The participation of civil society representatives at the World Bank and IMF’s Annual Meetings, which brings together the world’s finance ministers to discuss international development policy, has grown steadily over the past six years. The most recent Annual Meeting, held in October 2011, saw the largest CSO participation to date, with a total of 600 CSO representatives from 85 countries in attendance. They represented a variety of civil society constituencies: non-governmental organizations, youth groups, foundations, faith-based groups, and trade unions. They came to discuss a broad range of issues ranging from financial transactions tax and aid effectiveness, to energy policy. In order to ensure that Southern CSO voices are also heard, the Bank and Fund sponsored 60 CSO and Youth Leaders from developing countries to participate in the Meetings.
It's hard not to be inspired by Nick Kristof's article on "The D.I.Y. Foreign Aid Revolution" in the New York Times. His detail-rich story of energetic, socially conscious people routing around the bureaucracy of large aid organizations to tangibly and directly improve people's lives in the developing world is both important and thought-provoking. And it helps reframe the ongoing debate about the effectiveness of development assistance from one of "nothing works" to "there are so many ways to make this work."
My attention has been tickled by the news that at the recent High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, Ghana, donors apparently agreed to launch an initiative known as the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Under the initiative, according to the DFID press release on the subject, donors have agreed to give:
- Full and detailed information on all aid in each country affected
- Details and costs of individual projects and their aims
- Reliable information on future aid to improve planning by recipient governments.
I hope the initiative will be seriously implemented. But it will not be easy. And the main reason it will not be easy is that the instinct of the technocracy that dominates every aspect of international development is to be non-transparent.