In April 2014 was held the first ‘high level meeting of the ‘Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation’, in Mexico City. This was a follow-up to the last high level meeting which was on ‘Aid Effectiveness’ held in 2011 in Busan, S, Korea which followed the previous high level meeting of the same name in Ghana in 2008 which followed the previous high level meeting of the same name in Paris in 2005 which followed the previous one in Rome in 2003 which followed what I suppose was the original one in 2002 at which the international donors came up with the ‘Monterrey Consensus’. That adds up I think to 12 years talking about the renewal of development aid. Each meeting has produced an agenda for action and each follow-up meeting (seriously) has reflected on the lessons learned about why the last agenda for action was not seriously achieved.
The Mexico City conference at a cost of many millions of dollars focused on how the private sector can be brought into the aid process – nothing new about this of course – it has been going on for many years. Still, I am trying to remember why the private sector in general might be interested in a process that reduces its return on investment (forgetting Bill Gates and the philanthropists who are non-Government rather than private). Or perhaps it has found a mechanism through aid to increase its return on investment? Either way seems problematic – so is this fundamentally a viable or value-adding partnership? How far could this really be about seeking ways to increase growth in poor countries (which as everyone knows has been only weakly if at all connected with aid) and how far is it really just part of the ongoing effort to re-assert the relevance of the enormous official and non-official aid establishment, while also giving large private firms another way to market their products? These are of course seriously existential questions – not relevant nor convenient to this moment or other ‘moments’. The problem is that these existential questions tend to rear their heads rather often and the future of aid needs to be (seriously) addressed by people outside the establishment whose personal livelihoods will not be affected by serious decisions about reorganizing it or even seriously cutting it back to something that really adds value.