UN aid conference
Recipients must learn how to catch fish
The conference on global development aid, which opens today in Busan, is untimely in view of economic troubles worldwide. However, economic uncertainties should not be an excuse for countries to look inward. The meeting should be a productive occasion for a paradigm shift in aid methods, governance, transparency and enlargement of the pool of donors.
Korea's hosting of the three-day event bears added significance and symbolism. Korea's successful transformation from an aid recipient to a donor gives a message of hope and encouragement to poor countries.
Korea can also play a proactive model in aid. Donors must give poor countries knowhow of how to catch fish, not just fish. Foreign aid should include both hardware and software. This approach will help the recipient countries go to the path of development. The development-through-aid initiative should be the new catch phrase of the international assistance program.
The current governance structure of the global aid body, including the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), must undergo change in order to enhance aid effectiveness.
The gathering should also be an opportunity for the enlargement of donor countries. So far only the rich countries have become donors. Active participation by emerging countries, including China and oil-rich Arab states, will also stimulate the program.
The EU-dominated OECD-DAC might lose its luster in view of the current eurozone crisis. The OECD-DAC should enlarge engagement with emerging nonmember countries to increase foreign assistance in this time of economic uncertainty. Development aid can also stimulate world economic growth.
The UN can play an active role in initiating the new paradigm shift in the global assistance program. The UN can strength global partnership for creating inclusive space for dialogue, mutual learning and accountability.
Improving aid quality is necessary as development assistance has been sometimes fragmentary and plagued by bureaucracy. The UN and the OECD need to build a partnership for maximizing synergy in global development aid. Donors also must strengthen partnership with the private sector for upgrading development effectiveness.
Upgrading transparency in delivering aid is also critical. Donors have so far have not established a mechanism to ensure aid materials go to the grass roots people. Foreign assistance has sometimes spawned corruption in officialdom.
The gathering should also be an occasion to tie aid to progress in democracy. Dictators in poor countries should not exploit aid for perpetuating power.
The international aid community needs a more independent forum for embracing more emerging donors. Sticking to the current OECD model will not be attractive enough to encourage the participation of more emerging donor countries.
Koreans should stand behind Seoul's initiative to expand its foreign assistance in keeping with its economic power. From 1945 till 1999, Korea received $12.7 billion in foreign aid. Without such care from the international aid community, Korea would not have become the world's 11th largest economy.