Post from Nora Murad from Dalia Association
Traveling from Arab Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to Brussels to Munich to Seoul to Busan, it did not feel like a very small world, despite what they say. Upon my arrival, I sat down and introduced myself to an Indian woman and an African man and asked them about their work. After telling me about their environmental NGO, it turned out they were in Busan for a different meeting—not the Busan Civil Society Forum! Again, I was reminded that it’s not such a small world after all.
But later, at the workshop on aid to Conflict Affected and Fragile States (CAFS), a group of people from all over the world converged around similar experiences and common concerns about how aid is and should be used in regions of conflict or fragility. We talked about the impressive effort that has already been invested on the issue, including in the Monrovia document and the New Deal, though not all the gains are fully reflected in the draft Busan Outcome Document (BOD). We also reviewed the Better Aid position on CAFS, which highlights the importance of conflict-sensitive aid and the promotion of peace and state-building goals in development cooperation.
In my talk, I focused on the hypocrisy and waste of aid when it is used as a political weapon, which often undermines the credibility of development cooperation more broadly. Living in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), these are real issues that affect my daily life. Most recently, for example, the United States cut aid to oPt as punishment for their bid for statehood to the United Nations. Strange. Infuriating! The US claims to support a Palestinian state, yet when Palestinians seek to realize their rights through internationally-recognized, non-violent means (and after the failure of all other efforts), they are punished by aid policy.
A group of us met later and continued talking about what opportunities might still be left, if any, to strengthen the relevance of the BOD to CAFS. So many good points were mentioned, but I left still concerned primarily about the state-centric assumptions of the BOD. Paragraph 10a says: Ownership of development priorities by developing countries. Partnerships for development can only succeed if they are led by developing countries, implementing approaches that are tailored to country-specific situations and needs.”
There are two big problems in this paragraph, from my point of view. First, the reference to “countries” ignores the reality that many people do not live in countries (like Palestinians, who live under various arrangements including under military occupation). Second, even if the wording were changed to “governing bodies” it would ignore that many governing bodies are neither democratic nor accountable. “Country” is not synonymous with “people.” It would be better, I think, to refer to “countries and societies” (an earlier proposed version said “countries and citizens” but not everyone is fortunate enough to be a citizen).
A second problem is the absence of explicit mention of beneficiaries as leaders of development. They are mentioned a few paragraphs later in relation to accountability, and that’s critical, but it’s not enough. It would be better, in my view, to say something like,: “Partnerships for development can only succeed if people lead their own development agendas.”
Although it is too late in the process to influence these types of changes, I pass them on to heighten awareness about the value of considering many perspectives before we settle on language that may not be inclusive of everyone’s reality. Even more importantly, every effort should be made to include an even broader diversity of people in the process (e.g., refugees, stateless peoples, other marginalized people) so that they can bring their own perspectives to the decision-making table on their own behalf.