycle: their influence is diminished by their lack of resources, and their lack of voice diminishes their opportunities for development. This exclusion can be amplified by elites who seek to limit poor people’s ability to organize, assemble peacefully, and speak out in favor of more equitable development. Women and girls are more likely to be poor than men and boys due to gender inequality, which results in them owning fewer resources and having less decision-making power than men. 1  The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed in 2015 were designed to tackle these varied dimensions of poverty, inequality, and injustice. They measure progress across 17 areas for action. While the SDGs build on their predecessors, the MDGs, they also go beyond the “Band-Aid” type solutions the MDGs provided. The SDGs aim to eradicate, not just reduce, extreme poverty and hunger. They also target areas that compound poverty, and in doing so, aim to reduce inequality, halt climate change, and realize gender equality and women's human rights. These policy areas are also causes of poverty; a major novelty of the SDGs is the way they aim to comprehensively address cause and symptom at the same time. Beyond this, the SDGs incorporate an explicit rights-based approach––one that is most visible in the promise to leave no one behind ––embodied in the promise to realize the goals for all people, including those who are marginalized, excluded, or discriminated against. The achievement of women’s rights and gender equality is a critical dimension of this. Governments have also committed to reach the furthest behind first, with a specific promise to help people and countries catch up by 2030. 2    Oxfam’s vision for the role of aid in the SDG era centers around four key pillars: 1. Aid that helps countries mobilize and sustain financing for their own development priorities. 2. Aid that helps countries deliver the development results their citizens demand. 3. Aid that helps citizens demand the investments and outcomes they need. 4. Aid that helps people escape poverty sustainably.   Source: Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations Development Programme website 2   Since the MDGs were agreed in 2000, the global development landscape has changed: more countries benefit from domestic resources, new providers of aid have emerged, and international commercial and private finance provide some developing countries with additional sources of finance for development. These new sources of development finance are significant, but come with inherent limitations when compared to public development finance such as aid. In addition, these flows tend to favor countries and areas that are already making the most development progress. This leaves behind governments that cannot raise domestic revenue or attract private capital. Economic growth plays an important role in poverty reduction. However, it does not automatically lift people out of extreme poverty or enhance governments’ capacity to mobilize their own resources; deliver basic needs, rights and resources; tackle climate change; or reduce inequality. 3    In this paper, Oxfam presents its vision for aid in a post-2015 era. According to Oxfam, the central role of aid in a post-2015 world is to support the citizen-state compact. The citizen-state compact sits at the center of the relationships and institutions in a country which are necessary to drive development progress. In this role, aid remains as relevant as ever for the world’s poorest countries and communities. Accountability for the achievement of the SDGs lies with governments. Governments have the primary responsibility for making the investments necessary for all their citizens to achieve the SDGs so as to leave no one behind. A large numbers of countries still lack the necessary resources to meet their citizen’s needs—be it public services, fighting climate change, or developing capable, effective, and accountable public institutions over the longer term. Aid helps these countries catch up and enables them to be in a stronger position to lead their own development path. Equally important is the role that aid plays in helping citizens of these countries organize and demand that their governments invest resources wisely and accountably, to ensure that all people, including the poorest and most marginalized, achieve the SDGs. Realizing this vision for aid does not necessarily require new commitments from donors. Many of the promises donors have made in the past, if implemented, would change the quality of aid in meaningful ways, and make it an effective policy instrument to end extreme poverty and inequality. In doing so, aid would make an effective contribution to leave no one behind and realizing the ambition of the SDGs and the Agenda 2030. 4  
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