JICA Ogata Research Institute

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【JICA-RI Focus Vol.19】 Interview with Research Associate Shunichiro Honda

February 2, 2012

The Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4): Research Associate Shunichiro Honda Looks Back on the Issues Discussed

The Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) was held in Busan, Korea, over three days from November 29, 2011. It was attended by some 3,500 people, including representatives from governments of 156 countries and regions, international organizations, civic organizations, and the private sector. JICA-RI Research Associate Shunichiro Honda shares his overall impressions of the Forum, its features, and key debates.

Creating a Broad Partnership

This was the fourth High Level Forum, following the previous 2008 Forum held in Accra, Ghana. What were your impressions of this one in terms of features, any changes from the last, and the composition of the participants?

I think the main feature of HLF-4 was its inclusiveness, bringing in more players than the past three Forums, which started in Rome in 2003. Until last year, it was largely dominated by DAC donors and multi-lateral aid organizations. The discussions tended to focus on what these traditional donors could do to improve their aid effectiveness. And then, at the Forum in Accra, the one before Busan, many participants started to voice their opinions regarding the importance of getting developing countries and other development actors on board. So for the Busan Forum, from its preparation process, organizers held series of dialogues with broader range of players including the governments of developing countries, emerging donors like China, India and Brazil, and international NGOs and NPOs, and these efforts resulted in the impressively diverse participants in the Busan Forum.

I came home with the impression that HLF-4 succeeded in laying out a good basis for further improving development practice with the participation of wider group of actors. I think the hard work by the Korean government as the host of this first HLF in Asia has also been instrumental in ensuring this forum an inclusive one.

Creating a broad partnership is naturally going to have influence on High Level Forum debates and themes, right?

Up until now, the central theme of this effectiveness agenda has been focusing on “aid” but the rapid expansions of development activities by new actors like China and India, NGOs, philanthropy foundations and for-profit private corporations have forced us all to seriously reconsider the current narrow scope. If we do not broaden the scope from “aid effectiveness” to “development effectiveness” in our ongoing tasks, then I don’t think the Forum can accurately reflect this changing global reality any longer. It was very interesting to find that all the key documents at HLF-4 have already started to use “development cooperation” instead of “aid” to include this change of scope.

Getting an overall picture of development is becoming more difficult just by looking at traditional ODA by DAC members. I think we can say that awareness of this aspect has changed the shape of the Forum.

In terms of the shares in the overall development resources, the percentage of the traditional DAC donors has dropped way down. On the other hand, those of emerging donors like India, China and Brazil, as well as of philanthropies, NGOs and private sector contributions, have jumped. It is true that we can no longer get a picture of overall development cooperation just by focusing on traditional aid. Or, to put it in other way, no matter how much we improve and refine “traditional” aid practices by DAC countries or the multilateral organizations, it’s still only the tip of the iceberg and in fact won’t bring much impact in development. Also, the current portfolios of development issues include not just the classic “alleviation of poverty” but a whole group of emerging issues such as climate change, fragile states, governance, and many more. It is thus critical to ensure the participation of all key actors in development, which will make available more diverse resources and the range of abilities. These global contexts have then led to the stronger awareness for the last few years that we need to broaden our scope of development cooperation beyond the traditional aid and cover all the key development actors.

One of the major outcomes from Busan is the creation of a wider framework which enables broader range of actors to jointly address ever more complex issues in a rapidly-changing global environment. The challenge for the next few years will then be how to operationalize this highly complex partnership framework, that we saw get expanded in Busan, and ensures its global relevance.

Japan promoted its work of South-South Cooperation and Triangle Cooperation, and it seems to have attracted attention in Busan. Any thoughts?

Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Joe Nakano, who served as head of the Japanese delegation, made it clear that Japan would meet its aid commitments even though the country is currently facing the enormous challenge of the recovery from the earthquake and tsunami damages. He shared some information about Japan’s contributions in triangular cooperation as well as its catalytic role in helping Asian development by drawing attention to its approaches which emphasizes country ownership in development cooperation. JICA also held a side event on South-South Cooperation and Triangular Cooperation titled “South-South Cooperation and Triangular Cooperation: A Vehicle for Enhanced Knowledge Sharing/Creation,” which attracted large audience. At a thematic session, JICA-RI Director Akio Hosono made a presentation on the cases of JICA’s triangular cooperation including Kenya and Brazil, and emphasized the importance of sharing concrete experiences at the practical level. The significance of South-South cooperation had already been recognized at the Accra meeting in 2008, but I think that in Busan HLF-4, we succeeded in making a contribution to further heighten the global recognition of South-South and triangular cooperation.

JICA, along with the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the Brookings Institution in the USA undertook a joint research project and the outputs of the project were published in a book Catalyzing Development. Partly due to the participation of Korean organizations, which played the central role of hosting HLF-4, it is possible to say that the book, to which JICA and JICA-RI made substantial contributions, have played a critical role of influencing the agenda setting process of HLF-4.

What came out of the Busan High Level Forum with respect to future JICA-RI activities?

One thing is the need to strengthen research on new development actors, including emerging donors. We need to explore more in areas such as aid strategies, systems and approaches of these new actors.  We also need to look at how developing countries view these emerging development actors and how they intend to work with them. This information will be important in enhancing broader partnership. JICA-RI has already done a range of research on this topic, but I think we need to do more on this issue.

Capacity development (CD) was another recurring theme during the Forum. Taking cognizance of this, we can strengthen analysis on concrete case studies with real field practices in mind if the current JICA approaches are effective enough in promoting CD processes in developing countries. 

How do you think research activities should be linked to aid practices?

In ensuring linkage of research and aid practice, more conscious and closer communication and collaboration between researchers and practitioners will be critical.  JICA-RI has dual roles of undertaking both quality academic research and effective research communication.

I am currently engaged in research activities with the background as a practitioner. As a practitioner-cum-researcher, I think assigning JICA’s program staff to JICA-RI as a researcher should be very beneficial. Such assignment has potential of strengthening linkage between research and practice by providing opportunities to those JICA staff to reflect their own practical field experiences and observations into their research activities.

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